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Did they really need to cancel GCSEs and A levels

(65 Posts)
mummabear1967 Wed 12-Aug-20 10:33:51

The more I think about it the more I wonder was it really necessary to cancel this years exams?

Yes, I 100% agree with the school closures but surely GCSEs and A levels could have took place this year? I’m sure they could have come up with plans to ensure that pupils could go to school to sit their papers in a socially distanced way and then go home again.

It would probably mean using multiple rooms in the school to facilitate the exams and potentially allowing the exams to be done on different days if there were a lot of people due to sit a given exam in one school.

It sounds like the government just couldn’t be bothered to be flexible. I know you can do an exam at anytime and Covid 19 was a big priority, but I’m sure most pupils would have finished the syllabus by March and if not they’d have had a huge chunk completed anyway, the rest could have been taught over zoom.

Anyone else agree?

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titchy Wed 12-Aug-20 10:51:18

Yes I agree. Kids are spaced out in exam halls anyway. Those that needed to isolate could have sat in a separate room, like many do anyway. Grade boundaries would have been adjusted to account for teaching being cut short, same as they are every year.

And the results would have been as fair, robust and credible as they are every other year.

clary Wed 12-Aug-20 11:00:03

Yes at the time I said exactly that. Close the school to everyone else, open up every room to enable social distancing, end of March most work should be done.

Students could have got on with revision in a meaningful way. Yes the quality might not have been so high, but grade boundaries would be lowered.

Surely it would be better than the current mess up - teacher grades? ok! Oh, no, sorry, not reliable, we'll go off your school's performance. No? not fair? Ok well then you can use your mock result. Still not fair? What, so not all mocks are set in the same way, at the same time, marked in a way that is consistent across the country?? Who knew? (errm, all teachers...)

What a nightmare.

Alsoplayspiccolo Wed 12-Aug-20 11:02:40

They should never have been cancelled before a proper grade award strategy had been decided.

Personally, my DD was absolutely gutted not to be given the chance to sit exams. At the time, we were reassured by the government that it would all be ok, but it’s become very clear that the whole situation is a farce and the integrity of the grades awarded this year has been severely compromised.

Universities have managed to carry out final year exams, taking into account COVID, and since GCSEs and A levels are purely stepping stones, I can’t see why exams couldn’t have been carried out as normal, with suitable arrangements made.

TeenPlusTwenties Wed 12-Aug-20 11:10:55

Yes I think they did.

They didn't know mid March what the situation would be like in Mid May / June.

- Many exam invigilators are older people.
- They couldn't just 'teach over zoom' at a moment's notice.
- The private school pupils would have been more directly advantaged due to tech etc.
- Pupils needed some certainty.
- Travel to school for eg London pupils or rural ones?
- Pupils living with shielding relatives?
- Much less was known about virus transmission so they wouldn't have known whether being in a hall for 2 hours even if distanced would be safe or not

I'd far rather my DD had been in y11 this year than y10.

mummabear1967 Wed 12-Aug-20 11:13:26

TeenPlusTwenties

Yes I think they did.

They didn't know mid March what the situation would be like in Mid May / June.

- Many exam invigilators are older people.
- They couldn't just 'teach over zoom' at a moment's notice.
- The private school pupils would have been more directly advantaged due to tech etc.
- Pupils needed some certainty.
- Travel to school for eg London pupils or rural ones?
- Pupils living with shielding relatives?
- Much less was known about virus transmission so they wouldn't have known whether being in a hall for 2 hours even if distanced would be safe or not

I'd far rather my DD had been in y11 this year than y10.

Exams could have been allowed to go ahead but they could have used predicted grades for those that are unwell and/or shielding etc etc

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clary Wed 12-Aug-20 11:16:26

True teen, the uncertainty over transmission and exactly how many students, for instance, would be ill over May-June (turns out not many I believe but I guess they didn't know).

What a mess it is now tho, talk about changing their minds last minute!

Thing is, private school students are advantaged anyway, surely, I mean in normal times, otherwise what's the point of spending all that money? The poor among us just have to suck it up and hope our kids do well enough anyway.

Badbadbunny Wed 12-Aug-20 11:18:48

I think they cancelled the exams far too early. There was no need to announce the cancellation at the same time they closed the schools. It was one hell of a knee-jerk reaction.

It was mid/end of March and most schools would have been pretty close to finishing the syllabii anyway. Efforts could have been concentrated on finishing the course, by online learning, a limited number of socially distanced classroom sessions, etc., and then pupils could have just been "released" to concentrate on home revision etc a few weeks earlier than usual.

