Having schools close in mid-March and seemingly unlikely to resume before September causes obvious massive issues. It has been very easy to dwell upon the effect that the current circumstances have on GCSE students: how will they be awarded their qualifications? What will their onward post-16 institutions need for admission? etc. However, the British government have done a serviceable job in answering these questions, and for the most part at this point, there is little more that our year 11 students can do than cross their fingers and hope that the roulette wheel of a best-fit grade falls in their favour. But what about our year 10 students and GCSE school closures?
In many ways, they could be seen as the main secondary school victims in this crisis. They’re still going to have to sit their exams, but they’ve lost more than a sixth of their GCSE courses. That is tough. It was reassuring to read in the footnotes of an Ofqual report on 21st April that year 10 students “will not be unfairly disadvantaged”, so we’ve looked at the facts and we think it is going to work out OK. Here’s why:
School life is inefficient
Potentially this school closure thing is a blessing in disguise. (This is a big if, but…) If a Y10 student uses this period of weeks or months to their advantage then they could begin September in a better position than they would have done otherwise. How’s that? The amount of time spent learning in a typical secondary school is more limited than we often think. Once you’ve factored in travelling between lessons, getting set up, getting packed away, behaviour issues with others in the class, working with others, differentiated tasks, etc. then 5 or 6 hours of learning time equates to much less. Provided our year 10 students are proactive, they can achieve far more when working from home.
Our teachers will pull out all of the stops
The majority of secondary teachers are there because they are passionate about working with young people and care deeply about giving them the best possible options in life. Our teaching workforce is hyper-aware of what students are missing out on during lockdown (more so than students and parents) and will do everything in their power to claw back the lost time. This may well involve additional work sent home, more intervention classes and increased availability.
Our schools don’t want a failed year group
The fact is that schools and academies are answerable to their local councils and to the government for their performance. The academic year 2019/2020 is a write-off because of COVID-19, but 2020/2021 certainly won’t be. And secondary schools around the country will be ensuring that next year’s Y11s are going into their exams fully tooled-up; as always, they’re not just representing their own learning, but pupils are also show-casing the aptitude of their educational institution.
The grade boundaries for every individual exam are tweaked according to how well the national cohort performs. Exam boards will look at factors such as the difficulty level of a paper, or how students performed in previous tests to determine where they set their boundary. In 2021 there is no doubt that they will also consider the disruption caused by coronavirus and how that has affected approaches to exams. We’re confident that, broadly speaking, the GCSE data next year will look pretty similar to every other year.
The government will protect students
It’s not just pupils, parents, teachers and schools that are concerned for the current Y10s who are losing out on their education, it is also a matter that will be being discussed at governmental level. The UK economy would suffer if a whole year’s worth of its population was written off as the forgotten generation. So that’s not going to happen. Whether that looks like extra provision or greater leniency or something in-between is yet to be determined, but it is an area that will be taken care of at the highest level and cascaded down.
Beyond is always here for GCSE school closures!
So, there is plenty to be ironed out and many bridges to cross, but we want to encourage you that our current year 10 cohort will not be at a deficit due to these unforeseen circumstances. Before these things are settled though, there is already plenty that can be done. We’ve got huge swathes of the English, Maths and Science curriculums covered on our webpages and we’re going to be around even when schools can’t be. Whether you’re an educator, a parent, both at the same time, or even a student, our site is crammed full of activities to enable you to keep on building skills and subject knowledge, so that when traditional schooling resumes you can feel more on top of things.
At the moment you can download at your leisure for free using our UKTWINKLHELPS offer code.We’ve curated a bunch of resources suited to home learning here, but there are thousands more GCSE school closures resources at your fingertips with just a little browsing.
Don’t forget to 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.
You can check out the rest of the blog here!