Is this the end of traditional school exams? – The pros and cons of cancelling 2021 GCSEs and A-Leve
Written by Courtney Davis
Last year many students were left devastated with the results they received after spending the past two years working towards them. This resulted in many GCSE and A-level students confused at what to do next, especially those whose grades affected what university they were accepted into.
When I was at school and sixth form it was constantly drilled into us about how important these exams were and how it would shape our futures. So, there is no wonder that last year and this year there are many stressed students questioning how this will affect theirs.
On 4th January 2021, Boris Johnson addressed the nation, putting England into a third national lockdown including the closure of schools and colleges for face to face teaching. In relation to public examinations he stated, “We recognise that this will mean it’s not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal, the Education Secretary will work with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements.”
This decision comes after it has been thought that pupils entered for 2021 exams have not had a sufficient amount of time at school or college to be able to sit these exams to the best of their ability. They are possibly even less prepared than those affected last year due to the complete absence of in-person contact hours.
If exams were to go ahead these pupils would be under a lot more stress, having a drastic effect on their performance. The pandemic has shown to have had a crippling effect on some people’s mental health and some students may not be in a situation where they are able to dedicate hours of their time on revision. The inability to be able to learn in a classroom environment has a much larger impact than first thought. It can be draining for some pupils- affecting their concentration since they are having to adjust to a new type of learning. A household is not synonymous to a classroom and many simply do not have the same facilities at home that they are provided with at school, severely restricting their ability to prepare for public examinations.
With exams only being cancelled in January 2021, students will have still been working towards them throughout the pandemic, leaving some students questioning what exactly have they been working towards? As a result, students might not focus as much over these next few months. Admittedly a difficult situation to overcome, it is going to be increasingly hard for students to stay focused, receive correct resources and know what to revise for. Not only will they have to face the brutal reality that they will be missing out on their exams, there will also be an absence of relief and celebration with friends when they are finally over. Although we can all keep everything crossed for a return to normality in summer 2021, we are all aware of the dangers of getting ones hopes up.
In spite of this, the way exams are going to be assessed this year will hopefully work out better than last. Instead of the algorithm that left many disappointed, sad, and angry with their underwhelming results, grades will be based on teacher assessments. The UK Government website informs: “The grades in 2021 will be determined by teachers and then, following quality assurance, the results will be issued by the exam boards, who remain accountable for the results.”
When considering this, it might put some students and parents at ease because it can be argued that teachers know the pupils better and can therefore make a more informed and accurate decision on what grades they should receive. Teachers have first-hand knowledge of their pupils capabilities meaning they are the best ones to make the decision.
With the amount of stress and pressure put on these pupils over the past year many believe that it is the correct decision to cancel exams. From my memory exam season was stressful enough- only brightened up through the use of colourful mind maps and highlighters. Therefore, in my opinion, whilst COVID remains this is the best course of action when dealing with school examinations.