‘I’m shocked exams are cancelled – now grades are based on teachers’ opinions’

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Students have been left reeling after A-Level and GCSE exams were cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed that teacher assessment “not an algorithm” will decide pupil results this year.

We spoke to a number of students to see what they think after the summer exams were axed.

Alanta, 18
Alanta McKenzie, 18, from Enfield, north London, fears some pupils are being denied the opportunity to show their full potential.

She said: “At first I was shocked because I didn’t think they were going to cancel it fully.

“At first I felt an element of disappointment because I feel we have been put through a lot by being told to keep on pursuing it.

“I feel like we can’t really show what we can truly do. It’s just based on our teachers opinions.”

The schoolgirl said she feels more anxious about her applications to study psychology at university, but hopes her teachers will grade her fairly.

Jacob, 17

Jacob Winton, 17, of Forge Valley School in Sheffield, hopes the government will not let pupils down for a second year.

He said: “After the news had sunk in, I felt worried that this would affect my future in that me and my fellow pupils would always be known as the year who had grades given to them.

“I hope they have a better system in place when it comes to predicting my grades this summer as I know that there were many unhappy people in the year above me. They felt like the government had let them down and not properly recognised their hard work and potential achievements. For most of them, it was definitely negative as it was the difference from getting into the first-choice university and going somewhere they were less keen on going to.”

Joshua, 17

Joshua Foster, 17, of Shrewsbury Colleges Group in Shropshire, said news of the latest lockdown was a hard blow.

He said: “Hearing that changes had been made to the last year of my college life was overwhelming at first, knowing that I will not be able to attend face-face lessons until February half-term, at the least was a hard blow,

especially as research suggests it can have a negative impact on a students attainment, but I still think it was the right decision.”

Ben, 16

GCSE pupil Ben Thornbury, 16, of Malmesbury School in Wiltshire, has struggled with home learning.

He said: “It’s a bit of a weird and annoying feeling having two years of real hard work and then coming to the end and having our education impacted by a pandemic and uncertainty.

“Since the pandemic, I feel like teachers have had to cram more information in and teach it at a faster rate.

“Now we are returning to online learning, it’s okay but online learning is not always the best way to concentrate and the WIFI at home is not the best and you can get distracted quite easily.

“But at least we are still doing some learning.”

Daniel, 17

Daniel Hind, 17, Coundon Court Sixth-form in Coventry, is relieved that teacher-led assessments will be used but said the upheaval has been a strain on his mental health.

He said: “Although our A-level courses are coming to an end in an unexpected way, I feel that it is the only way for our grades to be truly representative of the disruption to our learning. I am pleased that teacher-led assessments have been chosen as my teachers know how hard I’ve been working up until now, and know what I’m capable of.

“The uncertainty around these assessments up until today however has been a major strain on all of our mental wellbeing.

“The virtual learning experience I have had through the pandemic has been challenging, I have struggled with both motivation and being able to properly teach myself the complicated topics of A-levels, however, all of my teachers really have tried their utmost to support us all, something which I am really grateful for.”

Ella, 18

Ella Vanson, 18, from Wood Green, north London, will be able to complete her BTEC in dance but her history A-Level exams have been cancelled.

She said cancelling exams is the right choice in the circumstances, but called for teacher-assessed grades to also be based on students’ attainment from before the pandemic.

She said: “Lots of people have had different home environments in terms of studying.

“Maybe if they base it off of coursework and predicted grades, but also going back a year from before coronavirus.

“It’s so different to school learning online at home. I find it so hard to be motivated and I’m really lucky to have a great home life. But if you don’t then it’s even harder.”

The teen, who is currently applying to dance schools, said she had friends who had chosen to retake year 12 after the exams fiasco and disruption last year – only to be confronted with the same situation again.

“If you worked hard and were expecting to have a nice grade on your CV that could be really heartbreaking,” she added.