Local schools will close today to all but the children of key workers. However, they have not yet received information from the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) about how, with the cancellation of the exams, students will receive a grade for their GCSE and A-level examinations.
With the government list of key workers only just published, schools are scrambling to identify those who are entitled to continue to attend school.
To help identify these students St John’s Academy sent out a questionnaire to parents yesterday. Today, March 23, only Year 7 are in school. The school will close for the day on Monday to all but staff and reopen on Tuesday March 24 to identified students.
Principal, Ian Tucker, also had a message for Year 11 and Year 13 students, “We would like to reassure Years 11 and 13 pupils after the Secretary of State’s sudden announcement, that we are 100% behind them in ensuring that they will not be disadvantaged regarding their GCSE and A Level exam results.
“At the moment we are having to go with the decision that all summer exams are cancelled. Having said that, it is really important that pupils in these affected year groups do not give up on their studies. We just can’t be certain what the Government might bring in in the way of assessment. To that end we’re keeping close contact with Ofqual to ensure that we can update pupils as soon as we can.”
At Pewsey Vale School only Years 7, 8 and 11 are in school today and the school will open on Monday only for the children of key workers.
Headteacher, Neil Pritchard, said in a letter to parents, “We find ourselves in an unprecedented period of time in our country… We have set up work for all students which is accessible online… All Year 11 students have been directed to follow their current timetable as their work will directly emailed to them during their lesson time.”
There is considerable concern that students will not receive a fair grade if they are based on predicted grades and teacher assessment. Tobi Dada tweeted on #Exams2020 “I’ll never forget the day my teacher said, ‘You’ll never be able to get an A in A-level Maths.’ She ended up predicting me a D. My determination to prove her wrong is the reason I achieved an A.”
Professor Kalwant Bhopal, director of the centre for research in race and education at Birmingham University is quoted in today’s Guardian as saying, “There’s a lot of evidence to show that there are stereotypes around particular types of students, so their predicted grades are lower, and when they do the exam they do better than their predicted grades…
“Students who are from white, middle-class affluent backgrounds will do very well from these predicted grades, especially those from private schools. Their parents would just go into the school and argue the case that ‘My child isn’t a B, they’re an A*, and the teachers will take that on board. Those students will do better.”
For the students themselves, apart from the anxiety about their exams, there is disappointment and dismay at losing out on all the rites of passage and celebrations that finishing GCSEs and A-Levels and leaving school bring. Year 6 pupils leaving primary schools also fall into this category.
On Thursday St John’s Academy tweeted, “We’re making the best of a difficult situation and giving Year 11 students the best day we can. We’ve distributed the leavers’ hoodies, and our amazing staff have swiftly organised a leavers’ assembly, to be followed by the traditional shirt signing. Our very best wishes to Year 11.”
Let’s hope that the government provides clarity about GCSE and A-level exams to end so much uncertainty as soon as possible.