NAHT calls on government to ensure a fair deal for students, ahead of 2022 exams

School leaders’ union NAHT is urging the government to review plans to ensure that exams this year are fair to all GCSE and A-level students. 

The disruption students have faced throughout their exam courses due to COVID – and in particular the recent heightened disruption due to the Omicron variant over winter – has left students with potentially quite big differences in how much they have been able to learn and prepare for their exams. 

While the government has put adaptations in place, these may not be sufficient – especially given that they were drafted prior to the emergence of this variant. Students and school leaders alike are feeling that more needs to be done to reassure everyone that exams will be fair. 

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “The government has made it clear that it intends for exams to go ahead. But there needs to be more recognition that some students could be disadvantaged by the gaps in their learning due to COVID disruption – through no fault of their own or of their schools’. 

“If the government doesn’t do more to acknowledge this, trust in the fairness of the examination process will falter. 

“While some students have no doubt thrived, there are many – particularly from groups with fewer advantages than most – who have struggled. While school leaders have worked tirelessly to let their students know that they have their back, some students feel that that no-one outside their school cares about the impact the pandemic has had on their learning and development.” 

Sarah Hannafin, senior policy advisor for NAHT, said: “We believe the government can and should do more. 

“There needs to be a greater consideration of how the pandemic has affected learning and teaching this year – especially over the past few months. We’re calling for the government to review the adaptations to exams that are already planned to ensure they go far enough to properly address the impact of the current circumstances which schools, teachers and students find themselves in. 

“Advance notice information should be published as soon as possible – no need to wait until February 7 to give teachers and students more information which may help them to plan learning and revision in the remaining time available. Communications around the announcement will be vital, particularly to address the variation in the information being provided for different subjects and uncertainty about the impact of it for lower ability students. 

“Levels of staff and pupil absence are putting huge pressure on students in exam years and, despite the planned adaptations, we are hearing more and more questions being raised about the fairness of going ahead with exams. If they do go ahead, the decision to publish performance data this year must be reversed – that data would simply be a reflection of the impact of the pandemic on students and schools, not fit for the purposes of accountability.” 

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