Education news

Schools will struggle to host exams in autumn, heads warn

This summer's GCSE, AS-levels and A-levels were all cancelled

IT would be "completely unreasonable" to expect secondary schools to run an exam series in the autumn, a union leader has said.

This summer's GCSE, AS-levels and A-levels were all cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Pupils will receive predicted grades instead.

Schools are also expecting significant disruption deep into the next academic year as pupils return in phases.

A proposal to bring those in their GCSE and A-level years back in mid-August is being considered.

There are also calls to cut down exams in 2021 due to inconsistencies in remote education and learning time lost during lockdown.

Head teachers have already said consideration must be given to tailoring or even cancelling exams for a second year in recognition of the upheaval caused.

They warned that it may not be possible to cover all exam content in the normal way.

There are also fears that teachers and pupils will find themselves overstretched, adding more stress to an already difficult situation.

Department of Education officials have confirmed that the CCEA exams board will look at the issue in greater detail.

In addition, assembly members have been told there are some doubts over public exams due to take place in November.

National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) general secretary Paul Whiteman said it would be a "significant challenge" to accommodate exams alongside face-to-face lessons, while also providing support to young people who have been out of school for months.

The union is calling for "local hub centres" to be set up for pupils who want to take exams.

Those who were due to sit papers with boards in England will be able to take exams in October and November if they are unhappy with their calculated grades, under proposals by Ofqual.

But principals have suggested such an additional autumn exam series could detract attention from students who will need more academic and wellbeing support.

"It is vital that schools can focus on what is needed for their current students whether that is a phased reopening, improving remote learning or face-to-face teaching," Mr Whiteman said.

"The proposal that all secondary schools will run an additional exam series in the autumn term is completely unreasonable in these circumstances.

"The best solution would be for local hub centres to be set up for students to take exams in the autumn term with any additional costs borne centrally by government."

Ofqual chief regulator Sally Collier said: "We understand the logistical challenges schools and colleges will face in the autumn, and the potential for public health restrictions to impact on the planned series.

"We will continue to talk to the sector, and prepare for a range of contingencies, as we finalise our approach."

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