Schools urged to ditch plans to hold GCSE and A-level exams this October


SCHOOLS should ditch plans to hold exams this autumn to get as many pupils back into classrooms, according to a leading teaching union.

Repeat exams for kids who missed out on GCSEs and A levels this summer were due to take place in October for students unhappy with their grades this summer.

But the NAHT union has called it “completely unreasonable” given the challenge of getting all pupils back to class for the next academic year.

As some year 10 and 12 students return to school they warn there is “no quick fix” to the damage done by the closures, as the government is set to announce more details on summer catch up schools this week.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT called for the government to deliver a “detailed, coherent plan for September.”

He said: “It is vital that schools can focus on what is needed for their current students whether that is a phased reopening, improving remote learning or face to face teaching.

“The proposal that all secondary schools will run an additional exam series in the autumn term is completely unreasonable in these circumstances.”

Rubbishing the plan for summer catch up schools, he added: “Instead, we need a sustainable, long-term plan that draws on the wealth of knowledge within the profession about how to narrow achievement gaps, and serious consideration of a ‘catch-up premium’ to allow schools to focus on activities that are proven to work.”

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted chief inspector, said many schools were being “creative” to help manage their class sizes and said dropping the two metre social distancing rule would mean more kids can go back to school.

When asked whether reducing the two-metre social distancing guidelines would help schools accept more pupils, Ms Spielman said schools had been told there is a hierarchy of infection control, with handwashing placed higher than social distancing.

She said: “Social distancing within the bubbles of the half-size classes is, according to the guidance, an aspiration, not an absolute requirement.

“What’s really important is that everybody works to the guidance as it stands, plans for the relaxations that are likely to come along in future.

“But, yes, obviously, a reduced distance expectation will flow through into greater capacity in schools but what we need to get to is that plan for how we build capacity over time.

“Use relaxations as they come through but concentrate on the main objective which should surely be to get as many children back into school as possible and as soon as possible.”

Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair signed a letter calling for school kids on free school meals to get free internet at home.

The proposal has been signed by over 40 MPs, former ministers and experts.

Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh said: “The lockdown has exposed the digital divide in our society, with schools across the country reporting struggling families who do not have internet access at home.

“Those children who can’t access the same resources as their classmates will find themselves even further behind when they finally return. Some may never catch up.

“This policy isn’t a silver bullet and can’t replace months of missed education. But it would make an immediate, tangible difference to families right across our country.”

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