GCSE Exams Cancelled: Surviving Without an End-Point

GCSE Exams Cancelled: January 2021

Near the start of the “new normal,” we wrote a requiem for coursework. Almost unbelievably, the time now feels ripe for a requiem to exams, in light of the GCSE exams being cancelled.

GCSE Exams Cancelled

No one really likes exams, do they? SATs, GCSEs, A-levels, we’d be hard-pressed to pick a favourite! Teachers feel the pressure almost as much as students do, and even the high achievers who perform well can feel anxiety and dread creeping up on them as sports halls across the country get re-fitted for exam season. While the natural reflex is to fight to keep games going and to ward off the ominous silence of exam conditions, this is all part of the natural school cycle. As sure as spring follows winter and summer follows spring, revision follows the hard graft and feeds into the summative assessment that holds the key to the next stage of each candidate’s learning/life journey. Only, since coronavirus rudely disrupted the natural order of things, those keys are as frustratingly elusive as a spare classroom key on the janitor’s chock-full chain.

And we all know the feeling of an ill-defined filler lesson, the honourable intention of keeping things light dissolving into anarchy without the rigour of a clearly-defined unit objective. Well, with GCSE exams cancelled, we’re basically now teaching a filler year, meandering through with an indeterminate end-point. Our own objectives remain the same as ever – namely, to do the best by our students – but how exactly we achieve this is hazy, especially while we await updated guidance on teacher assessment. There is still a finish line, we just don’t know what it looks like or what route to take. Even as we write, news breaks that exams might make a swift comeback with Gavin Williamson’s talk of mini exams!

Exams were not perfect, and hopefully the current situation can help persuade the powers-that-be that they needn’t be the be-all and end-all, but they certainly served a purpose: to sum-up and reward learning. I miss that purpose and [deep breath] I… miss… exams. Something I never thought I’d say has now lingered on my lips for two years running.

The ultimate goal, as with Star Wars, is to restore balance to the force. Fingers crossed for no more sequels!

While you’re here, why not check out some of our revision blogs? Or even our previous blog on the January exams? For everything else, subscribe to Beyond for access to thousands of secondary teaching resources. You can sign up for a free account here and take a look around at our free resources before you subscribe too.

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