A head teacher has warned that students being offered more generous grades in exams may lead to “uncertainty” in the future.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced yesterday that students taking GCSE and A-level exams next year will be awarded more generous grades to compensate for disruption to their schooling during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said pupils in England will receive advance notice of some topics ahead of tests – as well as exam aids when sitting papers – to ensure this cohort of students is not disadvantaged.

Head teacher at St Margaret’s independent day and boarding school in Bushey Lara Péchard welcomed the move, but felt the changes could raise questions for the future.

She said: “In the main, this is excellent news for students.  It’s clear that mental health and continuity of education has been the key driver for the extra measures and that can only be a positive thing. 

“It does, however, raise further questions around the future and validity of GCSEs, which brings us onto the next ‘uncertainty’.  How will this impact current Year 10 students who will be taking their exams in 2022?

“Can they expect the same generous grades and foresight into exam paper topics, given the likelihood that disruption caused by the pandemic will be around for a while yet?”

Ms Péchard hopes that there will be no further U-turns in the decisions around exams.

She said: “The truth is the majority of students want to sit exams. Of course, there continues to be anxiety around COVID, around contracting the virus and the impact that will have on schooling, but at least we have some indication of the avenues available to students.  

“Clearly, understanding more about the content and choices on exam papers going forward, will need to be very carefully looked at.”

Mr Williamson said: “Exams are the best way of giving young people the opportunity to show what they can do, which is why it’s so important they take place next summer.

“But this isn’t business as usual. I know students are facing unprecedented disruption to their learning. That’s why exams will be different next year, taking exceptional steps to ensure they are as fair as possible.

“I am determined to support students, parents and teachers in these unprecedented times and hope measures like more generous grading and advance notice of some topic areas will give young people the clarity and confidence they need to achieve every success.”