ASCL comment on GCSE results

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders comments on the publication of GCSE results.
Commenting on the publication of GCSE results, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
Congratulations to pupils on their GCSE results, and to the teachers who have worked so hard to assess and provide grades for these young people following the government’s decision to cancel public exams because of the circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic.
“These results show a small increase in top grades compared to last year, but a more pronounced difference in the distribution of grades compared to 2019 when public exams were last held. 
“It is important to emphasise that the system of teacher assessment under which these pupils have been assessed is different from public exams and is therefore not directly comparable. The GCSE grades awarded to these young people are a fair and accurate reflection of their performance under the robust system used this year which will allow them to progress to post-16 courses and apprenticeships in the normal way.
“These pupils deserve huge credit for having weathered the storm of the past 18 months to emerge with qualifications of which they can be justly proud. 
“We are conscious of the debate currently taking place about how the turbulence of this year and last year will affect grading decisions in future years, but there is no easy answer to that dilemma and the immediate focus is to celebrate the achievements of this year’s cohort. 

“Moreover, the question of next year’s grades is only one part of the wider issue of how to support pupils in the wake of the pandemic. This must also involve an education recovery plan from the government that is far more ambitious and better funded than ministers have managed so far.
“Many of the young people receiving their GCSE grades will be now going on to study BTECs and other applied general qualifications. These are popular and respected qualifications which provide a proven pathway to universities, apprenticeships and careers. It is therefore a great shame that the government intends to scrap the majority of these qualifications over the next few years and largely remove this option for future cohorts of students. 
“We urge ministers to reconsider this retrograde step which we are concerned will have a severe impact on disadvantaged students. It is vital to protect student choice