Possible Solutions for Secondary School exams during COVID-19

“By Failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin.

Amidst the growing concerns and unpredictability of the coronavirus pandemic, is the uncertainty of how to assess students at the end of their high school journey in year 11 or year 13. Indeed, this pandemic has certainly stretched us and forced us to strengthen our ‘flexibility muscle’ or ‘adaptability muscle’. I do feel as educators we are required to rapidly adapt even when there seems to be pure chaos around. Another notion of teachers being super-humans? Hats off to all headteachers! Talk about a true test of leadership! Are you still in love with your job? (You are amazing! Lead on!)

Now, with the last minute’s changes, this 13th-hour announcement to close all schools and that exams will likely be cancelled in England has no doubt put schools, students and parents in a precarious position. So, I have a few big questions (forgive me if they have already been asked and answered – forward me the link if this is the case please) but these discussions could perhaps help someone plan their next move – Plan B.

1. I know there are more ways to assess students, but presently the best and most reliable one we have – or had – are examinations. Could exam boards offer all students timed digital assessments at the end of July instead of total cancellations?
-I am aware that this may cause worries of cheating i.e. students searching for the answers on Google or allowing a friend or family member to take the exam for them. While this is always a possibility, online exams are not a new phenomenon, though more popular at the tertiary level, so surely there must be systems available to address these issues of safety and reliability.

-secondly, the drama that took place with last year’s GCSE results could be avoided since this is January – far more time for the powers that be to brainstorm and test their systems (perhaps a trial run before the big day even?)

2. could the content to be covered this year be reduced to allow enough time for pupils to catch-up from missed learning in the last academic year? For example, topics like Circle Theorem and Vectors could easily be cut or given as an optional section of the paper.

3. How about reducing the summer break for all year groups to regain some of the missed learning time?
I know you are probably telling me off loudly for this one! (I got my kickboxing pose hiding my face now) But, hey, no one wants more sun, sea and sand for an entire six weeks than I do – been planning my summer vacation to Negril in Jamaica from 2018 for 2019, then came baby number 2 in summer 2019 and COVID last summer! BUT, the fact is, our students have lost so much and unless something is done, I’m afraid we will either always be playing catch-up for a few good years or we can give up some time now and reduce the remediation or intervention work for later.

Well, I was just thinking out loud and decided to share. I am curious about what you are thinking. I know some of you are livid! Some confused. Also, many of you are in so many different countries, it would be amazing to hear how your country is dealing with the need to assess students’ performance accurately during this crisis.

In the meantime colleagues, although it may not seem right to say happy new year due to all this mayhem, I still think it is worth saying, praying, hoping and wishing so…
Happy New Year!
Cheers to an interesting 2021!

p.s Apologies for the delay in this month’s post but I was going for a happy post for face-to-face lessons but it did not feel right to publish so I waited.

Published by lotoyalpt

Passionate, driven and called to be a teacher. My name is Lotoya Patrick-Taylor, a sister, a wife, a mom, a friend and a teacher. I was trained to be a teacher in Jamaica, where I received my Teaching Diploma in Mathematics at Church Teachers' College and my BA in Mathematics from Southern New Hampshire University (Hons) in the U.S.A. I have been teaching high school mathematics for just over eight years. Taught for four years in Jamaica, worked as a mathematics coach and delivered workshops to various maths department. I am currently in my fourth year in the United Kingdom, where I am the Lead teacher of Maths at my school. In addition to being a classroom teacher in the U.K, I am a maths coach and I also deliver training sessions at my school and to a network of schools. Roles I thoroughly enjoy - I love people and I love collaborating, sharing and learning (hence, the reason I decided to start this blog).

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