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Express & Star comment: Exam results like no other

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

These are exam results like no other – exam results without the exams.

Students taking exams

So while today the waiting is over for students anxious to know how they got on in their A-levels, the entire process has been surrounded by a cloud of uncertainty and controversy.

There can never have been an exams process which has afforded so many people so much opportunity to cry "foul."

This year's results have been the outcome of an attempt to find the fairest way to assess the students in the most unfair of circumstances, brought about by the coronavirus pandemic which has closed schools, disrupted learning, and prevented the taking of real exams.

Fairness applies not only to the students this year, but to those who sat exams last year, and those – Covid-19 permitting – who will sit exams next summer. With the economy tanking, and an increasingly competitive jobs market, prospective employers need to be able to compare like with like as they weigh up candidates and their academic achievements.

Forewarned by the shambles in Scotland, in England there has been some last minute tinkering which opens the door to appeals if students receive estimated grades which are lower than their mock exam grades. That has caused despairing shaking of heads by some in the teaching profession.

Mock exams, and the clue is in the title, are not real exams, and they point out that there is not a level playing field among schools on how they are approached.

It is intended as a safety net, but detractors can and will allege that it is one of a number of in-built biases tending towards inflated grades. It is suggested, for example, that schools ranking their own pupils will err on the side of generosity.

So don't expect today's results to be the end of the matter. There is going to be continuing debate, challenges, appeals, and doubts.

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The Class of 2020 are at the centre of a political and educational firestorm without doing anything wrong.

Through circumstances beyond anybody's control, they were not able to demonstrate the fruits of their study in real exams.

And while in normal times it might be a strange thing to say about hated exams, it is hard not to feel sorry for them in being deprived of that opportunity.

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