HMC General Secretary, Dr Simon Hyde, said: "Whilst it is important that the learning loss which some students have experienced is accounted for, and that disadvantaged pupils are not further disadvantaged, HMC believes that the decision to cancel all exams in England this summer is premature. With the hope of the vaccine on the horizon and the government now taking stringent lockdown measures, teachers and students can be more confident that public examinations can go ahead safely in June.
"The question is much more what form these examinations should take. Students in Years 11 and 13 must not have the rug pulled from under their learning. They have suffered much, but fairness to all students means that all students now need to be assured of a robust assessment to acknowledge their hard work. Crucially, there must be some element of external moderation by Boards to ensure fairness within and between centres. This could take the form of scaled down exams for some candidates, or portfolios of evidence for others. We know that many students have experienced significant disruption to their schooling. At the same time, there are many students, across both the maintained and independent sectors, who have been able to continue with access to high quality teaching and learning.
"Exams must also be manageable, which is why we asked the government in September to look again at syllabus content.
"It is still worth considering different assessment pathways as a route to qualifications, both academic and vocational. Furthermore, international schools whose pupils sit UK qualifications must not be forgotten. Those who are able and whose learning has been relatively unscathed might take an examination-only pathway. Others, whose schools acknowledge significant disruption, might choose a better developed form of centre assessment. There may be hybrid models. This is a route taken by the IBO (International Baccalaureate Organisation).
"The best way of ensuring fairness is not by cancelling all examinations but by externally moderating assessment in whatever form it takes. We require decisive leadership and a willingness to compromise to bring about such a system, but our students deserve no less."