GCSE and A-level grades ‘will be the most generous ever’

While this year has been seen to return to in-person examinations, Ms Saxton told the conference that she wanted to see students receive qualifications that were not “devalued to the extent that they could not serve progression or employment purposes”.

“It does remain the right thing to start to return to normality… We want to get back to pre-pandemic grading,” she said, adding that students “really, really want to do their exams.

“They want to prove themselves in what they consider to be the fairest form of assessment, which is answering the same questions as their peers at the same time, in the same way and marked by impartial adults.”

Girls ‘do like hard maths’

Her remarks came as the Children’s Commissioner said girls “do like hard maths”, in an apparent critique of another government tsar’s comments about girls’ dislike of taking A-level physics.

Also speaking at the CST annual conference, Dame Rachel de Souza said she had opened Sir Isaac Newton, a maths and science post-16 free school in Norwich, adding: “I just want to tell you that in my view, girls like hard maths .

“And the girls in the Big Ask [her survey of children post-pandemic] that I spoke to talked about the importance of female STEM role models, that was more the issue going into the classroom when there were all boys in physics. It wasn’t that they couldn’t do hard maths.”

Dame Rachel added that in the Big Ask survey, when she asked why children were anxious about examinations, she found that “it wasn’t about exams and continual assessment and it wasn’t a lack of desire to work hard”.

“They were worried about the high-stakes nature of them in terms of progressing to the next stage and the ability to get a job.”

Earlier this year, Katharine Birbalsingh, the Government’s social mobility tsar, said “physics isn’t something girls tend to fancy” and that “there’s a lot of hard maths in there that I think that they would rather not do”.

Dame Rachel also told the conference that the “number one” priority for schools and academy trusts would be getting children back to school in September and therefore she has set a 100 per cent attendance target for the 2022 autumn term.

“Whether it’s the Secretary of State of whoever it is standing up here, that’s where we want the resources to go.”

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