Backtracking on international exams draws criticism

A HASTY apology and U-turn for more time to decide whether international exams should go ahead this summer was made by Education late on Saturday.

PA image (29311707)
PA image (29311707)

Education, Sport & Culture’s backtracking came less than four hours after their announcement that international exams would take place, and following anger expressed by both students and parents at the move to reinstate tests just three months before they were due to take place.

An ESC spokesperson apologised, stating while their original decision was made on advice on Thursday, they would shelve it until more was considered.

‘We acknowledged that there are pros and cons to students sitting these exams given the global climate at the moment,’ they said.

‘Since, however, this announcement was made we have received strong and articulate representations from students affected.

‘As a result, the committee wants to take a little more time to consider this issue to make sure the decision is the right one for those it affects the most – the students.’

Criticism was soon aimed at them by former chief minister, Deputy Gavin St Pier, who sent an email to ESC president Andrea Dudley-Owen – later published on social media – that students had been told only a couple of weeks ago that exams would not take place. He was indignant that they were then told via a social media post on Saturday that they would.

He added that decisions had been made without consultation with students or their families and called for any more to be made quickly.

‘Whilst Guernsey can have done nothing about the UK government’s indecision on the matter of exams in recent weeks, by any standards, government’s handling of this is breathtakingly inept and lacking any empathy for students and their families,’ he said.

‘It will not leave the community confident in government’s ability to make well-judged, important decisions in the months ahead on the long structure of secondary education.’

ESC have said they will provide a further statement this week.

‘We do apologise sincerely for any upset caused to students by the way in which this message has been conveyed,’ they added.

‘We believe it should have been cascaded directly to students via their schools.’

While most public exams overseen by the UK government have been cancelled and replaced by alternative assessment processes based on teacher assessment, many students in the Bailiwick also take exams from international organisations. This accounts for approximately 60% of students at the Sixth Form Centre who take some form of international qualification.

It includes an A-level in media studies, as well as the IGCSE qualifications in PE, design technology and Latin, all of which are overseen by Cambridge International Examinations, and for many, the International Baccalaureate.

ESC had said they had ‘listened to a range of views’ and the policy from both organisations was that exams were the fairest and most accurate way of assessing students’ performance, and therefore they should go ahead in June unless it was unsafe or government disagreed.

School leaders across the Bailiwick were said to remain committed to ensuring students and staff would be prepared for any exams.

GCSE and A-level results in the island continue to be decided by teachers using a combination of mock exams, coursework and essays after exams were cancelled by the pandemic.

Optional assessments set by exam boards are available for all subjects but will not be taken in exam conditions nor decide final grades. This follows exams watchdog Ofqual guidance issued at the end of February.

ESC have been contacted for more information about the number of students affected by the decision on international exams.

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