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Abbeygate Thoughts: Bury St Edmunds sixthformer Josh Stayton calls for some decisiveness on this year's exams

Following the Government’s most recent announcement and the introduction of the third lockdown, 2021 is beginning to look a lot like last year.

For most people history is repeating itself in 2021, as businesses close and we return to working from home once again.

The difference this year for students is exams; no solid information has been released by the Government yet. As we now enter what is the first lockdown to affect pupils this school year, it is still a relative unknown as to how students will be graded this summer.

No one knows what this year's exams will look like
No one knows what this year's exams will look like

As many people are aware, last year’s Year 13 and Year 11 exams were cancelled on the 18th of March 2020 as the first major lockdown in the UK began.

Now, included within the Prime Minister’s announcement of the current lockdown from the 4th of January 2021, the PM has finally commented on exams for this coming year. Stating nothing specific, Johnson said that “Alternative Arrangements” will be made for this year’s exams.

Current Year 13 and Year 11 students have been left in limbo ever since the start of this school year as to what exams would look like or even if they would happen. This state of anguish that students are currently being left in, is and will be detrimental to their mental health in the run up to awarding of grades.

Abbeygate Sixth Form College
Abbeygate Sixth Form College

Studies conducted in America by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control, 2020) have shown that because of the pandemic 80% of students have experienced negative effects on their mental health and with 20% saying that their mental health had “significantly worsened” in the past year. These figures are only in relation to the pandemic, so when you factor in the uncertainty of examinations and having lost out on at least five months of face-to-face education, the mental health of students will really suffer. Even following the address by the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on the 6th of January, much has still been left to the imagination regarding how exams will go ahead this year. The only tangible information we have right now is that teacher assessed grades will be used instead of exams but how this will work is yet to be described, and until it is, students will remain in purgatory.

Having studied for two years, through a pandemic, and with a little under half of all learning taking place online, for some people exams as normal could never have been a possibility. Having reviewed the Government’s proposals, it is clear there is still a push for some form of final exam to take place in some capacity. However, I believe that the proposal by the Government for teachers to award a grade for students is the most reasonable way to administer the results. Teachers can give the most accurate view based on the amount of the course students have been taught and the work they have produced. Every single student’s educational experience throughout the lockdowns will be different. To use a one size fits all style of final exams is just not fair.

Despite the consultation taking place in the background, students must continue to prepare for exams wholeheartedly, as no one can be sure of what the future may hold in terms of examinations. No matter what the Government decides to do, students this year will have still missed up to five months of face-to-face learning, many pupils will feel short-changed.

Yet we still move ever closer to what would be exam season to test students on something that is yet to be decided - a daunting prospect for people whose futures are dependent on the outcome.

-- Josh Staytonstudies A-levels in Maths, Physics and Geography at Abbeygate Sixth Form College, Bury St Edmunds

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