England gets ahead of row involving virus-hit exam grades

LONDON: English authorities on Wednesday reassured school pupils they would be graded fairly for exams missed because of the coronavirus after the Scottish government was forced into a major U-turn on the issue.

As in many countries, British pupils were unable to sit exams as planned in April, May and June due to the Covid-19 lockdown, and instead will receive a moderated grade based on an assessment by their school or teacher.

But the publication of key results in Scotland last week caused uproar and demands for its education minister John Swinney to resign, amid complaints that the moderation process had caused the downgrading of the poorest pupils.

Swinney on Tuesday bowed to pressure and announced that more than 70,000 Scottish pupils would have their results restored to their teachers’ assessments.

In a bid to head off a similar row in England, which has a different school system, education minister Gavin Williamson announced a new policy.

Pupils aged 18 receiving A-Level results on Thursday will be able to accept their result, challenge it based on mock exams or sit new tests in the autumn.

“This triple lock system will help provide reassurance to students and ensure they are able to progress with the next stage of their lives,” he said.

Students in Scotland had complained that the moderation process gave unfair weighting to the historical performance of the school and local area, disproportionately affecting poor students.

Pass rates for pupils in the most deprived areas were reduced by 15.2%, compared with 6.9% in more affluent areas.

The row rocked the devolved government of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has otherwise been riding high in the polls, including over her handling of coronavirus.