Fears over school closures and exam chaos are hitting students’ motivation

·3-min read
Mock exams scheduled for January are under threat  (PA Wire)
Mock exams scheduled for January are under threat (PA Wire)

Headteachers said it is a “crying shame” that they are having to make contingency plans for exams to be cancelled again, warning that the lack of certainty is affecting pupils’ motivation.

Teenagers are due to take mock GCSE and A-level exams in January, but spiralling Omicron rates and expected staff absence has put plans in jeopardy.

The mock exams are vital to provide teachers with evidence of pupil performance on which to award grades if national exams are scrapped in the summer, for a third year.

But school leaders said they are already making plans for mocks – and even summer exams- to be cancelled.

Nick Soar, executive principal of Harris Academy Tottenham and St John’s Wood, said: “All schools have had to think and plan for the unthinkable.”

He added: “It is a crying shame we are having to devise or even think about a Plan B or even C, but we are and have been since September sadly. Having a Plan B is what we do as teachers, but it’s so frustrating not to be able to have trust and certainty that there will be public examinations in June.”

Teachers are preparing Year 11 and 13 pupils for exams in parallel with contingency plans, in case they have to revert to some form of non-examined assessment. This means teachers are keeping every piece of work students do, in case they need to produce evidence of pupils’ standard of work.

Mr Soar said this uncertainty is affecting pupils’ motivation.

He said: “What is the most difficult thing is how to keep Year 11 and 13 motoring towards examinations and all the innovative ideas and interventions that usually come with that, with the shadow of the previous two years ever present, and children perhaps believing they won’t need to sit exams.

“It is hard to keep them focussed on the challenge ahead when the day to day is so mentally challenging enough.”

Clare Wagner, head of Henrietta Barnett school in Barnett called for mocks to go ahead even in the event of a lockdown.

She said this year they have a double purpose – as diagnostic tests of pupils’ knowledge and also as possible data for teacher-assessed grades if summer exams are cancelled.

She said: “If the government is considering restrictions or some kind of lockdown, I hope they will give schools some leeway. It really is essential that Year 11 and Year 13 mocks go ahead in the Spring Term.

“So maybe if there has to be a lockdown it is not a blanket closure of schools – a partial lockdown would be preferable so that Key Stage 4 and 5 mocks and face-to-face teaching can go ahead in January. My preference would be to keep schools open of course.”

If exams are cancelled for the third year running, it would mean students leaving in 2022 would never have taken a public exam at secondary school after missing both their GCSEs and A-Levels.

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