If things had got worse and it became impossible to run the exams, then they could have cancelled them at a later date.

As it is, we've the worst of all worlds. Pupils with poor results can do re-sits in a couple of months' time, but they've had 6 months of doing no school work, so will be very rusty - they've got 2 months not only to do normal revision, but also to finish the courses, and re-cover all the bits they've forgotten/never really understood.

They're now saying mock results can be claimed, but then teachers have admitted they've played mind-games with their pupils by deliberate harsh marking in mocks to "encourage" pupils to revise more for the real things. That's cruel and unfair on so many levels.

LilOldMe Wed 12-Aug-20 11:23:05

I'm feeling sorry for the current year 12s. Exams won't be cancelled next year but they'll have lost so much school time - a huge chunk of their A-level teaching. I'm worried my son won't recover.

Alsoplayspiccolo Wed 12-Aug-20 11:25:51

clary, we moved my DD to a private school because our local “outstanding” comp refused to acknowledge or accommodate her ALN. The only way we could afford it is because she lost 3 grandparents; we have a household income of less than £30k gross, (and have lost all income since March until at least January next year) so definitely not rich.

whatistheworld Wed 12-Aug-20 11:30:08

no Zoom lessons in my secondary school, in fact teaching for my year 9 has been very poor in some subjects and better in others. certainly no Zoom, in fact not even a video!! He has had pages of powerpoint with no marking and very little feedback!!! its disgraceful

LizzyELane Wed 12-Aug-20 11:34:23

My University exams were all converted to at home assignments, mostly two to four long (400/500 word) answers to questions. Obviously text books, Google, etc, could be used, but the assignments were graded by the depth, reasoning and intelligence of the answers and checked for plagiarism. Schools and colleges could have done similar, with a little thought and effort, whilst continuing lessons from home remotely for years 11 and 13 up until May/June like the rest of the kids. Instead they were just 'let go' in March for the longest school summer holidays ever and today's announcement of 'pick your own' grade from whichever's best between the teacher's result and their mock results just sounds ridiculous!

Yellowbutterfly1 Wed 12-Aug-20 11:35:47

They did not need to cancel them.
Some other countries seem to manage having them with face shields and desks distanced apart which they do anyway.

clary Wed 12-Aug-20 11:37:58

Alsoplayspiccolo

*clary*, we moved my DD to a private school because our local “outstanding” comp refused to acknowledge or accommodate her ALN. The only way we could afford it is because she lost 3 grandparents; we have a household income of less than £30k gross, (and have lost all income since March until at least January next year) so definitely not rich.

really don't want to start a private school debate; but the plain fact is, private school fees at secondary for even one of my DC (I have three) would swallow all of my net salary. I never said parents of privately educated DC were rich; I said I was poor.

My DC have had to do the best they can in state school, and with all the parental support we could offer. I have to presume there would be value added in some way (and often this would be better exam results) by private schooling, and its £15-20k pa cost. I don't hate those who use private school, and people will do so for many reasons and in many ways. FWIW my DC only have one grandparent.

My point was really to the estimable Teen, who said that students at private schools would be advantaged if exams had been held as they would have had better support in the April - Msy period. I was saying, I imagine that would be true anyway.

HipTightOnions Wed 12-Aug-20 12:38:12

The exams themselves could perhaps have gone ahead, but I think the problem was that once schools closed, there was enormous variation between schools in the provision of remote teaching, and that would have given some pupils advantages over others.

When teachers were creating our predicted exam grades, we were told we must base them on pupils’ performance up to the point when schools closed, and ignore any subsequent work.

SerenityNowwwww Wed 12-Aug-20 12:40:53

Does anyone know how the kids get the results? DS get his GCSEs results next week and he either doesn’t know or isn’t telling!

mummabear1967 Wed 12-Aug-20 13:07:49

SerenityNowwwww

Does anyone know how the kids get the results? DS get his GCSEs results next week and he either doesn’t know or isn’t telling!

It’ll be up to each school to make that decision. Ring his school and ask them

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RedskyAtnight Wed 12-Aug-20 13:18:06

Look back to the threads on here in early March. No one knew how many students would be ill/self isolating; how many teachers/invigilators would be ill; whether self isolating would work; what would happen if a lot of students sat one paper and the other (where there were 2). Meantime the students themselves were worried sick about what would happen and were struggling to work effectively (not to mention worrying about the pandemic itself). The government needed to announce something at the same time they announced school closures. At that point I don't think they had a viable alternative to cancelling and it would have been deeply unfair to leave the students taking exams not knowing what was happening for any longer.

