Schools North East lobbying work on exam fiasco

16th September 2020

You may have seen some of our lobbying work over the summer around GCSE and A Level results, working to ensure the voice of North East schools was heard. Here is a roundup of all the work we did on the issue, and what we will be doing going forward into 2020-21 academic year.

We engaged in extensive lobbying work over the summer around GCSE and A Level results. We were the first organisation to call on the government to honour CAGs in order to resolve the situation, to bring us in line with the rest of the UK. As part of this we also fought the negative narrative around ‘over inflated’ teacher assessed grades and called on the Government to trust the professional judgement of our teachers.  At the same time, we called for an inquiry into what occurred, a position many major education unions and associations have since followed.

When the extent of issues became clear on A Level results day we conducted a survey which was sent to all North East Heads to collate the views of our region’s school leaders. Based on the responses to this and in consultation with our Trustees, Schools North East issued a statement calling on the Government to take very specific actions to resolve the situation. The statement was sent to the Secretary of State for Education, North East MPs and the press. This called for the Government to honour CAGS, to halt university decisions until appeals could be made and urgently enter into dialogue with schools and Ofqual to modify the algorithm and moderation process, ensuring that GCSE results would not be affected in the same way.

We understood that there was no easy way to resolve the situation. Not everyone was in favour of honouring CAGs however, due to the exceptional circumstances it was felt that this would be the quickest, most practical and effective response to ensure that the futures of our students were not adversely affected.

When the government announced that it would honour CAGs the following week, we issued a subsequent statement: Government confirms acceptance of Centre Assessment Grades for A Levels and GCSE. This highlighted the need for an inquiry into what happened, as well as a call for clarification on next year’s exams and the need for reform of the exam system in consultation with the teaching profession.

Even though the new academic year has begun,the government has still failed to outline its plans for exams in 2021. We will continue to push for urgent clarification on this and the many practical, operational challenges that it is causing for school leaders. The issues that we saw around exam results this summer, including Ofqual’s algorithm, are not confined to the pandemic but part of pre-existing problems inherent in the high-stakes exam system. It is crucial that we use the lessons of the pandemic to push for the fundamental reform of an exam system which unfairly impacts on schools in region’s like the North East and, in particular, on disadvantaged students.

If you have any issues you would like to raise on this issue please let us know by emailing, and keep an eye out for how to get involved and feed back on this in the coming weeks.