Why we need to avoid another GCSE and A level fiasco - Catherine Scott

I was hoping that my first column of 2021 would all be about hope and the things we are looking forward to getting back to doing.

Group Of Teenage Students Sitting Examination In School Hall
Group Of Teenage Students Sitting Examination In School Hall

But with Monday’s announcement by the Prime Minister that doesn’t seem possible.

Don’t get me wrong there are positive things happening and maybe it has never been more important to focus on them. The success of new vaccines to tackle Covid-19 are the things that we need to hold on to, to get us through what Boris Johnson himself has described as the ‘worst yet’.

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And it does feel very different to last March’s national lockdown. Maybe it’s the weather. Rather than long spring and summer days enjoying walks and our gardens, if you have one, we are faced with January.

Known as a difficult month at the best of times, I don’t think anyone is under any illusion that the next few weeks are going to be extremely tough. I just hope the kindness people showed to each other through the first national lockdown returns. It as the one positive that came out of 2020 in my mind.

But in order for us all the come through the nest two months we need strong and decisive leadership.

While I have often questioned in this column the Government’s decision to go ahead with this summer’s GCSE and A-levels, but Monday’s announcement seemed to increase confusion.

Most media outlets immediately reports that the exams were cancelled. But I have to say that wasn’t my reading of what Boris Johnson said.

He said it would be impossible for all exams to go ahead as planned and that Gavin Williamson would be meeting with Ofqual to find suitable alternatives.

Firstly why on earth did the Government not have a suitable alternative ready – this situation has hardly come as a surprise. Teachers, parents and unions have been calling on the Education Secretary to have a contingency plan since before school restarted in September.

Instead we have to wait until today for Williamson to address Parliament on what he plans to do to avoid the debacle of last year’s results. Worryingly that debacle was created by Mr Williamson and Ofqual so I am not feeling too optimistic. It creates yet more uncertainty.

Scotland and Wales took the decision months ago to cancel their exams, and whether or not you agree with that decision at least the pupils and teachers knew where they stood and what was expected of them. Once again our young people, who have been through so much in the last year, are left in limbo. But for now we try to remain positive and knuckle down to home-schooling.