The mistake was in not defining the alternative much sooner, in a robust way with proper appeals system, with buy in from teachers.

mummabear1967 Wed 12-Aug-20 13:21:42

RedskyAtnight

Look back to the threads on here in early March. No one knew how many students would be ill/self isolating; how many teachers/invigilators would be ill; whether self isolating would work; what would happen if a lot of students sat one paper and the other (where there were 2). Meantime the students themselves were worried sick about what would happen and were struggling to work effectively (not to mention worrying about the pandemic itself). The government needed to announce something at the same time they announced school closures. At that point I don't think they had a viable alternative to cancelling and it would have been deeply unfair to leave the students taking exams not knowing what was happening for any longer.

The mistake was in not defining the alternative much sooner, in a robust way with proper appeals system, with buy in from teachers.

True. It really is a difficult one

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Kidneybingo Wed 12-Aug-20 13:58:57

I'm both a secondary teacher and an exam year parent. I think they did have to cancel. Pupils needed certainty. Stress levels about exam work were starting to rise very rapidly as we approached end of March. Potentially too many families were going to be affected, having a knock on effect on students.
We certainly had not finished teaching. Many subjects had practical work or pre-release work to do, which need student bums on seats.
Many of our students do not have good tech access, indeed our staff didn't necessarily either, creating problems with finishing courses and disadvantaging the already disadvantaged.
Many exams would have 250+ pupils on one day, a rooming and invigilation nightmare.
I think they've massively bungled things, but I don't think cancelling was wrong.

mummabear1967 Wed 12-Aug-20 14:39:49

Kidneybingo

I'm both a secondary teacher and an exam year parent. I think they did have to cancel. Pupils needed certainty. Stress levels about exam work were starting to rise very rapidly as we approached end of March. Potentially too many families were going to be affected, having a knock on effect on students.
We certainly had not finished teaching. Many subjects had practical work or pre-release work to do, which need student bums on seats.
Many of our students do not have good tech access, indeed our staff didn't necessarily either, creating problems with finishing courses and disadvantaging the already disadvantaged.
Many exams would have 250+ pupils on one day, a rooming and invigilation nightmare.
I think they've massively bungled things, but I don't think cancelling was wrong.

True! Never thought of all that stuff. It’s just a nightmare.

as a teacher, do you think the summer 2021 exams will be cancelled if things are still bad next year (and I hope to god they aren’t as bad as this next may/June)

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Kidneybingo Wed 12-Aug-20 14:49:16

Absolutely no idea! I'd hope not, but at least time would hopefully be put in by all agencies to at least consider how grades can be fairly awarded.

mummabear1967 Wed 12-Aug-20 14:58:59

Kidneybingo

Absolutely no idea! I'd hope not, but at least time would hopefully be put in by all agencies to at least consider how grades can be fairly awarded.

Me too, I hope this academic year is 10 times better than the last academic year 😃

Also, do teachers not have to predict grades for students anyway during normal times in case they are too ill or can’t for whatever reason attend an exam? Is it not the same process?

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FlyingPandas Wed 12-Aug-20 15:15:55

@mummabear1967 yes, that is my understanding too. That predicted grades have always existed for those who, for whatever reason (illness, injury, bereavement etc) are unable to sit their GCSE or A level exams.

The difference being that this year everyone was unable to sit their GCSE or A level exams!

As to whether they really needed to cancel - I'm a Y11 parent and an exam invigilator - I guess hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the reality is that so much was unknown at that point. The 'stay at home, save lives' message, the fact that no more than 2 people from different households could meet outside their household along with the ban on public gatherings, for starters, would not have been conducive to students travelling to schools/colleges to sit in groups to sit their exams. Even socially distanced, students in a classroom or hall would have been considered a public gathering. And if you split them all out into small numbers to sit in classrooms you'd need an invigilator or two for each classroom - far more than any school would have available at a given time.

And that's assuming that all students and invigilators were physically/mentally well enough themselves, not shielding or self-isolating etc, to actually attend. It would have been a logistical nightmare.

blissful201 Wed 12-Aug-20 15:21:22

No point arguing about the past. Cancelling was never ideal but no one had any visibility of how the virus was going to spread so let's take it as a done thing.

If all students are awarded predicted grades, and the overall grades are massively inflated this year, would it be an issue? Universities will adjust their entry points, employers will be aware that these are predicted grades, the whole world moves on...

I'm not arguing that exams are not necessary and grades are arbitrary but one in a lifetime exception is no big deal in my opinion...

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