Plans to mitigate the impact of Covid include providing GCSE students in England with formulae and equations during their mathematics and science exams.

The Department for Education (DfE) has officially requested the exams regulator, Ofqual, to extend additional support for another academic year. This move is particularly aimed at students who are slated to undertake exams in the coming summer, the majority of whom were in Year 7 when the initial national lockdown was enforced.

The proposed initiative has garnered approval from teaching unions and is currently undergoing a consultation process. The DfE has outlined that the extension of support will involve the provision of “enhanced formulae and equation sheets” for students undertaking GCSEs in mathematics, physics, and combined science.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan underscored the rationale behind this decision, stating, “Young people taking GCSEs next year will be the last who experienced two years of national closures during secondary school, and it’s right that we recognize that with some additional support.”

Sarah Hannafin, Head of Policy for the school leaders’ union NAHT, expressed support for the proposal, emphasizing that there is no need for an additional test of memory in the exams. However, Hannafin noted that the decision’s timing, occurring in the lead-up to students taking mocks next month, was disappointing.

The Association of School and College Leaders welcomed the consultation but argued for providing students with such materials on a permanent basis. Geoff Barton, the general secretary, asserted that permanent access to these resources could reduce the stress associated with exam preparation and enable students to concentrate on core knowledge and skills.

This announcement signifies a departure from the original plan to return exams in England to the 2019 arrangements this year. The cancellation of exams across the UK in 2020 and 2021 prompted the assessment of grades based on teachers’ evaluations, resulting in an unprecedented increase in top results.

When students returned to exam halls in 2022, they received additional support to account for the disruptions caused by the pandemic. Some of these measures, such as the spacing of GCSE papers in the same subject, the provision of formulae and equation sheets in certain subjects, and the exclusion of unfamiliar vocabulary testing in modern foreign language exams, persisted into the 2023 exams in England.

However, a notable deviation from the rest of the UK was observed in that GCSE students in England did not receive advance information about the topics to be tested. Moreover, England was the sole nation to return grades to the 2019 standard in the summer, with Wales and Northern Ireland adopting a more gradual approach to pre-pandemic grading.

Consequently, the steepest drop in pass grades was observed in England. Recently, colleges have reported the need to expand class sizes and secure additional exam halls to accommodate the increasing number of students undertaking compulsory Maths and English GCSE resits.

In response to the DfE’s announcement regarding the provision of formulae in maths and science GCSEs, a spokesperson from the Welsh Government affirmed that equivalent qualifications in Wales inherently include formulae as standard, and this practice will continue.




Source BBC

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