Home   Bury St Edmunds   News   Article

Tim Coulson, chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership, with his monthly update for readers




The here and now is, of course, enough to be thinking about.

The education sector across the country continues to wrestle with positive Covid cases among staff and students and striking the right balance between learning and a degree of anxiety in and out of the classrooms.

These are challenging times with the threat of temporary school closures due to staff shortages ever real.

Dr Tim Coulson
Dr Tim Coulson

In the face of this, the diligence and determination of our school leaders and staff never ceases to amaze me.

The same has to be said about the resilience of our fantastic students and the ongoing support of our parents.

We are all in this together and I know how much each and every one of our schools appreciates the support they are receiving from within their communities.

But we must also look to the future. What will 2021 look like and, in particular, next summer’s exam season.

It’s fair to say that this year’s A-level results day produced a wide range of emotions – fear, despair and relief to name a few.

The problems caused by the national algorithm were thankfully smoothed over in time for GCSE results day as the Government decided to award all students their Centre Assessed Grades.

We know we are living in unprecedented times and not every decision is going to be right in the first instance, nor appeal to all.

But lessons must be learned in time for next summer.

Given the nature of Covid-19 and how it has affected some parts of the country far worse than others, there simply cannot be a level playing field when it comes to sitting examinations in the traditional way.

Some youngsters, perhaps most, will have missed some crucial school time but others would have missed far more through no fault of their own.

They will face significantly greater challenges when it comes to face-to-face time with their teachers, let alone the effects on their mental health by missing out on social interaction and the routine that many desperately need.

In Suffolk, where the vast majority of our schools are based, we have so far been fortunate to see smaller infection numbers than elsewhere.

But this doesn’t mean we should stop thinking about others. All our young people deserve the same chance when it comes to exams.

Some will be able to catch up through the national tutoring scheme and Ofqual has reduced subject content a little.

But many are still understandably questioning whether this goes far enough.

We want our 2021 education system to be as traditional and straightforward as possible – our youngsters deserve as much. But it must also be fair and not see exam chances hampered simply by your postcode.

I believe exams must take place but steps must be taken to ensure grades are issued fairly. A decision needs to be made and in plenty of time ahead of next summer.

For latest schools news from across Suffolk, see our education pages