TEACHERS will decide what grades A-level, GCSE and AS students will be awarded, Gavin Williamson announced this lunchtime.
The Education Secretary said it was impossible for kids to fairly sit exams after schools were closed once again as the country was plunged into a national lockdown.
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Teachers could be next on the list to get a vaccineCredit: AFP or licensors
Gavin Williamson will set out how kids A-level and GCSEs will be gradedCredit: PRU
Mr Williamson told MPs this afternoon that closing schools was the “last thing” the Government wanted to do.
He stressed it was the absolute last resort to curb the spiralling number of coronavirus cases.
The Education Secretary laid out contingency plans for kids set to sit crucial exams this year – meaning teacher assessments will be used instead of tests.
It follows suggestions teachers should be given priority access to vaccines, in an effort to reopen schools.
Last year, the Education Secretary was under enormous pressure to resign after a mutant algorithm downgraded the grades of millions of school leavers – forcing the Government into a screeching U-turn.
Marks were eventually decided on the basis of teacher assessments, leading to more students getting accepted to their top pick for university than ever before.
One MP told the Sun that vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said teachers would be considered to be next on the list after the most vulnerable – NHS workers, care home residents and staff, and the over 80s – had been vaccinated.
They said: “I’ve been assured by the vaccines minister that once the initial first phases is complete teachers will be next on the list along with other key workers.
“He was more than happy to give me the nod when I pressed him on it.”
And England’s deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries suggested in a briefing with MPs that teachers and other frontline key workers would be next on the list to get a vaccination, according to the HuffPost.
Boris Johnson has vowed to give the jab to 13 million people in the four most vulnerable groups before mid-February, in order to relax lockdown restrictions.
According to an MP at the briefing with Dr Harries, she said: ““When the first four groups are completed, then frontline key workers would be vaccinated and this would include consideration of teachers.”
It would mean teachers and school staff would be bumped up the list to be included on the next five priority groups, alongside the over 50s and those with underlying health conditions.
A handful of Tory and Labour MPs, including Robert Halfon, Martin Vickers and Simon Hoare, grilled Dr Harries over the decision not to include teachers in the Phase 1 group initially.
She suggested they could be “considered” as frontline workers, like NHS staff, who are in the top four groups to be given the jab.
The decision on who is top of the list to get a vaccine is ultimately made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
And the Department of Health has stressed the priority list for Phase 1 vaccinations has already been published.
Officials denied suggestions teachers would be included in the first nine groups of people to be given the jab – but said they would be considered for the next phase.
A spokesperson labelled reports teachers could be bumped up the list as “misleading”.
They said: “DCMO made clear teachers with specific underlying health conditions would receive the vaccine as part of the relevant JCVI prioritisation group.
“The JCVI will consider all available evidence for phase 2 recommendations of the vaccination programme.”
Last month, JCVI chair Wei Shin Lim said key workers outside of the NHS and social care would have to wait until all nine of those groups have been vaccinated.
There will be a Westminster Hall debate on prioritising teachers next week after 300,000 people signed a petition to have it discussed in Parliament.
Mr Zahawi said this morning, after the 13 million most vulnerable Brits are vaccinate, all people Phase 1 priority could be vaccinated by the spring.
Speaking to Times Radio he said 99 per cent of deaths would be reduced by giving the nine categories of most vulnerable people – including the over 50s – a vaccination.
He said: “I’m very hopeful that by the spring we will get through the nine categories.”
Phase 1 priority groups
1. Elderly care home residents and their carers.
2. All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers.
3. All those 75 years of age and over.
4. All those 70 years of age and over and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
5. All those 65 years of age and over.
6. Everyone aged between 16 and 64 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality.
7. All those 60 years of age and over.
8. All those 55 years of age and over.
9. All those 50 years of age and over.
Mr Williamson had previously promised exams would go forward – despite Wales and Scotland scrapping them.
And last night, Btec students were thrown into further confusion, after the Government said exams, set to start today, could go ahead, but the decision would be left up to individual schools,
The Department for Education said schools and colleges can hold the exams “where they judge it right to do so”.
Some distraught students were asked to decide whether they would sit their exams with less than 12 hours notice.
One student wrote on Twitter: “I chose not to because I was not in the right frame of mind after the school chucked that decision on my under 12 hours before and got little sleep.
“My class is split 50/50 on whether to take it, it’s a shambles. Half the nation sitting exams half of them not”.