teacher with pupils sitting exams

Richmond Council calls for review into 2021 school exams

Richmond Council has urged the Government to meet with education unions to explore the possibility of cancelling GCSE and A-Level exams in England in 2021.

At a meeting on 24 November, Cllr Penny Frost, Chair of Education and Children’s Services, asked members to consider a motion acknowledging the impact of the pandemic on young people. 

She said: “Months of classroom learning have already been lost and over the months ahead, many of our young people will continue to have to spend varying degrees of time out of school.”

Frost described school exams as stressful for young people and called for a level playing field for exams across the UK. 

She warned: “Otherwise, decisions will be made about the future of each young person, including university applications, from a different baseline. That is not fair.

“We are not saying that we want the exams to be cancelled. But I feel we owe it to our young people to at least have the conversation about suitable alternatives.”

Wales and Scotland have already agreed to cancel their GCSE and A-Level end-of-year examinations in 2021, replacing them with external and teacher-supervised assessments. 

However, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said that exams will only be delayed by a few months in England. 

Williamson added that exams in England would not be cancelled and that students sitting GCSEs and A-Levels next summer would be given advance notice of topics.

Following concerns about the unfairness of different arrangements across the UK raised by Richmond Youth Council, the council voted by 37 votes to nine to approve a motion to lobby the Government, favouring teacher-moderated assessments to exams in 2021. 

Cllr Michael Wilson, Liberal Democrat, said that delays to making a decision were having a negative impact on students. 

He added: “They should take some responsibility, they should show some leadership and engage with the profession to find the best way forward.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Geoffrey Samuel, Conservative, who spoke against the motion, said that he was committed to examinations next year. 

He added: “For many pupils from ethnic minorities, for many pupils from underprivileged homes, and many pupils who have had a varied experience of school, the high point of their education, its culmination, is they will have, for the rest of their lives, a qualification that has been externally accepted.”

Responding to a recent petition calling on exams to be cancelled in 2021, a Government spokesperson said: “We recognise that Year 11 and 13 students due to take exams in 2021, and their parents, carers and teachers, are concerned about the disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The government is determined to do everything possible to ensure that no student is prevented from fulfilling their potential due to the pandemic.” 

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