The government has just announced that in England the exams will go ahead but be put back by 3 weeks. However, there has been an immediate backlash from unions and head teachers, who point out that this does not solve all the problems. In particular, can there by a one-size-fits-all policy if different schools, classes or individuals have to self isolate more than others?
Once again there is speculation in the press about the fate of next year’s GCSE, IGCSE and A-Level exams. Despite the announcement some people are still wondering ‘are exams cancelled next year too’? It certainly looks like National 5 exams are cancelled in Scotland and the National Education Union, among others, are calling for GCSE and A-Level to be cancelled too. Some experts favour just cancelling the GCSEs and still running the A-Level exams, so once again we are facing a very uncertain time in education.
The major question is that, with all the time students have missed from school, is it fair to expect them to sit major exams in 2021? Whilst alternatives have been suggested, such as pushing the exam dates back to give more time for learning, an emerging concern is for those individuals, classes, or year groups who need to self-isolate outside a national lockdown. Inevitably, this means that some schools will have more teaching time than others, which seems very unfair.
At this stage in the UK both the government and Ofqual are saying that they intend exams to go ahead in 2021 and whilst they expect some changes must take place, they do not favour the option of cancelling exams . However, we have all seen how fast things can change in this pandemic, so I would suggest nothing is written in stone at this point in time.
So, how can a student prepare in case they see their exams cancelled?
Exams cancelled? Prepare for teacher assessment
Last year was hugely stressful for teachers, students and parents when we all discovered teacher assessment would decide grades. However, teachers will be much more prepared for it now, should they hear the phrase ‘exams cancelled’ once again. But how can a student prepare for the possibility?
To put it simply, it is now essential that students focus on every assignment, every test and every mock exam that they are required to do. Teachers use evidence of performance across the school year to help them to predict grades and write reports, but now those performance indicators become crucial for a student. If teachers are asked to assess each student again in 2021, those practice assignments are highly likely to be the grades available to the teacher, so it makes sense to score the highest grades personally possible across this academic year.
In turn this means working steadily, carefully and to their very best ability across the whole school year. It will take concentration, dedication and stamina. But, at the moment, a student cannot afford to turn in a piece of work that has not been done to the best of their ability. They cannot afford not to revise for exams and tests – they need to be consistent. Arguably they should be doing this anyway, but we all know students who cruise for much of the year and then step up a gear as they approach the exams. This approach will not work if exams are cancelled in 2021.
It pays to be prepared. Of course neither the government or Ofqual want to cancel exams, but the sensible approach is to act as if they might – just in case. The only way to tackle this is to realise that, should exams be cancelled again, students need to get themselves in a good position across the whole school year and not rely on the exams.
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