Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
A teaching union has demanded more exam leniency this summer amid complaints of omicron disruption.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is urging ministers to review plans for A-levels and GCSEs this summer to take into account how much schooling children have missed during the latest Covid wave.
The Department for Education needed to take “greater consideration” of how the pandemic had affected students over the past few months, the union said.
A series of adjustments to exams were announced at the end of September 2021, which included giving students advance notice of topics and scaling back the curriculum of various subjects.
But the NAHT says that these changes were formulated prior to the omicron wave, which led to bouts of teacher and pupil absence in the run-up to Christmas, as well as during the first few weeks of term.
Almost one in twenty teachers were off due to Covid
“The adaptations were decided months ago,” said Sarah Hannafin, of the NAHT. “Our members are saying things have changed since then, there have been issues with staff attendance and student attendance. The problem is our members don’t feel this is enough.”
She said that the NAHT raised this issue with DfE officials and the exam regulator Ofqual before Christmas, and again more recently. It said their lack of action so far has been “frustrating”.
On February 7, exam boards will disclose to schools which topics are due to appear on test papers this summer.
Pupils should not be given so much information that they are able to memorise answers to write in exams, since this would give some an unfair advantage over their peers, Ofqual said.
Government ministers have said that exams are the fairest way to assess students’ knowledge, but said this summer’s arrangements must “take into account the disruption young people have faced over the past 18 months”.
The sweeping changes to the curriculum come after two years of exams being cancelled due to the pandemic.
In 2020, a controversial algorithm was initially used to calculate students’ grades, but this was eventually dropped following an outcry.
In 2021, teachers’ predicted grades were used once again, resulting in spiralling grade inflation for a second year in a row.