Secondary school chaos to continue next year with disruption for exams

Secondary school chaos to continue next year with further disruption for GCSE and A-level exams – as Sage expert warns missing education is worse for pupils than getting coronavirus

  • Exams will be impacted next summer due to some colleges closed until January
  • Ofqual took the drastic step of creating contingency plans for next year’s intake
  • Two ideas are to move exams to July or to renew the emergency marking system
  • Sage expert Gavin Morgan said missing school was worse for pupils than Covid
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

The chaos surrounding secondary schools is set to continue next year as the coronavirus wreaks havoc with GCSEs and A-levels.

Exams will likely be impacted next summer due to some colleges in England not opening properly until January.

Regulator Ofqual has taken the drastic step of creating contingency plans for next year’s intake as students face months out of lessons.

Two ideas being touted are to move exams from May to July or to renew this year’s emergency marking system.

It comes as a government adviser warned missing education was more dangerous for pupils than coronavirus.

Dr Gavin Morgan, who sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the government’s response to coronavirus, said keeping children out of class was ‘100 per cent worse’ for them than the killer bug.

Exams will likely be impacted next summer due to some colleges in England not opening properly until January (pictured, a secondary school in Braintree, Essex, remains closed)

Teaching unions admitted thousands of secondary school students will only be back in class part-time from September due to the PM’s advice on social distancing.

Some will have to stay working from home and many may be forced to do the same when clusters of Covid-19 break out.

Dr Gavin Morgan, who sits on Sage, which advises the government’s on Covid-19, said keeping children out of class was ‘100 per cent worse’ for them than the killer bug

Headteachers last week informed parents their children may face a further six months out of the classroom.

Headmaster Andrew Halls from the private King’s College School in Wimbledon, south-west London, outlined the new reality for families in a letter.

‘I would love to believe that the coronavirus will soon pack its suitcase and fly to Mars, but this seems improbable,’ he said according to the Sunday Times.

He added: ‘Some children, though it is impossible to say what proportion, may not be back in school until January 2021.

‘Heads are now discussing whether GCSE and A-levels will be awarded in the same way as this summer.’

Ofqual said it understood children, parents and teachers are concerned by the disruption caused by the pandemic.

But it added it was working with the Department of Education to ensure exams and assessments are ‘as fair as possible’. 

Teaching unions admitted thousands of secondary school students will only be back in class part-time from September due to the PM’s advice on social distancing (pictured, children abiding by the rules at Brambles Primary Academy in Huddersfield last week)

Pupils face being given WRONG grades due to AQA’s online system

GCSE and A-Level pupils face being given the wrong grades due to teachers manually inputting thousands of scores into AQA exam board’s online system that is ‘ripe for human error’.

Concerns have been raised about its ‘grade entry portal’, in which marks have to be put in one-by-one by teachers.

AQA’s method has left school staff horrified and one teacher claimed the system is ‘ripe for basic human error’. 

But a spokesman for the exam board strongly refuted the claims, telling MailOnline the portal system has multiple administrators who can review, edit and check the data for errors meaning no pupils faced being awarded the wrong grades.

An Ofqual spokesman said: ‘Our overriding aim is to ensure exams and assessments are as fair as possible and we are working closely with the Department for Education, exam boards and groups representing teachers, schools and colleges, to carefully consider a range of possible measures.

‘We will provide further information in the coming weeks.’

The current measures for marking sees teachers award grades based on assignments and rank pupils in order of merit.

Last Monday children in years reception, one, and six went back to class and the government hopes to return all primary school pupils by the end of this month.

Year 10 and year 12 students will be allowed on school grounds ahead of summer for limited periods.

But most other year groups face six months out of school as they will not return until at least September.

More schools shelved plans to reopen tomorrow after new data suggested coronavirus could still be spreading in the North West of England.

Health officials at Blackburn and Darwen Council, which runs 85 schools in Lancashire, emailed teachers on Friday advising them not to reopen on Monday.

The same advice has been given by public health officials in Tameside, Greater Manchester, to delay reopening other than for vulnerable children and those of key workers to June 22.

New research showed the virus’ reproductive rate, known as the R value, is higher than the crucial threshold of 1 in the North West region.

A member of school staff wearing PPE takes a child’s temperature at the Harris Academy’s Shortland’s school in London

The Government has suggested a strategy of ‘local lockdown’ measures to fight any flare-up of the virus in particular areas.

But Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, has questioned whether such measures are workable, calling them a ‘recipe for chaos’.

Both he and Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram questioned whether lockdown relaxation was being lifted too soon, having been driven from London.

Council bosses in Liverpool and Gateshead led a northern backlash against the government announcement last month advising primary schools to reopen.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, speaking at the Downing Street briefing on Friday, said experts on Sage believe the UK’s overall R number is below 1.

But he added local lockdowns would be used when outbreaks are spotted in the coming months.

Last Monday children in years reception, one, and six went back to class (pictured, Brambles Primary Academy in Huddersfield) and the government hopes to return all primary school pupils by the end of this month

Sage expert Dr Morgan noted the health impact on children from Covid-19 is ‘minuscule’, while a long time without learning would devastate their development.

The expert in education psychology at University College London told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘We know they have a less challenging disease if they do pick it up. The impact on children is minuscule in terms of their health.’

‘We know how important play is for children’s development. If they can’t play with their friends, their mental health is going to suffer.

‘Children may well have developed secure attachment with teachers and they have been denied access to them.’

Ahead of the phased return of pupils to some schools, Sage last month published the advice it had given the government.

Among the evidence cited was that children will be damaged for the rest of their life if they remain in lockdown, with their physical and mental well being impacted.

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