Melton MP: I am pleased the Government has listened on exam grades

Melton MP Alicia Kearns has addressed the issues of a Government u-turn on exam grades.Melton MP Alicia Kearns has addressed the issues of a Government u-turn on exam grades.
Melton MP Alicia Kearns has addressed the issues of a Government u-turn on exam grades.
I wish to begin by paying tribute to the people of Melton for your extraordinary response to the increase in Covid-19 cases in the borough, writes Alicia Kearns MP.

We have seen our community come together to control the virus. Over the last two weeks, we have reduced cases of Covid-19 from 43 in every 100,000 people to 15.7 per 100,000.

That is a huge achievement and a testament to our borough council’s leadership, as well as the resilience of the people of Melton. I am very happy to report too that it has not gone unnoticed in government. Ministers I talk to are glowing about Melton’s response. The fact that Melton was able to so swiftly set-up and administer a testing site at Parkside, and that the community responded by getting themselves tested at such high levels is a testament to the council and the community’s huge commitment to keeping one another safe.

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To enable businesses to help keep us safe and close at the height of the pandemic, I can now confirm that over £110 million of support was provided to businesses and the self-employed in Rutland and Melton alone. This was made up of over £24 million in grants, over £73 million in loans, £12.6m for the self-employed, £700k from the discretionary grant scheme I secured, and payments to businesses for the Job Retention Scheme. I know this has made a huge difference, but I know even further efforts will need to be made to drive our recovery. That is why this week, self-employed people will be able to access a further grant, and why I am working closely with every level of government to invest in Rutland and Melton, promote our industries and build our tourism sector. This pandemic has been a story about Rutland and Melton coming together, and I know that united, we can come out of this pandemic stronger than ever.

It has been an extremely difficult year for our children, and specifically those undertaking A-levels and GCSEs. I have spent the last few days speaking to many local students, some of whom received the grades they were expecting, but some whom received assessment results that did not reflect what they had hoped to achieve. I raised the case of each of these students with ministers and with the relevant university where appropriate.

That is why I am pleased that the government has listened, and announced that students will be able to apply to university with their predicted marks from their assessment centres for both A-levels and GCSEs. It is clear that while the moderation, which was supported by unions, the exam boards and all four nations, attempted to be fair, there were too many inconsistencies in results to be resolved through an appeals process. I am glad that the government has listened to teachers, parents and students to introduce this change to make results fairer.

I know this may have a real impact on university admissions for some students. In those cases, I would be more than happy to write on your behalf to encourage universities to honour their offers. I know this is also an issue that the government is monitoring closely, and there is a commitment to make sure that no student is disadvantaged as results change.

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The government has said that university places will also not be capped, so that all students will be able to attend the universities of their choice, and it will provide the resources necessary to make that feasible.

I also would like to take a moment to discuss education more broadly and schools opening for the school year. This is extremely important for our children and for our nation.

The government is introducing measures to allow for Covid-19 secure environments in schools, such as staggered break times, enhanced cleaning, creating specified separate bubbles of students and mandating increased handwashing. It’s important we remember that many schools stayed open – safely - throughout the pandemic, and many teachers continued to educate our children. We must get our children’s education back on track, and ensure they go back to school next term.

The prevalence of Covid-19 has decreased significantly since March, and we now have a robust NHS Test and Trace system in place. In addition, the scientific evidence shows that Covid-19 presents a much lower risk to children than adults of becoming severely ill, although we will be vigilant for any outbreaks. Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities also have more detailed guidance and support.

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The government has also introduced an extra £40 million for public transport, so that children can arrive at school safely, and use a designated seating plan while on this transport to ensure social distancing.

I would also like to address specific health concerns. There is also a real worry about missed time. This is a huge concern, and one that can have a real impact on children’s long-term prospects, which is why the government has allocated over £1 billion so that schools have the resources they need to help primary and secondary students catch up. The government has been clear that no child will be left behind. Reopening schools is a huge undertaking, but if our communities pull together, we can achieve this.

We have a responsibility to our children to get them back to school, and I thank our schools for all they are doing to prepare to open safely again.