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Uncertain grades and future for students

28th Aug 2020
Uncertain grades and future for students

(Photo: Karl Baron/Flickr Commons)

Amer Abbas

September 3, 2015, was the beginning of a transition for most students moving from their primary to their high schools, (yes, there are still some local education authorities who opt for the middle and upper schools) and usually this is a tense and exciting time for students and parents entering the next phase of their lives.

For most students, their future has already been decided either through their SATs scores, Cognitive Abilities Tests tests or those who opted to do the 11 plus to go to the grammar schools.

When parents are informed whether their child is on track or below expectations it’s usually based on their primary school performance combined with secondary baseline tests. Secondary school teachers then take on the responsibility to track and accurately record, mark place interventions to make sure that their students do not fall behind based on the projections made from their primary school and secondary baseline tests. Sometimes, the projections can be skewed based on the parents’ professions and residential postcodes which may not accurately reflect a student’s actual ability.

Certainly, no one could have predicted how Covid-19 would affect students through all levels without a doubt. Covid-19 has negated a lot of hard work put in by teachers, students and parents over the last 5 to 7 years. By the time that Covid-19 had started affecting UK residents mock exams had already been conducted and marked and the process of making sure that the coursework was complete was in full swing.

The Government’s announcement of the cancellation of all public exams came to both a shock to teachers and students alike and left teachers in a limbo status of ‘OK, what’s next’?

Teachers had been keeping track and placed specific interventions to make sure the students reached their estimated target grades. The series of data exercises specifically the ranking of students of who was the best & worst with-in each grade was something quite new yet so Victorian to many teachers.

When students had initially asked me what their final results will be, I simply shrugged my shoulders and said it is most likely to be based on your predicted grades and most at that seemed very content. Some students were not as content as they had performed poorly in the mocks as they had not quite met their expected grades.

The situation since then has further been strained for all students concerned as the Government announced that exam boards will be looking at each school and combining previous sets of results as well as their school data-based tracking, together with the grade ranking (with some schools doing this better than others) thus impacting student grades adversely.

Teachers and heads of departments who would have made huge strides into improving their departments or finally blessed with a year group who were delivering on their promised potential are all in despair.

Those likely to be affected adversely are those predominately from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) and lower-income groups where 16.7 per cent have had their grades reduced compare to 6.9 per cent of students from a more affluent background.

Traditionally BAME students tend to do significantly better after their mocks as they have received a wakeup call from their poor performance and added interventions from parents and teachers really assist.

I am aware of a Muslim student who had made significant improvements to his grade and was on course to secure 3 As, but his estimation had to be downgraded which will no doubt harm his application to read Computer Science at Cambridge.

The likelihood nature of things is that he is not alone; there will be other students who had worked to attain Grade 9’s at GCSE so that they could study medicine in the future but of course those dreams are also on hold.

In the past, the Government has relied on talent from abroad to bridge the gaps in skills and knowledge but international students are also affected and their IGCSE grades are also under the same scrutiny but again they may not be as badly affected as they are from more affluent backgrounds and attend schools which statistically produce outstanding results.

There is some hope for students like the one I mentioned above as some universities are willing to consider their predicted grades but with the Government insisting on the Triple Lock which would require students to retake their exams in October but with students not fully engaging with online learning during the lockdown I am unsure how students will fare.

As teachers prepare their classrooms for the September start there are already plans in place for a further lockdown come post-October will those exams actually take place?

 

Amer Abbas, Curriculum Co-ordinator Computer Science,
Aylesbury Vale Academy.

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