On December 3rd, Office for Qualifications and Examinations Regulations (Ofqual) announced various measures that would seek to address the disruption caused to learning in Year 11 by Covid. The aim of this letter is to share these adjustments and to set out how the college will respond. Regardless of the announcement, there is still significant detail that is yet to be shared with schools and whilst we welcome the proposed adjustments, we do not believe that they go far enough to give a full answer at this stage.
In the announcement, a number of measures were put forward to support students. These include:
1. Exams will take place as arranged. The system used to arrive at grades last year will not be repeated for this year 11 cohort.
2. Exams will be delayed by an additional three weeks to maximise the teaching opportunity for Year 11. Students will be supported through providing advance notice of some of the topic areas that will be covered in exams.
3. Students will be permitted to take specific aids such as formulae sheets into some exams. The aim is to reduce the amount students will need to memorise.
4. The “generosity of the 2020 grading levels will be maintained in 2021.”
5. A new expert group will be set up to look at differential learning loss and to monitor the variation in the impact of the pandemic on students across the county.
6. Stronger support is on offer for those students who may be impacted by Covid on the day of examination.
7. If a student misses all GCSE or A level assessments in a subject due to sickness related to coronavirus (COVID-19), or the need to self-isolate and is unable to access the special consideration process, they will be eligible to sit a single contingency paper. This will take place between 28 June to 16 July 2021 and timetabled to allow at least a 10-day gap after each subject’s final paper in the main series.
Schools will be told of the detail around these measures at the end of January. This leaves precious time to respond and will require the college, teachers and students to be aligned for maximum benefit.
There will be mixed views on these measures with some suggesting that more should be done, with others claiming that exams have been ‘dumbed down.’ Either way, it is where we are, with a high probability that it will not change, and I wish to commit to you that all within the college will do all we can to support students during this difficult period.
I would encourage you to discuss details of this letter with your son/daughter and reaffirm that the largest advantage they can have, is their commitment to their own learning. We will continue to offer high quality lessons, prioritising Year 11 to avoid absences caused by Covid or other elements. Intervention classes will be offered to those with identified gaps in knowledge, but these are voluntary and place an emphasis on the student to attend. We will review the support measures we offer Year 11 and continue to promote elements such as GCSEPod, Microsoft Teams support and Mental Health and resilience strategies. Finally, whilst we acknowledge that this period has been incredibly challenging for all, it has been most challenging for those in Year 11. We must capitalise on each lesson and every day. We cannot allow those one or two with intent on disrupting learning to negatively influence the opportunity for others. This means that we will continue to celebrate the maturity and commitment of our students and make clear of our expectations.
Mr G R Potts DL