Potential legal battles loom over GCSE and A Level grades

28th May 2021

According to TES, solicitors have already had conversations with parents who are in need of legal support as they are worried about the Summer 21 exam grading system being ‘unfair’. 

These legal enquiries will look into the approaches that schools have taken to arrive at grades, though solicitors reported to TES that this may need to be dealt with through a judicial review.  This could mean that just over the horizon is a potential grading appeals ‘car crash’, with the potential to be a huge additional burden for school staff over the summer.

TES, speaking to lawyers, IBB published a blog on this issue, which stated that “we are passionate about making sure children have access to all of the support they need for their education and future success. We know how important it is for children to get the right educational support at this critical stage in their lives.” In their blog, they highlight concerns around bias in teacher assessed grades (TAGs) as Ofqual found that there was a potential bias in favour of girls over boys, against children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and against children with special educational needs. As a result Ofqual have released a  guidance report on how to eliminate bias, however it would perhaps be far more beneficial for the Department for Education to release timely and clear guidance report on the actual appeals process, to ensure that there will be no unnecessary burden placed on schools,  so that they can start to plan for the summer holidays and the new school year.

However, Schools North East is also increasingly concerned about the impact that this will have on teachers.  The balance between staff workload and wellbeing is vital, whilst it is good that teachers are back in school, it also means a huge increase in workload, especially in relation to TAGs as secondaries gear up for what could be the most contentious exam period in memory. There are also a number of issues to resolve such as how to properly reimburse staff for essentially doing the work of the exam boards. 

In terms of wellbeing, schools are doing what they can to support staff, but there is only so far they can minimise and mitigate the impact of this additional workload; continuing covid-related procedures are also significantly adding to these pressures, which may not ease after 21 June as had been previously hoped. All school staff across the region are very tired and it has been increasingly difficult to adequately plan for exams, ‘catch up’, and covid developments as the government is seemingly drip feeding announcements and developments rather than releasing a coherent ‘big picture’ plan for school leaders.