Ministers must stop ‘obsession’ with exams, says former Government catch-up tsar

Sir Kevan Collins warned of widening inequalities in education.

Ministers must stop ‘obsession’ with exams, says former Government catch-up tsar

The Government’s former education catch-up tsar has said one of the “great legacies” of coronavirus could be growing inequality if ministers do not shake an “obsession” with exams.

Sir Kevan Collins quit in June after the amount ministers were prepared to invest in helping children catch up on their education post-pandemic fell so far short of what he believed was necessary.

He had put forward a recovery package which amounted to £15 billion while the Treasury had allocated just £1.4 billion.

And appearing on the BBC’s Newsnight programme on Thursday he said inequality was something “we’ve never really managed to crack” and was “the deep scar in our system”.

It comes amid concern about inflated grades caused by exams being cancelled during the pandemic, and students instead being able to rely on teacher-assessed grades.

Sir Kevan told Newsnight: “I think one of the most difficult challenges for all of us is that it’s been hugely variable.

“One of the most difficult things to face in Covid is how children from different communities, different schools, different levels of support, have just had a completely variable experience.

“So having a consistent fair exam at the end of that becomes very, very challenging and schools have been left in an invidious position really trying to work out how do you examine every child fairly, when the experience that many of them had has been so different.”

School exam stock
Concerns have been raised about students not taking exams and relying on teacher-assessed grades (David Jones/PA)

He said: “I wanted a recovery plan or recovery approach which was comprehensive, which was broad, and long term. And I’m afraid I don’t … it doesn’t look like we’re getting that at the moment.”

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