Protesters have gathered in Coventry demanding a “complete overhaul” of the exam and grading system – amid a fresh outcry over Btec results.
Demonstrators held up banners outside the Department for Education’s (DfE) offices in Earlsdon Park this afternoon (August 20), part of a campaign by the National Union of Students (NUS) calling for sweeping reforms to the education system.
The student body says a Government U-turn over the use of a controversial algorithm-based system – which led to the downgrading of almost 40 per cent of A-level marks – does not go far enough.
The rally was held on the day that more than 600,000 teenagers received their GCSE results, which were based on teacher assessments rather than exams.
However, half a million BTec students are still awaiting results after their marks were held back so they can be regraded in line with GCSEs and A-levels.
The protesters outside the DfE’s offices in Butts Road held up signs including one reading “justice 4 every student, every postcode, every year’.
The socially-distanced rally was part of a day of protests at regional offices around the country.
The protests follow the Government’s scrapping of the algorithm system for A-levels and GCSEs, with the announcement that they will instead be awarded on marks predicted by teachers, known as centre-assessed grades (CAGs).
However, the NUS is calling for wholesale change to the system.
The student group said: “We need a complete overhaul our system of exams and grading and, in its place, we need investment into our education, our teachers, our students, our resources in order to end educational injustice once and for all.”
As well as scrapping the algorithm system, the Government has said it will lift the cap on places for some specialist courses which, together with the re-marking process for A-levels, has led to concerns about pressure on university places.
The NUS and University and College Union have further outlined their worries in a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.
The groups said school-leavers from low-income backgrounds would continue to be disproportionately affected by the use of the algorithm and that universities would struggle to accept higher numbers than originally intended.
The letter states: “We are extremely concerned that the impact of the Ofqual algorithm on students whose first choice courses are now already full will have been particularly felt by students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and students who have a disability.”
GCSE students have been reassured by Coventry College that their places are secure for the next academic year, regardless of the grades they achieve. The city’s leading further education provider caters for more than 8,000 students from its city centre and Henley campuses.
Principal Carol Thomas said: “My message to each school leaver is that no matter what GCSE grades you walk out of school with, we will work with you to put you on a pathway to achieve your goals and aspirations – a message that we have also relayed directly to secondary school teachers across the city.
“As a college we provide a variety of study levels, which means in the first half-term we can work closely with each student to identify any knowledge gaps before deciding on which level of study is right for them.
“This approach is very important for both the college and each student’s development, because inevitably, there will be an initial variation in the accuracy of grading from schools given the unprecedented nature of the situation and little external measure for the teachers to base their predictions on.
“Equally, there may be some students who decide to appeal the grade that they have been given, and we will be assisting these students and their respective school throughout the process to ensure they can progress.
“The coronavirus pandemic has presented many challenges to the education sector, but we are determined to overcome these together to help equip the next generation of workers with the skills they need to excel in their chosen careers.”