Commenting on the report from the Education Policy Institute ‘School attendance rates across the UK since full reopening’, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“This report should ring alarm bells in government about the widely differing impact of Covid disruption on pupils because many of them will be taking exams next year. There is no way that it can be business as normal if a third of pupils were unable to attend school in some areas of the country, while in other areas attendance is over 90%. Of particular concern, is the evidence that the most deprived areas were more likely to have seen lower pupil attendance levels.
“When pupils have to self-isolate, schools are working incredibly hard to provide them with remote learning, but it cannot be a substitute for direct classroom teaching, particularly for young people who struggle the most with their studies, and for disadvantaged pupils who do not have access to a dedicated laptop or sufficient internet connectivity. And all of this is on top of the impact of the national lockdown on these students.
“The plans for GCSEs and A-levels in 2021 that have been announced so far by the government in Westminster do not go anywhere near far enough in tackling this issue. Changes to the content of the exams amount to no more than tinkering at the edges, while delaying the start of the exams is small beer compared to the level of disruption experienced by students, and fails to take account of the fact that students have been impacted to such varying extents.
“If the government wants to save next year’s exams series, and stop it falling into complete disarray, it has to stop shilly-shallying and get a grip of this matter. Students have to be given more choice in exam papers over the topics on which they can answer questions to account for varying levels of lost learning time, robust contingency plans must be put in place for those students who are unable to take exams or whose preparation is very significantly disrupted, and there has to be an allowance made in setting grade boundaries to recognise the circumstances.”
ASCL, alongside other education organisations, has submitted to the government a joint proposal about next year’s exams which can be accessed here