Former Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw said the same mistakes will have been made if England’s exams regulator Ofqual has not got the “balance” right between assessing students based on their school’s past performance and their individual record.
He issued the warning as Scottish education secretary John Swinney was announcing how the authorities north of the border were seeking to correct the blunders over exams which have seen about 125,000 students getting lower grades than predicted.
Sir Michael told BBC Breakfast: “The mistakes are about not getting the balance right between the judgment of the youngsters’ performance on the basis of the history of the school and the previous results of the school — and individual student performance.
"Even in schools with a history of poor performance, there will be youngsters there who have worked very hard, youngsters who are very bright, who would have done well.
“Unless that balance is a correct one, is a good one, then we are going to have a repeat of the Scottish performance.”
Health minister Edward Argar said the results in England would be “fair”.
Following conversations with schools minister Nick Gibb, he told LBC Radio: “I’m confident and reassured that we have developed a system here in consultation, in partnership through Ofqual, with schools, with unions and others that I believe will give pupils a fair set of results.”
Schools in the Shetlands and the Borders reopened today, with other Scottish schools following tomorrow, amid a row over the degree of Covid-19 transmission in secondary schools.
Scientists agree that the coronavirus risk in primary schools is very limited.
However, they are split over the how much teenagers in secondary schools spread the disease. Ongoing research by Public Health England reportedly suggests that older children could transmit the disease as much as some adults. Mr Argar sought to downplay this suggestion, insisting the PHE report had not been finished.
With schools due to reopen in England within weeks, he pointed to other research from abroad which highlighted limited Covid spread in schools.
“On the basis of the work that has been completed and those international comparators, we are confident that children and young people are much less at risk from this disease and from passing it on than other adults more broadly in the community,” he said.
However, Professor Neil Ferguson, who drew up a key report before lockdown in March, has suggested that secondary schools reopening could push up the R infection number by between 0.2 and 0.5. Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said yesterday that it was “increasingly clear that older children, teenagers, probably transmit as much as adults but schools themselves play very little role”.
Mr Argar also said the test-and-trace system was “successful” despite it now being developed as a “hybrid” model. The number of contact tracers in the centralised system is being cut from 18,000 to 12,000 and more tracing will be done by local health teams.
The Government has ramped up the number of tests but academics say the true number of people being traced by the system is about 50 per cent of the contacts of people testing positive.
Shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “It’s frustrating to see ministers call test and trace a success when it is very far from it.”