Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson’s chaotic approach to exams is almost like watching a Laurel and Hardy sketch

Another fine mess: Boris 'Ollie' Johnson and Gavin 'Stan' Williamson: AFP/Getty
Another fine mess: Boris 'Ollie' Johnson and Gavin 'Stan' Williamson: AFP/Getty

Honestly, it seems that Laurel and Hardy are alive and well. Stan Laurel has been reborn in the body of Gavin Williamson, while Oliver Hardy is (of course) Boris Johnson.

Given the almost universal agreement by government ministers (including Laurel and Hardy), education experts, students and their parents that there is no foolproof way to assess student attainment other than by sitting exams, it seems strange that no one in authority actually realised that the best way forward was to bring all GCSE and A-Level students into otherwise largely empty schools to actually sit their exams.

Schools across the UK were sitting almost entirely empty and unused, making sitting exams in a socially distanced setting very easy to arrange. Even where the number of students sitting an exam was too great to host in a single room, it would have been simple to occupy additional classrooms with each room invigilated by an otherwise furloughed teacher.

With these very simple arrangements, our A-level students would now have the results of actual exams and would have certainty about their next educational or career options. And our GCSE students would now be looking forward to their results next week, to help them decide the next phase of their education.

Instead, we have students with uncertainty about what comes next, with many facing hard decisions, limited time to launch dubious appeals, or for A-level students, the very expensive option of “re-sitting” exams later this year with the hope they may be able to swap to a better university course once the results are known.

Altogether another shameful mess the government has got us into.

Ds all round.

David Curran

Surely there was a better way?

Ucas must have data on what percentage of students normally miss their predicted grades and where they were at school, so why not use it to see which schools predict accurately and which exaggerate, and in which subjects?

We know around 15 per cent of students go to clearing; some go to their insurance offer, and some miss by a little yet still get their main offer. So it is quite feasible around a third or more predictions are missed.

Carol Blyth

Zombie jobs

Your leader argues, in agreement with Jonathan Portes of King’s College London, that we should not be preserving “zombie” jobs. All good sound economic sense I’m sure. But perhaps we should be clear about what these jobs actually are before we make the final decision?

As far as I can see, they are primarily in the aviation, hospitality, public transport, sporting and cultural sectors. I would not mourn aviation. One could argue that our lifestyles have become too bohemian and we should not lament the loss of pubs and restaurants, and that sport behind closed doors is still sport. But public transport is one key to meeting our climate crisis targets, and we will all be the poorer for the loss of theatres, museums, orchestras and concert halls. Let’s talk about individual sectors, rather than heaping all those affected by Covid-19 into the one basket.

Rachael Padman

Funeral costs

Hidden among the increased deaths caused by Covid-19, is the decision not to implement the review on funeral costs something I had been involved with some years ago in a campaign by the Fair Funerals campaign by Quaker Social Action. In these times of excess deaths and reduced incomes, funeral poverty should be seen as a really important issue. Important enough for the funeral industry as shares jumped on the news price controls would be shelved.

The industry should take a long hard look at itself and do the right thing. Play ball with the review, be transparent and support bereaved people. The government also needs to review support with funeral costs and bereavement benefits. What are the chances of that?!

Gary Martin
London E17

Confusing coronavirus guidance

The confusion in official advice for people at high and moderate risk from coronavirus continues.

The advice for people at high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable) on the government’s website, updated on 13 August, says: “You can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low.” The advice on the NHS website for the same group, updated on 14 August, says “You can meet other people and go out to places like shops and restaurants.”

Yet the advice for people at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable) on the NHS website, also updated on 14 August, says “You can go out to work (if you cannot work from home) and for things line getting food or exercising. But you should try to stay at home as much as possible.”

So those at lower risk are being advised to go out less often than those at higher risk.

Michael Clarke

Read more

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Senior Tory blasts ‘farcical’ decision to pull exam appeals policy

Ofqual suspends A-level appeals criteria hours after releasing policy

Pupils can use coursework and mocks to appeal exam results

No student should be unjustly treated by this exams fiasco

Letting teachers award grades is grossly unfair to all students