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Exam results missed - the plight of the Forgotten Few Home Educated/EOTAS minority
There is much press at the moment addressing how schools, colleges and exam boards managed the challenge of an assessed grading system arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, if your child or young person (those aged 16+) fell into the small, yet significant minority of home educated then how did you fare?
It is the right of any parent to choose how their child should be educated, S9 Education Act 1996
For those children or young people with special educational needs, or a disability, sometimes the only way education can be accessed is via home schooling or EOTAS (education otherwise than at school).
The usual system for examination of the home educated is to secure an examination centre to sit exams.
For the class of 2020 swift planning was required when exams were to be abandoned in favour of school/college assessment of grading and rank of its student cohort followed by application of externally moderated statistical modelling.
The impact of this system upon students is being felt particularly by those at historically underperforming venues. The government has stepped in to remedy this situation with a 3 lockstep solution offering either acceptance of the assessed grade, election of acceptance of the mock grade via a school appeal or a chance to sit the exam in the autumn series.
However, for the home educated, early emphasis was placed upon producing clear evidence of work and securing an exam centre prepared to validate a grade applying its marking and ranking criteria.
Unfortunately, what transpired was that exam centres in England refused to allocate grades to private external candidates. Too little was known about the students or the validity/integrity of submitted work. Will possible mocks now be accepted? Again who moderates those mocks?
Ofqual’s response suggests that these students take exams in the autumn term to get their grades asking “organisations that represent FE colleges to consider the steps that providers could take when making admissions decisions this summer for any private candidates who do not receive a grade,” with the consequent belief “that these institutions will consider a range of other evidence and information for these students to allow them to progress wherever possible”.
Whilst a remedy has been put forward, it fails to consider that for those seeking access to A level courses, the demands of an extra work load and stress of both GCSE exams and A level curriculums (always a step up), together with the likelihood of a limited exam subject offering in any event will prove too much. Surely an additional year of 6th form is required?
If accepted onto courses without key GCSEs in English, Maths and Science the long-term effects could be considerable in what will be a tough future job market.
For those seeking university placement there is a potential loss of placement altogether, particularly on more competitive courses.
The class of 2020 was always going to be exceptional, but it seems for the home educated a predicament that could not be resolved within the time frames at play.
What about the class of 2021?
Already thoughts have turned to next year and the government intent is to plan for an exam season.
Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, invited Ofqual to consult and advise upon exam arrangements for 2021.
His intent that,
no student is prevented from fulfilling their potential by the pandemic ……. priority is …. mitigate the effects of time lost for education as far as possible, with special emphasis on the needs of disadvantaged pupils and students. This is especially important for students currently in the year before their key exams and assessments, who have limited time available to them to complete their courses.
The plight of the more vulnerable student was highlighted so that when consulting Ofqual were to “look particularly carefully at the impact of …proposals on disadvantaged students, students with SEND and those with particular protected characteristics.”
Advice was required as to “potential adaptations in assessments …….. including a pragmatic use of content sampling and increasing optionality within papers to give students more choice”.
To date Ofqual has consulted and reported upon revised exam arrangements including variation and flexibility of some subject specifications.
There was recognition that those most impacted by the pandemic through school closures, lack of resources or access to SEN support will remain potentially impacted moving forward. Ofqual maintained the status that national qualifications are to be assessed by a common standard with any mitigations to reduce disadvantages difficult to identify.
The consultation did not extend to proposals for grading, or take into account the potential for a repeat of school graded assessments in the event Covid impacts further over the academic year. This is particularly important in light of the most recent developments. Mock exams, it appears, may prove as crucial as final exams.
No mention is made to the potential repeat of risk of no grades to those home schooled students.
The harsh lesson to be learnt from the class of 2020 is that this group requires more support and recognition.
One solution might be for a centralised exam centre prepared to ascribe grades and ranks to all home schooled pupils linked perhaps to the on-line Oak National Academy launched to combat the impact of the pandemic. To subject each child to the vagaries of exam centres throughout the country is not an acceptable or a workable solution as has been evidenced in the last year. What is also essential is for uniform and clear guidance as to the evidence required of work undertaken at home in order to assist remote assessment centres together with clear opportunities for a validated mock exam scheme.
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