COVID-19: Award Predicted Grades to A-Level Students (Including Pre-U and IB)

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Thanks to the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, students across the world have never been more vulnerable in terms of their attainment of qualifications and their physical health.

The United Kingdom has witnessed an exponential increase in the cases of COVID-19, and as such the foreclosure of schools is not only a possibility but an inevitability in order to ensure the safety of students. The total number of cases in the UK stands at 1391 (16/3/20) with a speculative figure of 10,000 unidentified cases. These numbers are increasing at an alarming rate, demonstrating the virus' ability to infect school communities, putting students at risk at the most important time of their academic careers prior to university.

Within the UK, the impact of COVID-19 is predicted to reach its peak in the period of the months May to June, the A-Level exam period. The contingency date for all exams to be completed by is the 24th of June. Exams cannot take place after this period, especially considering the substantial amount of time it takes for A-Levels to be graded and the fact universities require grades for candidate admissions in September.

With regard to this, it is also clear A-Level examinations cannot take place as usual. Once schools close, students will not have the final necessary teaching to ensure the extrapolation of their full potential. Alongside this, due to the virus' ability to spread in close confinement, examination centres are high-risk locations given the close proximity of candidates, sitting within the one metre distance that the virus is able to travel. A lot of students, statistically, will have contracted the virus entering the exam period and will be unable to revise effectively, negatively impacting their ability to perform in the exam. On top of this, considering the virus will be at its peak during this exam period, there will be an undeniably large proportion of students taking the exam who will be carrying COVID-19 as they sit their paper(s).

On behalf of the student body, we find that the uncertainty surrounding the taking of exams is perhaps just as terrifying as the virus itself. Not only does this impact the mental health of students; motivation is dwindling as a result of this key period of revision being undermined by the prospect of exam postponement/cancellation. If it is the case that exams are shortened and computerised, then 12% of students (circa 30,000) will be unable to complete the assessment due to a lack of accessibility to internet or an actual device, whilst also being at a disadvantage due to being unable to access online resources from home. Exams must be a standardised process, taken in similar environments so the data gathered from them can be a fair reflection of ability within the context of the nation.

As such, we require an absolute and definitive answer. This answer simply cannot be that A-Levels will take place, as that cannot be guaranteed. Instead, the only possible solution that can achieve any degree of certitude and fair, consistent assessment of candidates is that A-level written examinations will be cancelled. Instead students will be rewarded a grade based on their predictions, taking into account their quality of work throughout their A-Level course, and any available coursework marks that can inform their quality as a candidate.

Predicted grades are a fair, consistent source of information for a candidate's potential, as they are drawn from in-class contribution, mock examination results, and tasks completed across the two year course. They themselves are used by universities to determine whether a candidate should receive an offer, thus demonstrating their widely acknowledged credibility. The fact that predicted grades (along with a school-provided testimony) are awarded to students who are considered to be unfit to sit an exam, surely justifies their utility in an adverse circumstance such as the pandemic of COVID-19, as such all we are suggesting is a mere universalisation of an already existing exam practice, in a warranted reaction to an extreme circumstance. 

So, we request that the government cancels A-Level written examinations, and judges this years cohort of A-Level students on their performances throughout their courses, and award a fair, informed predicted grade, used in university admission processes.