Worried about student exams? Find out what COVID-19 means for GCSEs, A-levels, and more

by Louise Young
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In ‘normal’ circumstances, students would now be eagerly anticipating the results of their hard work over the last two years – however, the current COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown measures have kept students out of school since March, and left teachers with the daunting task of providing recommended grades to exam boards.

But should we be worried about this year’s results? And what does this mean for education moving forward? Below, we’ve outlined what the current Coronavirus situation means for student exams, such as GCSEs and A-levels,and the effect this will have on students.

 

What has happened so far?

 -       Exams have been cancelled,including GCSEs, A-levels, Scottish Highers and Nationals, as well as primary SATs

-       Educational experts stated that it would be very unfair to allow students to sit exams during the current climate

-       Teachers have assessed students and provided a grade based on work completed throughout the academic year – however, in Scotland, students will be able to take the exams in the autumn, if they aren’t happy with this grade. There is also the option to take the exams in summer 2021 – a year after students would have previously taken their exams

-       Students in England can choose to take the exams in the autumn of 2020 or the summer of 2021

-       A limited curriculum has been offered

-       The government has announced a £1bn fund to help students ‘catch-up’. This will include funding for the most disadvantaged students

-       Students will receive A-level and BTec results on 13 August and GCSE results on 20 August

 

What is going to happen next?

 

-       Schools across the UK are opening officially in August - Scottish schools will also reopen in August, butwith a blended learning model

-       Timescales are short to make changes to exams, which is why they have been cancelled

-       There is some call by teachers for autumn exams to be limited to core subjects, like English and Maths, as there may be too much work involved to fit in everything

-       Next year’s exams could also be cancelled, if the pandemic continues

-       There is the potential for ‘open-book’ exams for students completing exams next year, as this may help students who have missed out on anything during this period

-       Exam boards will work closely with the Department of Education

-       Other forms of assessment may be provided alongside regular GCSE and A-level exams – whether that’s more coursework or tracking student assessments online, or through the work they’re completing now. This hasn’t been confirmed what this might looklike as of yet, however

-       There’s currently no requirement for schools or colleges to set additional mock exams in order to determine results

 

What is the effect on students?

 

-       There needs to be a combination of changes to ensure students aren’t negatively affected – this is even more so for students from a disadvantaged background

-       Scottish Education Secretary, John Swinney, said: “We have also said to schools that they should be gathering evidence of the achievements of young people on an ongoing basis in case we are not in a position to be able to run the exam diet in the spring of next year.”

-       He also said that he hoped the ‘blended model’ wouldn’t go on for longer than necessary – but many education experts suggest that blended learning would have a much better effect on students in the long run and not just as a necessary measure right now

-       Mock exam results are just one of the ways that teachers will assess students – but both core and non-core assessments should take place

-       Ofqual has stated that no student should be placed at a disadvantage if they are unable to complete the work set during this period

 

How is online software being utilised?

 

-       An online journal provides you with a recap of a student’s journey so far, which allows teachers to have another means of assessment, rather than just exams

-       Gathering evidence of students’ achievements is much cleaner and easier through online tracking software

-       Allows teachers flexibility in how they teach – such as the blended learning model, which is a proven and effective way of educating

-       Perhaps the solution is not to assess students’ performance during this period, but with more creative methods

 

Shehzad Najib, CEO and co-founder of Kinteract, said: “Students should feel empowered throughout their learning journey – regardless of what’s happening in the world around them.

 

“If more schools in the UK – and beyond – implemented a blended learning system, situations such as a global pandemic, don’t always have to mean disaster for assessments and exam results.”

 

If your school or college needs support with implementing a more robust online learning product, get in touch with us today to find out more.