Next year’s exams are to go ahead – but with a three-week delay to give schools more time to help students catch up with lost content.
The government’s potential Plan B was met with derision. This involved schools setting ‘rigorous’ mock exams this winter so these grades could be used in the event of exams having to be cancelled.
‘The government also needs to ensure that its Plan A – to hold a full set of exams next summer – is fit for purpose,’ said ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton. ‘These exams have to take into account the fact that students will have suffered varying degrees of disruption because of the Covid pandemic, or otherwise those who have suffered more disruption will be significantly disadvantaged.’ He also called for exam papers to include more choice of questions to account for varying levels of lost learning.
At the start of the month, the unions had put forward alternative proposals for dealing with the exam issue. The NAHT was concerned that the compression of exams to achieve the three-week delay would have a bad impact on pupil wellbeing and their exam performance.
Parents were concerned too, revealed a survey by ParentKind. More than one-fifth of parents wanted teacher assessment to be the way of awarding grades next year. More than 90% were concerned about their child’s loss of education during the pandemic and the adverse affect this would have on their exams.
The NASUWT was troubled by the lack of proper back-up plans.
‘It is imperative that a range of robust and transparent contingency measures are developed, in consultation with the teaching profession, to address the wide range of possible scenarios schools and pupils may find themselves in over the coming year which could impact on exams and the fair assessment of pupils’ abilities,’ said General Secretary Dr Patrick Roach.
The NEU said that going ahead with next year’s exams was a ‘dereliction of duty’ by the government.
Joint General Secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: ‘It is completely unrealistic, and unfair, to expect these pupils to take exams which make no compensation for disruption to school teaching time.’
The ‘slight’ delay to exams and ‘slight’ alteration of content was an ‘untenable response’, she said.
‘Sort it out’
Schools wanted a clear and straightforward answer. ‘The Government is sending mixed messages – sometimes recognising this isn’t a normal year, but then also pressing ahead with exams and standard tests as if normal teaching time did occur last year,’ said Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney.
Meanwhile, a reform pressure group of Tory MPs called for the abolishment of GCSEs altogether. They should be replaced by a baccalaureate covering several years of study, and allowing students to explore career options in a more structured way, said the One Nation group.