Exam results have dominated the news this week but the intended return to school for all pupils is less than two weeks away.
The debate has focussed on when pupils can safely return to school. There has been little public discussion about what sort of school they should return to and whether secondary education should be different in a post Covid society.
Initially concern was expressed that the lack of schooling was resulting in children falling behind in reaching the levels of attainment prescribed by the government. The idea that all children regardless of ability and aptitude are judged as successes or failures at the same time in their chronological development has been the historic basis of schooling. In contrast, as adults we take assessments, such as a driving test, when we feel competent and confident not altogether on the same day.
Home circumstances will mean that returning pupils will have significant differences in their learning and teachers will need to plan personalised programmes. To allow pupils to move forward towards important assessments at their own pace would seem a reasonable response to the current crisis. The exam results crisis has demonstrated that testing at the end of each unit of work and moderated coursework is a much fairer and less stressful way of assessing pupils at sixteen and eighteen. This could move us away from the present tyranny of excessive formal exams to assessment that recognises creativity, inventiveness, and problem-solving skills rather than factual recall.
Increasingly there has been a recognition that an equally serious issue is the effect on the physical and emotional wellbeing of many young people. A priority for schools will be to focus on emotional and social education for pupils, particularly those for whom school and their teachers are the most stable aspect of their lives. Vulnerable pupils will need time to rebuild their confidence and re-establish friendships and routines. In these difficult times schools should be allowed to rebuild themselves as communities without the pressure of Ofsted inspections, performance tables and government interference.
Cheltenham Activists Network
For Gloucestershire Echo – Thursday 20th August 2020
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in these articles are those of local Party members and do not necessarily reflect the Labour Party.