Cancel 2021 GCSE & A-Level Exams

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Since the pandemic began, school and college students have lost out on five months of face-to-face teaching. This figure is likely to get worse as cases of Covid-19 continue to rise over the winter, putting immense pressure on our National Health Service.

Despite the best efforts of teachers to adapt to this crisis, student learning has been drastically impacted by so many months out of school – and those who can least afford it are paying the price. Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have faced extreme difficulties, with many lacking access to the internet, laptops or quiet learning spaces, as well as free school meals. Meanwhile, students with additional needs have not been able to access the essential support provided by teachers and assistants in the classroom.

Students are under enormous pressure to catch up on five months of lost education while having no access to their usual support networks or services. Many feel overwhelmed and at breaking point. A survey of NEU teachers revealed that nearly 80% believed they would not be able, in the time available, to teach the whole syllabus. Under the current circumstances, the results of exams next year will tell us more about the unequal impact of Covid-19 on the student population than they will about their subject knowledge and skills.

The Secretary of State for Education’s plan to address this problem by delaying exams for three weeks does not make up for the five months of education that was lost during lockdown – or the broader fallout from Covid-19, with prolonged isolation impacting both the educational outcomes and mental health of many students.

We believe that every student deserves to be supported and given access to the best possible education. Learning must be organised to meet the needs of young people, especially in such challenging times, and examinations must be conducted fairly. The current policy of the UK government fails on both of these tests, disproportionately impacting disadvantaged students, underfunded schools and those with differing needs, as well as potentially harming the futures of many more students who fall into none of these categories.

We therefore call on Gavin Williamson and the UK government to cancel GCSE and A-Level exams in England next summer, in line with announcements in Wales and Scotland.