EDUCATION Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed to MPs that “no algorithm” will be used for school students’ grades this summer, with the judgment of teachers relied upon instead and any changes made by “human intervention”.

Speaking in the House of Commons this morning, he said it is important to make sure the “system is fair to every student”, adding: “It is vital they have confidence they will get the grade that is a true and just reflection of their work.

“This year’s students will receive grades determined by their teachers, with assessments covering what they were taught and not what they have missed. Teachers have a good understanding of their students’ performance and how they compare to other students this year and from those of previous years.

“Teachers can choose a range of evidence to underpin their assessments, including coursework, in-class tests set by the school and the use of optional questions provided by exam boards and mock exams, and we will of course give guidance on how best to do this fairly and also consistently.

“Exam boards will be issuing grade descriptions to help teachers make sure their assessments are fair and consistent. These will be broadly pegged to performance standards from previous years so teachers and students are clear on what is expected at each grade.

“By doing this, combined with a rigorous quality assurance process, are just two of the ways this system will ensure greater fairness and consistency. Quality assurance by the exam boards will provide a meaningful check in the system and make sure we can root out malpractice.”

Mr Williamson also confirmed a long-term plan will be developed to help children catch up.

He told MPs an “incredible” amount of work has been done to minimise the impact of the pandemic, adding: “I know from the research we’ve been conducting that it won’t be enough.

“Many children are going to need longer-term support to make up for lost learning.

“We want families to know that there will be support for schools and for our children.

“Sir Kevan Collins, our education recovery commissioner, will be working with parents, teachers and schools on a long-term plan to make sure pupils have the chance to make up their learning over the course of their education.”

Conservative Robert Halfon, who chairs the Education Committee, asked how ministers will ensure there will not be a “wild west of grading”.

He said: “The decision to adopt centre assessed for the second year in a row does highlight the severity of the damage school closures have done and whilst I accept that it’s the least worst option that the Government has come up with, my concern is not so much abut having one’s cake and eating it, but baking a rock cake of grade inflation into the system.

“So will (Gavin Williamson) confirm what is the Government’s plan to ensure we will not have a wild west of grading, that these grades will be meaningful to employers so as not to damage children’s life chances and when?

“And how will we reverse the grade inflation and what is the rational for not tethering this year’s grades to last year’s or somewhere between 2019 and 2020? And why not embed quality assurance more broadly rather than rely on random sampling or spot checks?”

Mr Williamson responded: “(Mr Halfon) raises an important issue about grade inflation and this is why we have been doing so much work with the exam board, with Ofqual, in terms of ensuring that there’s the proper internal checks as well as the proper external checks.

“We didn’t feel as if it would be possible to peg to a certain year because sadly as a result of doing that it would probably entail the use of some form of algorithm in order to be best able to deliver that.”

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said that there must be a credible plan to ensure that schools are able to open in March and stay open.

She told the Commons: “On these benches we want to see every pupil safely back in class where they can be with their friends, their teachers, and get the structure and stability they need.

“It’s not enough though simply to say that schools will reopen. There must be a credible plan that will not only enable schools to open fully in March, but will keep them open.

“(Mr Williamson) has failed to use the period when most pupils were not in school to put the necessary measures in place.

“In January he said he wanted school staff to be in the next wave of vaccinations. So why has there still been no commitment from the Government to prioritise school staff? Does he no longer believe they should be a priority?”

Mr Williamson responded: “I don’t want to be in a position where I try and pre-empt the independent work of JCVI but obviously we look forward to seeing what that says.”