Switch focus from plan B tests to exam prep, schools minister says

'No requirement' to collect teacher grade evidence into next term, Robin Walker says

'No requirement' to collect teacher grade evidence into next term, Robin Walker says

Schools are being urged to switch their focus from collecting evidence to inform plan B teacher grades and instead ramp up attention on exams preparation and tutoring.

Schools minister Robin Walker told MPs he has anecdotally heard some schools “doing a lot of work” to make sure they continue to gather evidence for teacher assessed grades (TAGs). The government asked schools to do so as a plan B in case Covid cancels exams again.

Speaking at the education select committee, Walker said “we want that evidence to be available” as the pandemic can be unpredictable.

But he added schools that have “sufficient evidence” should now “bank that”.

“I want them now to effectively put that in the draw and focus on exam preparation rather than necessarily having to gather new information on teacher assessed grades.”

Ministers are confident exams will go ahead this summer, but published contingency plans just in case after being caught out last year when a new Covid variant led to schools closures.

The guidance published by Ofqual in November suggests a “sensible approach” for testing could be once a term until the summer exams.

It adds “normal assessment” points should be used where possible.

But Walker said today there is “no requirement” to gather new evidence on TAGs into next term.

He added: “Clearly if people have a mock exam or something and they want to use that they can, but there is no requirement on schools to continue to gather new evidence on TAGs into next term. 

“I want them to be focusing as much as possible on the exam preparation, the revision and perhaps the tuition as well that goes along with that to make sure pupils are as well placed as possible to take those exams.”

Students ‘wanted a bit longer’

It echoes similar comments by Dr Jo Saxton, Ofqual chief regulator.

Speaking at the Association of College and School Leaders conference, she said “do what you know to be right for your students, and within the cycle and rhythm of what works in your setting”.


“Our guidance suggested 3 assessment points, not because you have to do that; more to suggest don’t have 6 (or 8, 9, even 12 as we saw in some settings last year).

“Our guidance referred to the summer term not as an instruction, but because students keep learning and making progress, and I know from speaking to them that, in the worst-case scenario, they didn’t want to be pinned to how they were performing in the autumn or at Christmas.

“They wanted a bit longer. But if you don’t think you need to collect further evidence after Easter, don’t.”

Urges Cambridge not to withdrawn from ITT

Meanwhile, Walker today “strongly encouraged” the University of Cambridge against withdrawing from teacher training.

Schools Week revealed how the prestigious university failed to reapply in the first round of government reaccreditation over concern with new reforms.

Walker said: “I would strongly encourage them [not to withdraw]. They have a lot to add, they have a fantastic academic track record and train a lot of very effective teachers.”

He met with Cambridge and Oxford universities to “reassure them we are going to respect their academic independence and we don’t want to tread on their toes in that respect”.

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