Pandemic leaves pupils scared of routine tests - warning issued by Sheffield headteacher Nina Gunson
Pupils fear routine assessment tests because the pandemic has left them fearing they will count towards GCSEs and A Levels, a Sheffield headteacher has warned.
Nina Gunson, headteacher of Sheffield Girls’ High School, said normal “topic tests” are causing her pupils anxiety as teachers have to tell them they may be used to help determine their grades if summer exams are cancelled again.
Her comments came after Ofqual said that A-level and GCSE students should sit termly assessments to ensure there is enough evidence to determine their grades in the event that exams cannot go ahead next year amid Covid-19.
The Government is committed to formal exams going ahead in England in summer 2022, with adaptations to take account of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on this year’s cohort.
But, under final contingency measures from Ofqual, teachers are being advised to assess students “under exam-like conditions wherever possible” to help inform teacher-assessed grades if exams cannot go ahead.
Speaking at the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) conference, Ms Gunson said: “I don’t think it’s the final exams that’s causing the anxiety; it’s the unknown and the possibility that they might have teacher-assessed grades.
“And the fact that Ofqual have said we have to make it explicitly clear to them every assessment they do may count. So you’ve got teachers trying to downplay those things and using words like ‘tests’ but then also saying ‘but don’t forget these could be used to award your grade in the summer’.”
She said “normal formative assessments” were now causing pupils “lots of anxiety” as they feared they could be used to decide their grades.
Ms Gunson added: “They heard so much last year about the sort of basket of evidence. ‘Oh, my grade could be awarded on this’ when actually it’s just a topic test in the early stage in Year 11.”
Ofqual guidance released earlier this month said it would be “sensible” for teachers to plan to assess students in the second half of the autumn term, the spring term and the first half of the summer term.
But it added that teachers should “guard against over-assessment” and tests should be “as useful as possible” for pupils preparing to take summer exams.