Norfolk schools trust chief says exams must go ahead as normal

Dame Rachel de Souza. Picture: Andi Sapey

Dame Rachel de Souza. Picture: Andi Sapey - Credit: Andi Sapey

The head of one of Norfolk’s biggest secondary school trusts has rejected calls for exams to be cancelled next year says it would be unfair on students.

Teaching unions and some universities have called for exams to be cancelled in 2021. Picture: Getty

Teaching unions and some universities have called for exams to be cancelled in 2021. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

Government has come under pressure to cancel next year’s exams in schools to minimise disruption caused to education caused by the pandemic.

The vice chancellors of several universities, including Birmingham and Sheffield Hallam, have publicly called for exams to be cancelled saying pupils need to catch up on missed learning rather than studying for exams.

They have instead called for teacher-led assessments and urged exam bodies to start planning a robust moderation process across schools and colleges for validation rather than an algorithm.

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy one of the Inspiration Trust schools in Norfolk. Picture: David Hanna

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy one of the Inspiration Trust schools in Norfolk. Picture: David Hannant - Credit: David Hannant

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The National Education Union has accused the government of “sticking their fingers in their ears” over the possibility that next year’s exams may have to be cancelled. It said rising infection rates and pupils having to be sent home make holding exams less likely and could lead to another exams fiasco.

Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust of academies which runs schools across Norfolk, including in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Thetford and Cromer, said another cancellation would be unfair on pupils.

The Government has said it has no plans to cancel A-levels and GCSE examsd in 2021. Picture: Getty I

The Government has said it has no plans to cancel A-levels and GCSE examsd in 2021. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Archant

She told Radio 4’s World at One programme: “We must not close schools, we must keep them open as critical infrastructure, and we must do the exams and keep them exactly where they are. We learnt about all the unintended consequences of cancellations and changes.”

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Last week 16pc of secondary schools across England had to send pupils home because of the virus, but asked how pupils in areas with tighter restrictions and more sent home could compete in exams with those in areas with fewer infections, Dame Rachel said: “Don’t underestimate schools.

“What we have all done is prepare our remote curriculum and our curriculum that sits behind the taught curriculum. I have already had classes and year groups close because of Covid in Thetford and Great Yarmouth and we immediately went over on to the remote curriculum and we have quite sophisticated assessment methods to do that.”

Many schools have had to send pupils home due to positive coronavirus tests. Picture: PA Images

Many schools have had to send pupils home due to positive coronavirus tests. Picture: PA Images - Credit: PA Images

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She added: “If you don’t have examination outcomes how are you going to fairly give places to pupils in the right universities on the right courses?

“I am talking to all my sixth formers, I have pupils in our maths and science free school going to for 20 universities, for Cambridge and Oxford, and the best way for them to get a fair crack at it, and this is what they think, is to have a chance at the exams and win their place.”

The Government has said it is considering a slight delay to A-level and GCSE exams but that they will go ahead.

Last week Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Education Select Committee it was “vital and so important that we get the exams series up and running for 2021”.

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