Worried teens who struggle may be “doubly disadvantaged” by exam plans

Students who struggle may be “doubly disadvantaged” by plans to only give prior notice to more difficult issues in the summer GCSE and A level exams.

Despite the increase in Covid-19 cases and the absence of students and teachers caused by the Covid variant Omicron, The Ministry of Education and the assessment guard Ofqual are pushing with plans for this summer’s exams.

In early November, the DfE confirmed that students to compensate for Covid disruption in education advance notice of which subjects they will be examined in 2022 to help focus their audit. This applies across all A-level subjects and most GCSE subjects.

Sources have told I a particular point of contention is that prior notice will be focused on “higher rate” issues – the issues that receive the most marks.

With the highest-achieving teens generally scoring the most on these issues, there are fears that the lower-achieving students – who have already likely been hit harder by Covid disorders – will not benefit as much from the approach.

One source said: “The emphasis will be on issues of higher tariffs. The issues that get the most grades and therefore differentiate at the higher level are the ones where the most attention will be given, so that’s where they will give a sense of what kind of questions are being asked and what kind of topics.

“The problem with doing that is the kids at the lower end, who have perhaps been most disadvantaged by all of this, could actually again be doubly disadvantaged.”

The organization of the summer exams is expected to be largely unchanged compared to last year. Exams will move forward, meaning last year’s teacher assessments will be dropped, but additional “restrictions” will be allowed to compensate students for interrupting their education caused by the Covid pandemic.

Wednesday has the teaching secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the government would “go ahead with exams” in the summer, “recognizing that there has been a lot of disruption to student studies”.

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) is set to confirm the February 7 events for the summer – along with the details of the restrictions that will make exams more accessible to students, such as providing formulas for equations in GCSE mathematics and science.

The source added about the attrition: “People will be disappointed, they will think this is not going far enough. What it will then suddenly trigger is a wave of people saying ‘these exams can not be fair’.”

A spokesman for Ofqual said: “The government has reaffirmed its commitment to continue exams this summer. As already announced, a package of unprecedented support has been put in place. This will include the publication of advance information, intended to help students revise before summer exams.The advance information covers over 300 exam specifications, giving a sense of its breadth.This approach followed a consultation and we are convinced that this will support all students.It would be wrong to assume that advance information on questions about higher rates will only help certain students.

“On December 9, the Board of Examiners published an overview of the advance information for each of their subjects. All centers were notified of this and it is available on their websites. JCQ is also published guidance in October.”

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