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BORIS JOHNSON was behind decisions not to make contingency plans for exams and schools in 2020, resulting in a second year of exams chaos for pupils, a report has claimed.
The Institute for Government (IfG)’s damning paper exposes government decisions on education during the pandemic, claiming that a No 10 source said there had been a “clear steer” from the Prime Minister not to make plans for school closures.
The refusal to do this when it was already obvious that fresh school closures and exam cancellations might be needed was the “most unforgivable aspect” of the government’s handling of education during the crisis, it said.
The paper, published today, said that well into March 2021 pupils remained unclear over how their exams would be assessed. “At times it felt as though the school system was in chaos,” it adds.
It also slams “dreadful communications” from ministers, highlighting the numerous U-turns on school closures, “with pupils, parents and teachers left bewildered and floundering time and again.”
IfG senior fellow and the report’s author Nicholas Timmins said: “The failure, indeed the refusal, to make contingency plans over the summer and autumn of 2020 left pupils, parents and teachers facing a case of ‘pause, rewind, repeat’ — not least over exams.”
Education union NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “Ministers received joint union advice in September 2020 guiding them on the arrangements they should make to prepare for the clear possibility that exams could not take place in 2021. This advice was ignored as [Education Secretary] Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson sat on their hands.”
And Dr Bousted warned that little has changed since, with schools “left in the dark about plans for the new school year.
“Government needs to urgently get its act together and give the issues facing education and school safety the priority and funding they deserve.”
Labour has called on the PM to own up to his failings.
“Labour called for a contingency plan for exams way back in the autumn term,” shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “The Conservatives dismissed our calls, and those of teachers and school leaders, resulting in a second year of exams chaos for pupils.
“It is clear the responsibility for this lies not just with the failing Education Secretary but with the Prime Minister himself.”
Teachers’ union NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach called for urgent lessons to be learnt for next year.
“The government was late in putting in place contingency plans for this year and has not yet confirmed any mitigations to ensure that next year’s exam cohorts will be assessed fairly and not disadvantaged.”
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