Exams in chaos after invigilators refuse to return over Covid fears

A-levels and GCSEs in chaos after invigilators refuse to return over fears of catching Covid… with schools ‘left with no choice’ but training PARENTS to observe the first traditional exams since outbreak of pandemic in 2020

  • Pupils are facing more difficulties after years of coronavirus-related troubles
  • This time it is of a shortfall in exam invigilators supervising the school tests
  • Invigilators have either found new jobs or are worried about catching Covid 

Schoolchildren face more disruption in their exams this summer – because of a shortage of invigilators spooked by the fear of catching Covid.

A warning from the Association of School and College Leaders says the shortfalls are having to be covered by other staff as well as parents on some occasions.

The union thinks the lower number of invigilators is down to them finding alternative work coupled with concerns over contracting coronavirus in schools.

But despite the ASCL sounding the alarm, the Department for Education said it was confident schools could cope – insisting they would have ‘robust plans in place’.

ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton said invigilator shortages meant schools had to train their own staff to do it.

He added: ‘It is also clear that there are sufficient difficulties in recruiting enough invigilators. It would obviously reassure these staff if free Covid testing was available for exam students and we once again appeal to the government to make this simple and obvious provision.

ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton said invigilator shortage meant schools had to train own

Usually every 30 students need to have one invigilator covering them, but 40 now allowed

‘We also have to question whether it is right to continue to subject young people to such a huge number of high-stakes terminal exams at GCSE as is the case in the current system.

‘Stress and anxiety were already problems pre-pandemic. It must surely be possible to slim down the exam system and make it more proportionate and humane.’

Usually every 30 students need to have one invigilator covering them, but the number has been increased to 40 due to the shortfall.

Rules forbidding teachers from supervising their own subjects have also been relaxed.

Rules forbidding teachers from supervising their own subjects have also been relaxed for now

Report suggests taking exams online to improve inclusion, say teaching charity

A report has suggested moving away from final exams and switching to online assessments.

Papers published by charity Advance HE promotes evidence-based teaching methods and works to improve the quality of teaching at universities.

Its Assessment and Feedback in a Post-Pandemic Era: A Time for Learning and Inclusion articles, it suggested online assessments could be more inclusive. 

It said: ‘Breaking the traditional cycle of written assignments followed by post hoc feedback to largely passive students can radically change the nature of learning itself, with inner feedback providing a vehicle for self-development, personal growth and a sense of community.’ 

A DfE spokesperson told the BBC: ‘Schools and exam centres are well prepared to handle any challenges, having been asked to have robust contingency plans in place.’

It comes a week after exam boards were told to make papers more ‘accessible’ and lay out material in ‘ways that do not disadvantage students’ – as current questions face criticism over a ‘middle-class bias’.

Exam regulator Ofqual has said exams should use clearer language, a clear and consistent layout and ‘source material, context, images and colour in ways that do not disadvantage students’.

English exams may ‘test the use of complex sentence structures, or analogy, inference and allusion’, but the watchdog has said maths exams testing numeracy skills ‘should not contain overly complex text’.

It comes after Ofqual launched a consultation on accessibility in exams in November last year.

At the time, the regulator said pupils may be ‘unfairly disadvantaged by irrelevant features’ that could stop them showing their full potential in a subject.

There was also concern expressed over exams having a middle-class bias, with modern languages or maths exams asking questions about the theatre and skiing holidays.

In 2017, an Edexcel GCSE maths paper asked students about a theatre where ‘each person had a seat in the circle or had a seat in the stalls’.

The question asked pupils to calculate how many of the 2,600 theatre seats were occupied, but pupils would have needed to understand that the circle and stalls are different areas of the theatre to answer correctly.

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