ALL STUDENT LIVES MATTER! PETITION TO CANCEL ALL EXAMS FROM JANUARY 2021!

ALL STUDENT LIVES MATTER! PETITION TO CANCEL ALL EXAMS FROM JANUARY 2021!

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Cancel All Vocational Exams taking place from January 2021, including BTEC Exams to Safeguard the Health & Safety of Black, Asian, and Other Minority Ethnic Students, White Working Class Students and Students with Additional Needs.  

My name is Grace Quansah (aka ‘Akuba’).  Outside of my work as an award-winning performance artiste, writer, equality officer for Ealing Labour, and director of WAPPY that supports children and young people's creativity and mental well-being, I have a Certificate in Education, Master’s in Social Anthropology and an Insititute of Leadership & Management Certificate in Community Leadership.  Having worked in education since 1988, with an experience of teaching A Levels and GCSEs in Sociology, English & BTECs in Health & Social Care, I extremely concerned about the current situation for BTEC students including my daughter in relation to the government’s current education guidance on the vocational exams during the pandemic crisis. 

I am launching an urgent campaign on behalf of my 17 year old, African-descended daughter, who is clinically vulnerable and hearing impaired, as well as on behalf of around 130,000 vocational students, currently at college and schools, who are expected to still ‘Attend their place of learning, Sit their vocational Exams and Risk lives’, This is in direct contrast and in contradiction to the government’s recent U-turn guidance to scrap GCSEs, A Levels and SATS, because as Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary states, “the impact of this pandemic now means that it is not possible to have these exams this year.” 

While GCSEs, A/Ss, and A Levels have been scrapped in favour of Teacher Assessments within the English education system, as part of the Government’s, ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS & Save Lives’ policy, Gavin Williamson has shifted the responsibility and his duty of care for vocational students over to colleges and schools, for them to decide if it is safe or not for their students to sit their vocational exams. In so doing, he has also continually ignored education unions, and other organisations plus scientific advisors, who have repeatedly pointed out that it was NOT safe to open schools, colleges and nurseries from Monday 4th January 2021.  

As we learnt yesterday that 1 in 50 people have the virus nationally and in London 1 in 30 has the virus, and today 1,041 people have died of Covid 19, as well as 62,322 new cases, Williamson is demonstrating a complete dereliction of duty by failing to safeguard the health of thousands of vocational students, including that of my daughter’s, who is vulnerable on medical grounds and due to her ethnicity.

Poignantly, research carried out by the Social Market Foundation (http://www.smf.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/SMF-Vocation-Vocation-Vocation.pdf0) found that students from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to have these BTEC qualifications, including 37% of black African/Caribbean students and BTEC national qualifications are particularly popular among white working-class students.  This echoes my own observations, that Black and other ethnic minority students and white students from low socio-economic background tend to sit BTEC exams as compared to white students from affluent backgrounds.

Against the above backdrop, last May 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS)'s report revealed that black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups are at higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than the rest of the population though that risk may not be the same for all ethnic groups due to existing health inequalities, housing conditions, public-facing occupations and structural racism.  If Gavin Williamson continues with his latest discriminatory guidelines I fear it will cost thousands more working class, minority and black lives!  All Students Lives Matter!

As well as the Health & Safety of all students, fairness is also important, and Shadow Minister for Education, Kate Green, is correct to question whether these vocational exams can be fair for vocational students “whose learning has been severely disrupted” (https://www.tes.com/news/lack-support-january-exams-unforgivable

During the last academic term 2020, scores of students, like my daughter, were forced to stay at home because of health issues, as well as to isolate because they had come into contact with a student who contracted Covid 19, or because they caught the virus, and they received minimal or no online teaching from home due to cancelled classes.  Some BTEC students also had in person classes cancelled due to staff shortages due to the impact of Covid 19 and some too, like my daughter, were unable to access alternative online provision.  So many students simply do not feel ready to sit their BTECs, which is simply unfair!

Please sign the petition now to pressure the government to scrap all vocational exams taking place RIGHT NOW and this year in favour of Teacher Assessments while the mutant virus continues to surge for Health & Safety reasons and issues of Equality of Opportunity!

ALL STUDENTS LIVES MATTER!!

Thank You.

Grace Quansah (www.wappy.org.uk)

 

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