It’s now two weeks since schools in England reopened and so far things are looking very positive. On the whole students are pleased to be back in the classroom and able to see their friends again after months of being confined to their homes and having to learn remotely. The government has announced that there has not been the feared increase in infection numbers and we are cautiously optimistic that things will look even brighter after the Easter break. Students in senior schools have to take regular lateral flow tests but the number testing positive has been only 0.06%.
Students who were due to sit external exams this summer and their teachers can now be clearer about how they will be assessed. Ofqual has published clear guidelines and students can expect to be awarded grades that reflect the work they have done. No students will be penalised for things they simply haven’t had a chance to learn. However, teachers report that some students have become almost hyper-aware that every little thing can count and this can add to their anxiety.
So what are the benefits and risks?
- Students will be assessed by the teachers who know them best and teachers will be able to use a range of ‘evidence’ to base their decisions on
- Teachers may be under pressure from parents to award higher grades than a student would be likely to achieve in an external exam
- Awarding grades to their students will be a lot of extra work for teachers, with very little preparation time and will have an impact on the time they are able to devote to actually helping their students catch up and settle back into their learning
- There will be little parity across the country and between schools so students’ actual achievement will be impossible to verify and benchmark
According to the Chairman of Ofqual, Ian Bauckham, an element of grade inflation this year is inevitable. We are acutely aware that this was the case last year, with many independent schools reporting a 10-20% increase in top grades at A Level and GCSE, and this year is likely to be no different. Speaking to headteachers at the Association of School and College Leaders’ annual conference, Mr Bauckham said inflation was likely to occur even if teachers acted with “complete professional integrity” in deciding grades. He suggested that this was inevitable under the current circumstances but would need to be addressed when we are able to return to a system of formal externally assessed examinations. Ofqual has also announced that some sample exam questions, which teachers can choose to set their students, would be released after Easter.
In other news, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has muted the idea of switching to a 5-term school year to enable shorter holidays so that children can catch up on lost learning time and attend summer schools. This is still up for debate with some cautioning against adding even more pressure onto students.
For those parents who feel that a summer school might be a good option to help their child fill in the blanks, have a look at some of the quality programmes on offer this year at www.bestsummerschools.co.uk