The Tories are pressing ahead with exams in England next year. It means more misery for over 700,000 students due to sit GCSEs, A-Levels and other exams despite missing months of education due to coronavirus.
The government claims it will help students by providing advance information about exam topics and says that grades will be “boosted”.
East London GCSE student Fred said the Tory plans are “ridiculous”.
He told Socialist Worker the measures don’t make up for “losing six months of school, as well as two, three and four periods of isolation”.
“You can see no one feels positive about these measures,” he said. “They won’t do anything to address the added stress of exams.”
Fred is one of many students who have had to self-isolate since returning to school in September.
The number of students out of school because of virus outbreaks recently doubled in a week.
Fred said school has been “disrupted and chaotic with feelings of insecurity and not knowing what is going to happen”.
Repeated government U-turns mean more uncertainty. “We have a gut feeling of almost fear,” said Fred.
The government says providing information on exam topics will cut the amount of work and revision for students. But students won’t get that information before January.
NEU union president Robin Bevan said schools still don’t know how many topics they will be told about.
“Not knowing this until next year means students and teachers may now be ‘misusing’ their time, catching up on content that isn’t required for the exam,” he said.
Fred said the government should do more to support students.
“There should be government‑funded sessions where students can talk to a professional about their insecurities and clear their head space,” he said.
And he argued that exams should be cancelled. “It would take a lot of stress off students who are already coping with so much,” he said.
Governments in Scotland and Wales have said that some exams will be cancelled next year.
Yet Tory education secretary Gavin Williamson said he could “absolutely” guarantee that exams in England would go ahead.
He claimed the measures announced last week will make exams “as fair as possible”.
But the exams won’t be fair—and poorer students will be hit the hardest.
“I think the changes will bring some benefit, but it will still be far worse than previous years,” said Fred. “Private schools like Eton will benefit far more because they are in low infection areas and are not self-isolating like we are.
“In Tower Hamlets, infection rates are so much higher. My year group has already been off twice and we are one of the least affected. The changes will benefit the more privileged.”