Students sitting A-Levels and GCSEs in England next year will get advanced notice of topics and will be allowed to use exam aids, the government has revealed. Contingency papers will be made available for those who miss an exam for Covid reasons and teacher-based assessments will be used only as a last resort. The news follows the decision by the Welsh government to cancel its 2021 exams, arguing it is “impossible to guarantee a level playing field”. On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Gavin Williamson singularly failed to outline how the adjustment in England, which applies to all pupils, will help ‘level up’ those kids worst affected by Covid when asked repeatedly. The Education Secretary instead assured us a new expert group has been convened to work on the problem. Labour slammed the government for its “dither and delay” over the arrangements, and has said the latest proposals do not go far enough. The party has demanded the government urgently set out how it will make exams fair for pupils in the worst-hit regions.
Coronavirus vaccinations will begin next week, according to Boris Johnson in his latest Covid press conference. And while everyone agreed on the good news about the jab, the PM and his deputy chief medical officer clashed over the prospect of a return to normal in a post-Covid utopia. Jonathan Van-Tam told us there would be no “big moment where we have a massive party and throw our masks and hand sanitiser”. To which Johnson chipped in: “Yes, well maybe, but on the other hand we may want to get back to life pretty much as close as normal.” The PM does love to give good news. Keir Starmer welcomed the news on the Pfizer/BioNTech jab. He called for a plan to roll it out “swiftly, safely and fairly” and echoed concerns he voiced in PMQs on the logistical problems in deploying the vaccine.
Meanwhile, leaders of eight trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party have signed a joint statement expressing “concerns” over the unresolved situation regarding Jeremy Corbyn’s whip, LabourList can reveal. The fresh statement explains that the unions met with the Labour leader last week to call for the whip to be restored to the Islington MP and put forward concerns that the party has recently been “distracted by internal wrangling”. A statement in October received the backing of left-wing unions Unite, CWU, FBU, ASLEF, TSSA, NUM and BFAWU but this latest one has also been signed by Community, which nominated Starmer in the leadership election earlier this year and did not nominate Corbyn in 2015 or 2016. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.