by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 14
December 2021
Explainer
10:00

Get ready for exams to be cancelled… again

The return of teacher-assessed grades now looks inevitable
by Kristina Murkett
Credit: Getty

Ask any teacher, pupil or parent: absence from Covid is putting a huge strain on schools at the moment. Recent figures show that in both primary and secondary schools, sickness absence has been higher this term than any time since September 2020, and in secondary schools sickness absence has increased by two-thirds compared to last year. In Oxfordshire dozens of schools have partially closed, with the majority citing ‘exceptional levels of staff sickness’, and this seems to be the case across the country from Basingstoke to Chester to West Bromwich.

Things are likely to get worse. Covid case numbers are already highest among 5-14 year olds, and in October the ONS estimated that one in twenty secondary school children had the virus. While the government has decided to put all of its eggs in the booster basket, this is hardly going to affect school students, as the majority are still unvaccinated. We know that Omicron is even more transmissible than Delta, and studies predict a ‘major wave’ in the coming months. Just this morning Health Secretary Sajid Javid warned that “there was no guarantee schools would stay open”, a sentiment echoed by Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi.

In schools there is already a sense of exhaustion, dread, and, most worryingly, deja vu. All signs seem to be pointing in the same direction: the return of teacher-assessed grades.

I sincerely hope that I am wrong. I believe that teacher-assessed grades put teachers in an impossible position, and the huge (unpaid) workload of marking all the extra internal assessments is nothing short of exploitative. We have seen from the last two years that cancelling exams inevitably leads to rampant grade inflation, and puts pressure on universities who are oversubscribed and have over-promised places. And yet it feels inevitable. If the experts are right and we see a million cases of Omicron by the end of the month, then this will cause chaos when students return in January, especially as close contacts of Omicron also have to isolate. Furthermore, even if staff have their booster jabs by the end of the Christmas holidays, there could still be mass staff absences with positive tests.

Even if the government vows to keep schools open at all costs, some schools inevitably have been — and will continue to be — more disrupted than others. For example, sixth formers at Stantonbury International School and Oxford Spires Academy were learning remotely last week, and many other schools are imposing their own ‘circuit-breakers’ in virus hotspots. These regional inconsistencies and closures are dangerous because they not only widen existing educational inequalities, but they will also make pushing forward with GCSEs and A-Levels increasingly untenable given that the playing field is already so horribly uneven.

Even before Omicron there was an underlying nervous unease around examinations; teachers were collecting evidence ‘just in case’ and pupils talked about the need to take mocks extra seriously. Now the mood has darkened further, and whether we like it or not, what was once a possibility now seems like a near certainty.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
5 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bella OConnell
Bella OConnell
5 months ago

We have GOT to stop the testing of symptom free individuals. There are so many other diseases out there, many more severe than Covid, that we are not testing the population for. These kids are getting a hammering both educationally and mentally. Shield the vulnerable, follow the long thought out pandemic plan (as per the Great Barrington Declaration), allow the elderly to choose their freedoms. Parents, guardians, MPs please stand up and be counted. This state of affairs CANNOT be allowed to continue. Wise people say that totalitarianism can be overcome if we keep on talking, so let’s do exactly that. Everyone of us needs to make more noise.

Kasia Chapman
Kasia Chapman
5 months ago
Reply to  Bella OConnell

I teach in 6th form in the South East of England and I dread the prospect of teaching online again. For me it will be good – no lengthy commute in the dark to and from work but for the students it will be a disaster. They have not done GSCEs exams and we were working extra hard to get them to develop necessary skills. Another bout of prolonged online teaching will undo any good habits they managed to acquire. I don’t even want to think about teacher assessed grades. I still have some hope that we will have the exams. I had typically 2 out of 100 students off with Covid since September every week. They were off for 10 days usually not too ill, could do some work at home. Most importantly, the rest of students were accessing teaching face to face. It seemed a very reasonable set up. I wish I could influence the powers to be with keeping schools open but I feel I have no voice. Only reading the articles on UnHerd is keeping me sane.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
5 months ago

I have always been amazed at the Children’s Crusade’s relevance since Gretta appeared. Back in the Medieval times the children were led by a charismatic youngster to assemble and march on Israel to take it back from the Muslims, by their mere faith and presence. Thousands marched on on the route, and when taking chartered ships to cross the Mediterranean were all instead taken to the Muslim slave markets and sold.

Anyway – this covid response has been a classic vampire movie where the life of the young has been sacrificed to give some minor degree of safety to the old and infirm. Every study, ever done, shows the poor students do NOT recover from lost school. This is why taking ones children on extended holiday for a week has been regarded as child abuse and is punished by law. That the insane madness of covid took 18 months of their education is thought a good thing for society, prudent and useful. Fully of 1/3 of the children in many poorer cities in USA Never even logged into online school – they just vanished…. I guess did a Lord of the Flies thing.

What will happen is a million of them will likely become basically unemployable, many millions become under-employable for life, antisocial behavior will have been trained into many, mental issues brought out, years wasted – youth starting their steps on the employment ladder set way back – and that will effect lifetime incomes, getting to work with your age class is very important if one is to be successful.

Naturally many suffer as parents had their business destroyed – and 1.2 million developing and third world children have died of poverty from Western lockdowns reducing economic consumption of the products, services, and tourism, and business of those parts of the poor world.

What Boris, Biden, the EU, many nations around the world did is Pure Vampire stuff – sucking the future out of the young to give some small bit of safety to the old and feeble. The most immoral act possible.

NOW coming is the 50 $Trillion of money raised by debt to pay for the covid response – which is to be paid back by the young! They also will be saddled with the decrease in purchasing power through money devaluation, and debt repayments, and their pensions are destroyed, and they will never be able to save as the economies are destroyed.

Every burden has gone onto the middle aged, the ones with family – and on the children. To save ‘Granny’ for another year of lockdown. Mass Psychosis –

Or more likely the Elites taking the world over and using Covid – 12 Trillion printed by USA, the wealth of the super wealthy increased by $12 Trillion at the same time. Coincidence? NO. And the children are the ones who will pay for it.

andrew harman
andrew harman
5 months ago

Shocking that this is the first comment. The treatment of children / school students has been one of the biggest scandals of the last 2 years.

Last edited 5 months ago by andrew harman
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
5 months ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Biggest scandal in history. Boris and Biden, et al, have committed crimes against humanity.