Shirebrook principal cautiously welcomes GCSE plans but warns inequalities still exist

A Shirebrook principal who said GCSEs should be scrapped next year has cautiously welcomed new plans to grade them more leniently.
Mark CottinghamMark Cottingham
Mark Cottingham

Mark Cottingham, principal of Shirebrook Academy, described the education secretary Gavin Williamson’s new measures to make next year’s exams fair for students who have missed months of study as a “positive move”.

The measures, which include marking exam papers in line with this year’s centre-assessed grades and giving students advance warning of what they will be tested on, follow the Government’s insistence that exams will still take place in England, despite them having been scrapped in Wales and Scotland.

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At the time, Mr Cottingham said that the decision was “grossly unfair” because of the months’-worth of lessons that year 11 students have missed due to the coronavirus lockdown, which saw them forced to study at home from March until June.

Mr Cottingham said the rethink is welcome, although more should be done to ensure that there is a level playing field for the thousands of students across the country to ensure that those living in disadvantaged areas do not lose out further.

He said: “This is a positive move, it shows that the Government has listened to the concerns of those in the education community and have offered students the chance to be successful by making these concessions.

“However, the grading system is only part of the picture because it doesn’t overcome the problem of regional disparity.

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"Students in areas with higher incidences of Covid have and will miss more time from school and be more likely to have teachers absent.

“Add to this the difference in access to remote learning for more economically disadvantaged students and it means students in areas like ours are still at a disadvantage compared to those in more affluent communities with good ICT access and who have missed less learning time in school.”