Government needs to make decision on June 2022 exams now, urges Leeds post 16 education leader

An expert in post 16 education in Leeds has called on the government to make a decision now on exams for 2022.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 4:45 am

It comes in only the same week that A Level and GCSE students collect their 2021 results, but David Holtham says schools and students need to know now what is expected of them before they start a new academic year in September.

As the country was plunged into another lockdown at the start of the new year, it also saw the cancellation of summer exams for 2021 and instead grades were decided through mini tests, course work and teacher assessments.

While that has proved a fairer outcome than last year's controversial government algorithm which created huge discrepancies affecting pathways to jobs, university and apprenticeships for thousands of young people, conversations around 2022 need to be providing answers - which the GORSE Academies Trust executive principal for post 16 education warns are not forthcoming.

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David Holtham, leader of post 16 education at GORSE Academies Trust.

On this year's results, where GSCEs are announced today (Thursday) following Tuesday's A Levels, Mr Holtham believes most students will be happy with their outcomes.

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"It was crazy, they made decisions on the day that affected everybody, changed their minds two or three times within the space of a couple of days and that caused significant problems."

However, he said the challenge now for schools and colleges is what the next year will look like. While he predicts that schools will look much more like normal when for the September return, the concern is navigating winter should that lead to a rise in COVID cases and "a repetition of last year".

Students celebrate after picking up A Level results at Boston Spa Academy earlier this week.

There is talk of contingency plans for 2022 between the government and Ofqual - its department for regulating exams and tests - such as students getting advanced notice of topics and them being adapted to make it fair for students who missed on them being taught due to bubbles collapsing, isolating and differences in the standard and delivery of remote or online learning from one institution to another.

But, Mr Holtham has called for a decision one way or the other.

He said: "The conversation is what is the contingency for if we don't have exams. Lots of people think we should have a contingency plan now, just in case they don't happen again next year. The planning is not there and that is the worry - we find out after Christmas exams will not happen and get a very short period of time to plan what we are going to do. That was really challenging for schools and staff, we don't want to be in that position at the same point next year.

"The last year has been challenging, not only for schools, but everybody in society. In schools, what we have the responsibility for is the well-being of young people and that is where it is slightly different. We carry the burden and that is significant.

"There is lots written about the well-being of young people and rightly so. What young people need is clarity and certainty, and that is the biggest thing that we can give them about what will happen if they can't do exams, and a lot of stress goes away because they know what's coming. What has transpired with COVID is that people are more worried and anxious than they would have been previously.

"We have to make schools welcoming and caring institutions and the government needs to give us as much clarity as possible about what we are preparing for in June 2022. The thing is the complexity of it. People don't want to deal with it, they want a simple, easy solution but to be honest, if there was, someone would have thought of it and I don't think there is one.

"Schools, teachers, young people, families - they have got a responsibility to do things that will move young people forward in a positive way."