Thousands of headteachers across England are demanding that public exams be cut back next year because plans to catch up on lost lessons are “neither realistic nor workable”.
They also fear a mental health crisis among pupils who are currently expected to sit their GCSEs and A-levels as normal in summer 2021.
The headteachers, from 78 English local authorities and represented by the campaign group Worth Less?, are calling for a significant cut in curriculum content and fewer exams in each subject to ease pressure on pupils and allow teachers to focus on student wellbeing rather than “exam cramming”, the Guardian reported.
The Government has already said that exams will take place as usual next year, despite a recommendation from exams regulator, Ofqual, that A-Levels should be deferred by a month until June to allow more teaching time.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said the proposal to start exams on June 7 “adds up to a few weeks more learning time to compensate for a shutdown which has lasted for four months” and amounted to little more than “tinkering at the edges.”
Jules White, head of Tanbridge House secondary school in Horsham, West Sussex and leader of Worth Less?, told The Guardian: “The government must strike a much better balance to maintain standards whilst looking after children’s mental health. The idea that pupils will simply ‘catch up’ on months of lost learning is neither realistic nor workable.
“Bombarding GCSE and A-level students with vast content and huge numbers of exams is unacceptable. Pupils do not need to sit five English, three maths and six science papers of at least two-plus hours next summer.”
Alan Brookes, chair of the Kent Association of Head Teachers, said: “The major focus has to be the welfare of students, and getting their wellbeing and mental health sorted out. Some lifting of the pressures of the examination system would be a help in enabling schools to do this.”
This year, pupils due to sit GCSEs and A-Levels were given their predicted grades, as the exams were cancelled.
The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson promised to ensure that all students would get the grades they "need and deserve" but the system was heavily criticised for being open to manipulation.
Mr Williamson assured MPs that no child would be "unfairly penalised" as a result of the decision which will affect hundreds of thousands of teenagers.
A Government spokesman said: “We know that getting back to school is vital for children’s wellbeing and are working to make sure all pupils return to the classroom from September.
“We recognise that students due to take exams next summer will have experienced disruption to their education, which is why we have prioritised bringing Year 10 and Year 12 pupils back to school this term.
“The range of measures proposed by Ofqual, including the possible short delay to the exam timetable and subject-specific changes to reduce pressure on teaching time, will further ensure those young people taking exams next year have the same opportunities to progress as the students before them.”