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Hard Times – Exams and Education in Covid-19 Chaos

Mon 1 Mar 2021

By Lisa Robillard Webb

As a mum, I have just experienced the confusing mess of GCSE and A’ Level exam years for my two sons.  Many of us are stoically facing the plight of Covid-19, the impact of this hiatus will probably be temporary. But for our youngsters, this may not be true. Childhood requires well-documented stages of development and rites of passage (including exams); but the Lockdowns are searing a scar across these. We won’t be able to rewind back to reinstate these stages, they may be lost forever. Hindsight will give us answers, but the current lack of clarity for our youngsters is perilous and the effects may last a lifetime.

Lockdowns are essential but the confusion is not.  I often hear ‘Boris Johnson is doing his best’ but as the highest leader in the country, we should expect exceptional decision-making, clarity and leadership.  Johnson and the Cabinet’s weaknesses are directly resulting in the education and exam debacle. Calling Lockdown at 8pm on the first day of term is astonishing - my heart goes out to all parents, carers and staff. I truly hope that due to the level of exposure and minimal PPE, Education and Early Years’ Staff are considered for vaccination post-haste.

I have witnessed own my sons’ uncertainty about 2021’s exams - the daily changes and mixed interpretation of Government advice (has anyone else gone down the rabbit hole of is almost paralysing to their confidence.  In 2020, we saw the bewildering exam results churned out by misaligned OFQUAL algorithms and the agony it caused to many of our local students.  Only serious backpedalling sorted out that muddle. My son, Elliot, wanted to speak out:

As an A-Level student, the main theme of my education currently is the unknown. We are working without knowing what for, leaving teachers to muddle their way through the difficulty and stress that running interactive online classes brings. Still no word from the Department of Education. On the 4th January 2021, Boris Johnson looked down the camera and uttered to the students ‘we realise that it is not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer’, this statement was clear and direct to the families at home. So why am I being told to prepare for exam formats? Why would Gavin Williamson speculate the existence of small exams in an exam period when Johnson told us that exams would not take place? This, first and foremost, is a shameful coordination of collective cabinet responsibility as Johnson has failed to keep his ministers in check, arguably his job description as the Prime Minister. Even in these unprecedented times, no matter how adaptable, this Government is not embracing the unknown and leading with hope.

So here is where students, and teachers alike, currently sit, tapping pens against bedroom desks to release chilling nerves, waiting in limbo to hear the lamenting whispers of Gavin Williamson’s Staffordshire-tinged accent. Our educational coming of age will be tarnished by speculative, contrasting messages and a Department of Education that has scuttled into the shadows when it comes to reassuring the students they swore to serve. We wait with ears peeled, pens at the ready and anticipating thumps in our hearts, but whether the Government will come through for us? My breaking news app has not buzzed for weeks, so maybe we should get an update soon.

We are asking this Government, please demonstrate your conviction and vision for our youngsters and Education staff, make a well-informed decision and communicate it clearly.

Lisa Robillard Webb - Central Devon Labour Party –

Other columns by Lisa Robillard Webb

The Devon Guild of Craftsmen – A True Gift to Bovey - Thu 1 Oct 2020
Black Lives Matter - Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere - Tue 7 Jul 2020
Central Devon – A beautiful place to fight for - Tue 11 Feb 2020
South Dartmoor Community College - Mon 2 Dec 2019
Our Local Post Offices - Thu 1 Aug 2019
Political Choice - Fri 3 May 2019
High Streets – At the centre of our communities - Thu 24 Jan 2019
The Shame of UK’s Indefinite Detention - Thu 8 Nov 2018

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