Pupils leaving school without doing any proper exams will be looked down on by employers, experts have warned as they say pupils will have an “asterisk” against their name.
Children who finish school in 2022 will not have sat any GCSE exams due to the pandemic and will also have taken a pared-back A-level syllabus.
Their qualifications will “absolutely” be viewed differently by future employers, according to John Nield, a fellow at the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors and former chief examiner.
“There will be an asterisk against those who did exams in 2020, 2021 and 2022,” he said. “Employers will say ‘that was the first Covid year, that was the second…’ It will carry on for years.”
Ofqual, the exam watchdog, has announced exams will go ahead in 2022, but with a series of changes to take into account the disruption schools have faced over the past year.
Geography field trips and group dancing will be cut from GCSEs and A-levels next year, while students taking French, Spanish and German GCSEs will be required to learn less vocabulary than in a normal year.
They may also be able to get the qualification without being tested on their ability to speak the language, with the regulator saying it will draw up contingency arrangements in case the oral component of the exam is scrapped.
Pupils who have not taken any of the normal exams will leave school with a “dystopian” view of themselves, Mr Nield explained.
“They will think ‘I’m not like others, I haven’t had to jump over the hurdles they have’,” Mr Nield said. “It will just be another issue which will make these poor kids feel like a lesser person. They will turn up at university with massive gaps in their knowledge and will be terrified of exams.”
A senior examiner in maths told The Telegraph that the exam system is now in a “terrible mess”. He said that employers should be given a comparison table between grades achieved during summers when exams were cancelled or changed and grades achieved prior to the pandemic.
“When GCSEs switched from letters to numbers, there were charts that enabled you to compare the old scale to the new scale,” he said.
At the time, Ofqual said a grade 4 was equivalent to a C or pass and a grade 7 was equivalent to an A.
“We could have the same for 2020, 2021, 2022 and so on. A simple bar chart would show what a grade is now worth.”
He said that the high levels of grade inflation last summer meant that students’ grades went up by about half a grade on average.
“Some employers might actually think it is worse than that,” he said. “That’s why we need to be open and transparent about it.”
Pandemic and exam shake-up an ‘unsettling experience’
However, Dr Tony Breslin, a former chief examiner who is currently researching the impact of repeated lockdowns on education, said could be looked upon favourably by future employers due to the life skills they have gained during the pandemic.
“They won’t have the same qualifications as earlier cohorts, but many of them will have developed skills that other cohorts would not have,” he said.
“Some pupils have returned to school with better independent learning skills and greater resilience.”
Experts have previously warned that exam boards should be braced for “Weimar Republic levels” of grade inflation this summer.
Barnaby Lenon, a former member of Ofqual’s standards advisory group, said that teachers’ predictions for GCSEs and A-levels will be “wildly inflated” and exam boards will have “difficulty” checking all 6.5 million grades.
He explained a major problem with the proposed grading system for this summer – which will rely on teachers’ predictions after exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic – is that there will be no obvious attempt to limit the number of grades awarded at each level, which he said is “a fundamental requirement” for most qualifications systems.
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