Work is underway to ensure students on the island attain the grades they deserve for the work they have done despite the disruption of Covid-19.
With the cancellation of summer exams for the second year running, Education Minister Dr Alex Allinson has told Gef what plans are being made for this and next year’s students. He has also hinted at changes being made to which exam boards the island’s schools follow.
Dr Allinson said: ‘In essence all exams have been cancelled for GCSE, A-Levels and most of the vocational schemes. It differs according to the subject, it also differs slightly depending on the board as well because we use a mix of different boards, some English, some Welsh, some Scottish and Cambridge International, which was the last one that gave us the choice about dropping them. What we’re trying to do at the moment is get some sort of standardisation, there will be some exams taking place, because in some of the practical and vocational subjects, you have to be seen to do something properly, so we’re going to have to gear that up and we’ve made accommodation available for people to do that both in schools and at UCM. Even if there is still Covid about, we will bring people in and find a way of doing that.
‘In terms of teacher assessed grades, head teachers are working really hard to arrange that. Remember what you will be assessed on isn’t the whole curriculum, but the work you have actually been taught. There is no point trying to test people on what they should have learnt if they never got round to actually being able to do it.’
How to Test Students
Dr Allinson said that while the work between teachers and exam boards is ongoing, he expects the teacher assessments to be decided using a ‘mixture’ of methods best suited to each subject. He said: ‘For some subjects, such as art which has coursework, they can get a portfolio of their work but for example science, they won’t have been able to do some of the lab work so it might be more based around continuous assessments and using past papers.’
What is important for Manx students is that they are treated equally to their counterparts in the UK, particularly for A-Level exams where places for universities are likely to be hotly contested given students both on and off island deferring their first year because of the pandemic and its effect on the university experience as well as their studies.
While the process is more difficult than standard exams, it will not impact on results day, with students expected to still receive their A-Level grades on August 10, followed by GCSE results on August 12.
As planning is underway for ensuring grades are delivered this year, work is already underway to prepare the current Year 10 and 12 students for their GCSE and A-Level exams in 2022. Dr Allinson said: ‘We’ve now got a whole cohort of people who have not actually sat down and done what we consider “proper exams” for two years so if we suddenly just bring exams in then we need to ensure they are prepared for it, there are a lot of knock on effects for this.
‘I think we can get it right for this year and we’re also working with teachers to look ahead because we need to make sure we use the right exams boards, get the right subjects for our island as well. There is a review process ongoing for how we move forward from this, hopefully we can get out of this this year and get back to the horrible exam season next year. But we need to look at how we run exams, who we run them with to give people over here the best chance to get the grades they deserve.’