Covid 19 | Should Students Repeat their Current School Year?
Suggestions have been put forward that students should repeat this current academic year. Please, no! Our young people have suffered enough. The impact of repeating a year is logistically and morally not viable. As well as student wellbeing, we need to consider budgets, teaching staff and the capacity of schools. Such a decision will impact and have a knock on, mostly negative, every institution from universities down to nursery schools. I cannot think of anything worse than in combination with losing part of this year, they lose another by repeating the same year. Some may need to catch up, most will not. There are things that we can learn from the societal impact of Coronavirus and the impact it has had on our young people. We need to channel this information into a force for good.
An analogy that comes to mind is linked to my backpacking days in my youth. We had a day sight-seeing in Boston, and then went to the hostel we were supposed to book into late afternoon. When we got there is was fully booked. Choices. Find somewhere else to stay, or go to the bus terminal and head of to New York, our next, far more exciting destination? The rule of travel, in these circumstances, is to move on. It is more exciting, it is a new challenge and avoids any dull repetition of what has already been covered. Very rarely is it emotionally and mentally rewarding to cover old ground. I personally think repeating a year could exacerbate rather than help young people and their mental health. They need to feel like they are moving forward.
What can we learn from Education in Lockdown?
In some parental forums, it has been interesting to note that some parents have seen their children have a new vigour and interest in education as a consequence of lockdown. They report that their children are thriving working from home. There is an assumption that the very best place for revision is in school, with their class teacher, revising with fellow students. The months of online learning have shown that for some students, it may be better for them to leave school and use their time more productively and independently.
The Benefits for Some Students:
a) Focus on what they don’t know, rather than revise as a whole class
b) Develop the academic and emotional independence that will support their further study
c) Escape the disruption of the classroom
d) Escape the rigid structure of the school day, and spend the allocated time they need on the sujlects that they feel needs the most work.
The Role of the Teacher
Teachers could still send work to them to support their learning. The students who prefer the interaction and the support of the teacher could still go in to school. When I was at school, we left as soon as the examinations started and then it was up to us how we managed our time. Surely, we could implement a more personalised system and give the young people an element of choice? Giving them choices supports their mental health.
A Four Year GCSE – No Thank you!
Some students, my daughter included, started their GCSEs in Year 9. If she sits another year, that will be four years of study towards GCSEs. In reality, she feels two years would have been enough. Before all of this happened, the prospect of Y11, where she would just be revising the topics she had already covered, was starting to feel like a wasted year. A year that she could have used to do something more interesting. Unfortunately, too many young people feel totally disengaged with the current GCSE format and the restrictive EBAcc choices and are turning away from academic study. This is particularly evident in the huge drop in numbers in the take up of English Language and English Literature at A level. This should act as a time to reflect on what is truly best for the students. Is the current system really the best way to engage young people in their studies?
Review the GCSE Examination Series
I have said on many occasions that the summer exam series for GCSE students are barbaric. My own son had 33 examinations over four weeks, and in one week he had 8 exams over 4 days. What is this actually testing? This Year 11 cohort, have worked for years towards these examinations, and have not sat them. They feel a sense of loss in that all of their school working life has not truly been tested or rewarded. Lockdown has forced some major issues to the fore:
A) School should never be just about examinations – if students feel like this, this needs to change.
B) In not completing coursework, and in continually being tested with no real outcome other than personalised targets, students don’t get any short time rewards throughout their school life. Self motivation is difficult when the end ‘prize’ is so far away.
Suggestions for ways Forward
Y6 into Y7:
Straightforward baseline tests and y6 Teachers assessments and predictions can replace SATs. There is absolutely no real reason to put them through SATS in Year 7, as some people have suggested. They need to move on to a KS3 curriculum
Current Year 10 and year 12:
- Exam boards could introduce modular examination where they sit certain units from GCSE or A Level in January – (they can re-sit them in June, if they don’t do well.)
- Schools use intervention strategies to target the students who have fallen behind
- Lower the boundaries according to overall performance (they adapt boundaries anyway!)
- School get the opportunity to remove one unit form each examination because they have not had time to cover it – potentially replace it with a teacher assessment – in the same way that they have awarded grades for the current Year 11.
The priority is that our young people are physically safe, and emotionally protected. Finding ways for them to manage over the next year is what is important. As far as I am concerned, making them relive the past, is not the way to do this. They will have the resilience and foresight to move forward – and if they do not have this yet, it is our role as parents and educators to instil this sense of confidence and self-worth into our young people. Our role is to support them, and encourage them to look forward towards the very best life has to offer them.
Youth Social Action / August 24th, 2023
Young people from Consett Academy and Learning for Life joined forces to design and equip and new sensory space. They challenged youth loneliness, broke down social barriers, built lasting friendships and engaged with local businesses. It was a fabulous project and we all loved every minute of it. The Programme was funded by the Derwent Valley AAP and supported by local businesses.
Consett Heritage Project / August 25th, 2023
Sharon currently teaches at Consett Academy. She has been living in Consett for 25 years when she moved from the valleys of south Wales. These are her thoughts about Consett.
Self-Belief and Emotional Wellbeing / August 22nd, 2022
Building Self-Belief CIO delivered a twelve-week programme for ten Year 9 girls, selected by the Head of Year, at Norham High School. Our Wellbeing Programme has helped the girls learn how to build better friendships, have a better understanding of how others are feeling and become integral members of the local Meadow Well Community.