The Children’s Commissioner today called for next year’s GCSEs and A-levels to be delayed and demanded clarity on the exams from the Government as a matter of urgency to protect the mental health of teenagers.
Anne Longfield said confusion over when exams will be held and the prospect of more disruption was making children worried and unsettled.
The continued uncertainty could hold students back from progressing at school, she warned.
She also urged schools to reassure pupils that if they are forced to stay at home because of a coronavirus outbreak, remote learning will be in place so they will not fall further behind.
Some students fear if there is another lockdown and exams are cancelled again they may be judged on work they are doing now.
One headteacher warned there is no longer any “low stakes assessment”, and children are scared to make mistakes in case their work is used to calculate their final grades.
It comes as figures to be published next week reveal that 41 per cent of children in England have become more stressed about school work and exams since lockdown started. The report by the Children’s Commissioner is also set to show that 24 per cent of children have become more stressed about their future and finding a job since lockdown started.
Ms Longfield said she “absolutely supports” the campaign to delay exams to create more teaching time for students who missed out on months of face-to-face teaching and wants the exams to be pushed back “as far as possible”. But she stressed that the exams must take place.
She said: “Certainly children will benefit from having absolute clarity about what is going to be required of them, and schools will need that clearly to be able to plan. Children pick up on the uncertainty within school if there isn’t a clear plan.” She emphasised that the decision to delay exams must be final, adding: “Children will get very discouraged if the policy is changed throughout the year. They need to know where they are.”
Exams watchdog Ofqual and the Department for Education are considering reducing the content of exams or delaying their start to create more teaching time. A department spokeswoman said: “We expect exams to take place next year and are working with Ofqual and the exam boards on our approach, recognising that students will have experienced considerable disruption to their education in the last academic year.”