Head teachers in England say GCSEs and A-levels will have to be slimmed down for next year’s exams, because of the teaching time lost in the lockdown.
A grassroots group of more than 5,000 heads is warning it is “neither realistic nor workable” to catch up in full by next summer.
They are calling for reduced content or to have some “open book” exams where students can use text books.
The exam watchdog Ofqual has suggested removing some practical parts of exams.
West Sussex head teacher Jules White is the organiser of the Worth Less? campaign group, which originally formed over school funding shortages.
The network of heads is now raising concerns about trying to run next year’s exams with few changes, when many pupils have been out of school for so long and when there is the risk of more disruption from local lockdowns.
They are also calling for more support for pupils’ mental health when they return to school in the autumn.
“The government must strike a much better balance to maintain standards whilst looking after children’s mental health,” said Mr White, head of Tanbridge House School in Horsham.
“The idea that pupils will simply ‘catch up’ on months of lost learning is neither realistic nor workable.”
He also said it would be “highly undesirable” if the lack of time to complete courses meant “reducing grade boundaries so low as to become meaningless”.
“Content for content’s sake achieves nothing. Surely it is best that students leave Year 11 with deep knowledge and understanding for the next step in their education,” said Clive Sentance, head teacher of Alcester Grammar School in Warwickshire.
Last week the Department for Education’s guidance for the return to school in the autumn said pupils would be expected to carry on with all the GCSEs and A-levels they had planned.
The exams regulator Ofqual said there would not be any reduction in the number of exams and suggested only a few changes, such as removing geography field trips or science practicals.
Additionally, to allow more teaching time, next year’s exams are expected to take place later in the summer.
Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, described the changes as “little more than tinkering at the edges”.
He warned that young people had “lost a huge chunk of face-to-face teaching time” and said the “very minor changes” proposed by Ofqual failed to “recognise the enormous pressure on schools and their pupils”.
Mr White’s group of heads, representing schools in 78 local authorities, is calling for a significant reduction in next year’s exams, to reduce pressure on schools and stress on students.
As well as reducing the course content for GCSE and A-level, they also suggest using open-book exams for some subjects, where candidates would have access to text books or other notes during the exam.
Ofqual is running a consultation on any changes to next year’s exams and says final decisions will be announced in August.
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