King's Lynn college chief slams government over vocational exams 'afterthought'
Lynn’s college chief has accused ministers of treating many of his students as an “afterthought” for allowing vocational exams to continue when other exams were called off.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed on Wednesday that GCSE and A-levels will not take place this summer, for the second successive year, due to coronavirus.
Instead, grades will be based on teacher assessments, following the algorithm furore that overshadowed last year’s results.
But Mr Williamson said assessments for vocational qualifications such as B-Tecs would be able to continue where settings were felt to be safe for them to proceed.
However, College of West Anglia principal David Pomfret yesterday said he and other college leaders had urged ministers to change that stance.
He revealed he made the decision to cancel the exams that were due to take place at the Lynn campus this week.
He added: “The different treatment of these vocational technical qualifications students compared with their peers sitting general qualifications in the summer is entirely unjust.
“Yet again, the 135,000 students across the country due to take vocational exams this year are an afterthought for this government.”
Mr Williamson, who faced criticism from some of his own MPs for the stance, argued that it was necessary for some vocational exams to proceed to enable students to complete practical assessments of competence that would then give the opportunity to take up jobs.
But Mr Pomfret said that was not only unfair on students but also contradicted the lockdown message.
He said: “The Prime Minister’s clear and stark message to the nation will have driven home the need for all of us to ‘stay at home’ to defeat this virus.
“Asking college staff and students to ignore that message to sit exams is simply untenable.
“It is patently not safe for them and their families, even with the best mitigations a college can put in place.
“To go ahead with this exam series now would also be unfair on students. The stress of the pandemic will undoubtedly affect their performance, probably has affected their preparation, and could lead to results which are potentially very unfair.
“We and other education leaders will now work with awarding bodies and Ofqual to put robust alternative assessment arrangements in place.
“We recognise the extreme pressures and challenges our students have faced during the pandemic, and we are supporting them in a variety of ways to ensure we maintain the high quality of their learning experience, their safety and wellbeing.”