GCSE and A Level students: “What Now?”

Updated: Aug 6

Chief regulator at Ofqual yesterday wrote a letter to GCSE, AS and A level students to reassure them that grades will be published by at least the same dates as usual, pandemic or otherwise.

Schools have been closed since March 20th and will remain so until autumn (or later). Exam boards have decided to assess and provide grades for the thousands of GCSE and A level students based on several factors:

  • The subject teacher’s professional judgement

  • Previous exam grades (including mock exams)

  • Coursework

  • Essays

  • Homework.

These predictions will then be moderated to reflect national results and resemble that of previous years. Any work put forward after March 20th will not count towards a student’s final grade. A promise has been made that students will be able to apply to take exams in autumn in order to improve upon their predicted grade.

Undoubtedly, many teenagers will be jumping with joy at the thought of no more school for the next few months. The work being thoughtfully prepared by teachers uprooted from their familiar classrooms and workplaces will likely become obsolete for many.

“What’s the point?” teenagers will splutter to compromised parents, “of learning trigonometry when no one is testing me?”

The “because I said so” response will not fool students this time around, as parents and teachers alike are also feeling the same level of confusion and bewilderment as we navigate through this completely unexpected time.

At GeoVLE, tutors are already seeing many students completely exasperated. They were relying on the next few months to complete the curriculum, revise and improve upon their knowledge, and improve on grades received that perhaps do not show their true potential, for myriad reasons. They will be the students looking to take the examinations in autumn, but they may be feeling lost and overwhelmed at the thought of not having a school environment to guide them up to the examination period (lack of classroom learning, peer-to-peer study groups, lunchtime and after-school revision sessions, direct one-on-one communication with the teacher).

Assessment experts suggest that there is no need to worry, as this approach to grading will likely be fairer than the usual examination system. And as we've said before - the current examination system is inherently flawed and often poorly reflects both the abilities of students, as well as the capabilities of teachers. Grades can fluctuate dramatically year on year, and there is evidence that around a quarter of A level and GCSE grades would change if re-marked.

History and English tutor, Lauren Brooks admits that when she took her GCSEs 10 years ago, she was like the many teenagers who perform much better under stress and tight deadlines.

Lauren concedes that, ‘though likely emotionally overwhelming, the run up to these key examination periods can be a brilliant time for teenagers to learn their strengths and weaknesses, pluck up the courage to ask for help from teachers and peers, learn how to structure and timetable their revision time, develop self-learning skills, and potentially - if they’re anything like me - gain a newfound interest in a subject that they had, up until this point, not spent too much time working on. But all of this is very difficult to do from home, without the guidance that a school environment brings.’

If they are not preparing for exams, what should students do during this time? Gig-economy lines of work (the more obvious and easy-to-attain roles for teenagers and young adults) have all but disappeared. Much of their extracurricular activities will have vanished too (think team sports clubs, drama or music clubs), and even their in-person social life has come to a complete halt; how detrimental this will be is yet to be understood, as socialising at this pivotal life stage is integral to learning and preparing them for adulthood. This will be an extremely testing time for adolescents, especially once the excitement of having time off wears off and a lack of clear guidance or structure to their day becomes mundane and boring - it has been a challenging adjustment for most adults, never mind for teenagers who have mandatorily had to attend school five days a week for at least 10 years.

Director of Education, Joe Mabbort said, "At GeoVLE, we are very concerned about the next steps for our teenagers, and as a result our team are looking to offer cost-effective, small group online Zoom sessions to keep them engaged and focused on their subjects."

Our Study Skills sessions will be tailored accordingly:

  • Students in Year 10 and Year 12 will be offered an opportunity to maintain a pace with the learning the GCSE/A level curriculum, and specific sessions to work through any fundamental concepts that may be missing.

  • Year 11 students will be offered revision sessions, exam practice, and sessions geared towards transitioning them from GCSE to A level curriculums.

  • Year 13 students will be offered revision sessions, exam practice, and sessions geared towards transitioning from A level to higher education or working environments.

All sessions will be available for 14-18 year olds, depending on their level and ability - some GCSE students may prefer to get ahead of the game and prepare for their A levels in advance, whilst some A and AS level students may like to revisit key parts of the GCSE curriculum to more deeply lock in fundamental concepts and ideas.

Founder of GeoVLE, Kirstin Coughtrie said, “We are also looking to provide support in wellbeing and mental health during this unprecedented time; a space where teenagers can voice their concerns and learn simple techniques to maintain some consistency and routine in their lives under lockdown.”

This is a small step at this stage, and we are keeping a close eye on the unfolding situation and looking for ways that we can be part of the development and revolution of our education system.

#evolvinglearning #togetherwecan #exams #wellbeing #isolation #schoolsout #studygroup #onlinelearning

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