Gareth Johnson, Dartford’s MP and former Dartford Grammar School pupil, quizzed the Education Minister on how this summer’s International Baccalaureate students will be assessed following the recent Government announcement about changes to GCSEs and A-level exams.
During Education questions in the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Johnson said: “Some of the schools in my constituency elect to take the IB examinations rather than A-levels. No final decision has yet been taken as to whether those exams will take place this spring, so will my Right Honourable Friend commit to assisting these schools, so that no child who takes the IB exam will be disadvantaged compared with those who are due to take A-levels?”
The Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb confirmed there would be changes.
Mr Gibb said: “Although exams are the fairest way of assessing what a student knows, it is no longer viable for exams to go ahead as planned, so International Baccalaureate students should be subject to a similar approach to GCSEs and A-levels. Working with Ofqual, we are consulting on alternative arrangements for fairly awarding grades in qualifications, including the IB, when exams do not take place, so that students can progress to the next stage of their lives.
I am aware of some excellent schools in my Honourable Friend’s constituency, particularly Dartford Grammar School, under the excellent headteacher, Mr Oakes, that do offer the IB. The joint consultation document that we published on Friday says that
“It is the Department’s policy position that external exams for many vocational, technical and other general qualifications should not take place as planned. It goes on to say:
For other general qualifications that are not GCSEs…or A levels, such as…the International Baccalaureate, the awarding approach should be similar to GCSEs, AS and A levels.
In other words, we are talking about teacher-assessed grades but with the evidence base and checks and balances, as set out in the consultation document.”
Following this exchange in the Commons, Mr Johnson said: “This pandemic has caused great uncertainty for children who were due to take exams last year and this year. We have to ensure each child is treated as fairly as possible whether they were due to take GCSEs, A-Levels or the IB. It is a stressful time for students at the moment and so we have to give them as much certainty as possible over the processes that will replace their exams.”