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Teachers complain about having to do pupils assessments themselves


Teachers claim they have been left in tears and on their knees with exhaustion after being forced to do pupils’ assessments themselves without any extra pay.

Most schools in Britain are setting tests to decide grades after this summer’s GCSEs and A-levels were axed for the second year in a row due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Three in five schools plan to rely heavily on tests when deciding pupils’ GCSE and A-level grades this summer even though the official exams have been cancelled.

But teachers complain that they are having to mark these papers – and are also unable to earn money from assessing exams for boards outside their normal work.

It comes after children’s author Michael Rosen tweeted: ‘Dear Boris Johnson, You said that GCSE exams for this year were cancelled. They’re not cancelled.

Most UK schools are setting tests to decide grades after this summer's GCSEs and A-levels were axed for the second year in a row due to the pandemic (file picture from August 2020)

Most UK schools are setting tests to decide grades after this summer’s GCSEs and A-levels were axed for the second year in a row due to the pandemic (file picture from August 2020) 

This tweet from author Michael Rosen on Tuesday prompted a huge response from teachers

This tweet from author Michael Rosen on Tuesday prompted a huge response from teachers

‘They’re called ‘assessments’. And instead of examiners marking them, teachers are. For no money. But the schools have paid the exam boards. Where’s the money?’

Mr Rosen’s comment has prompted a huge response on social media since it was posted on Tuesday afternoon, attracting 6,500 retweets and 23,000 likes. 

ANALYSIS: Schools and colleges have borne the brunt of Government’s move to cancel exams

By GEOFF BARTON, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders

Schools and colleges have borne the brunt of the government’s decision to cancel public exams. They are expected to assess all exam year students in all subjects in an extremely short timeframe. 

It is a situation which would have been a lot less fraught if the government had listened to our repeated warnings last year that it needed to have a Plan B in place and ready to go in the event of exams having to be cancelled.

But it did not listen and this has meant that schools and colleges only received detailed guidance at the end of last term about the process they must follow and that they only have until 18 June to assess their students and submit grades to the exam boards.

This has created a great deal of additional workload for leaders and teachers on top of the work they must also do in managing Covid safety measures and supporting education recovery. 

Not only is there no additional payment for this work but the government has in fact signalled that it intends to freeze the pay of teachers, alongside many other hard-working public sector workers. It is a kick in the teeth.

The exam boards will incur some expenses this year for tasks such as creating assessment materials and running a quality assurance process, but the costs are likely to be much less than in a normal year and we would expect schools and colleges to receive significant rebates on the fees they’ve paid.

Many of those commenting on his post were teachers, including one chemistry head in Norfolk who said: ‘Cried for an hour today due to the stress of all of this. So sick of the public hatred of teachers. Feel free to do this if it’s so easy.’

A history teacher also wrote: ‘100 per cent exams by stealth but with less time to prepare and saving a packet in assessors fees. Oh and if anything goes wrong… it’ll be all our fault again.’

And Steve Brain, a chemistry teacher in Durham, said: ‘Currently sleeping poorly due to stress. We have our assessment schedule starting next week and have put assessments together that minimise the effects of lockdown, but that give us little to assess on. I felt this was fairer on the students.’ 

Another teacher tweeted: ‘The hidden workload on this is so immense, on top of the visible extra workload. Today, 70 pages of new updates to read (and find time for all my teaching staff to do the same). Thank you for raising awareness of this broken ‘fix’.’ 

And a fifth Twitter user wrote: ‘Teachers (including my partner) are on their knees with exhaustion. They are leaving the profession in droves.’ 

But Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, told MailOnline today: ‘Teaching is a vocation with children at the heart of it.

‘At this time of crisis teachers need to stop counting the cost of any extra effort they put in and instead count the benefits they can bring children, especially the least privileged.

‘It is however a scandal that exam boards are ripping off schools by charging exam fees for non-existent exams.’

The assessments are not officially exams, but are intended for students to show what they know, helping teachers to give them grades that reflect performance.

And a Government source said: ‘Teachers are having to undertake the assessments, but these are in many ways things they would do every year. 

‘Many of our policies have been designed with workload in mind which, with union support, we are seeking to minimise as much as possible.’

The source added that exam boards will need to cover their costs, and have to ‘make commercial decisions on fees and refunds on that basis’, adding: ‘Given the unusual circumstances this year it is not possible for them to have certainty about their 2021 costs in advance.’ 

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told MailOnline today: ‘Schools and colleges have borne the brunt of the Government’s decision to cancel public exams. 

‘They are expected to assess all exam year students in all subjects in an extremely short timeframe. 

‘It is a situation which would have been a lot less fraught if the government had listened to our repeated warnings last year that it needed to have a Plan B in place and ready to go in the event of exams having to be cancelled. 

‘But it did not listen and this has meant that schools and colleges only received detailed guidance at the end of last term about the process they must follow and that they only have until June 18 to assess their students and submit grades to the exam boards.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has been criticised by teachers over GCSE exams

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has been criticised by teachers over GCSE exams

‘This has created a great deal of additional workload for leaders and teachers on top of the work they must also do in managing Covid safety measures and supporting education recovery.

‘Not only is there no additional payment for this work but the government has in fact signalled that it intends to freeze the pay of teachers, alongside many other hard-working public sector workers. It is a kick in the teeth.

‘The exam boards will incur some expenses this year for tasks such as creating assessment materials and running a quality assurance process, but the costs are likely to be much less than in a normal year and we would expect schools and colleges to receive significant rebates on the fees they’ve paid.’

The move from most schools to set tests to decide grades came as a blow to some pupils who had hoped for an easy ride, as they still have to study extensively.

And it has also provoked concern about inconsistency, as schools will be assessing pupils differently.  

A survey, carried out by the school leaders’ union ASCL, found last week that seven per cent of schools will base assessments entirely on exam-style papers.

Primary school pupils reading ‘longer books of greater difficulty’

Young people’s reading skills improved during lockdown as many children picked up longer books of greater difficulty, according to a literacy study.

But older pupils in secondary school were still reading books of the same difficulty as upper primary pupils during the pandemic year, the report suggests.

The latest edition of the annual What Kids Are Reading report analysed the reading habits of more than 1.1 million young people across the UK and Ireland.

The report, produced by Professor Keith Topping, of the University of Dundee, and assessment provider Renaissance UK, found that the number of books read overall dropped by 17 per cent compared with last year.

But reading levels increased during school closures as children were inclined to pick up more challenging books for their age, researchers suggest.

Primary school children and those up to Year 7 in particular improved on their reading levels by reading harder texts with greater comprehension.

A further 53 per cent said they would give greater weight to exam-style papers than to other forms of assessment.

Exam boards are providing mini-assessments which schools can use, or teachers can also set their own.

Only six per cent of headteachers said students’ grades will be based solely on ‘non-exam evidence’.

The findings came after the Department for Education (DfE) confirmed that teachers in England will decide GCSE and A-level grades after this summer’s exams were cancelled for the second year in a row due to the pandemic.

This year, teachers will be able to draw on a range of evidence – including mock exams, coursework, and in-class assessments using questions provided by exam boards.

Heads who have decided to base grades on exam-style papers alone said they felt it would ensure that all pupils are assessed on the same evidence.

They added that the disruption caused by lockdowns made it difficult to identify other consistent quality evidence.  

Last week, Ofqual said that even in 2022 exams are unlikely to be back to their normal form. 

A Department for Education spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘We recognise this is a challenging time for teachers and leaders, and we are grateful to all school staff for their hard work to support students during the pandemic.

‘Teachers know their students best, which is why we are giving schools the flexibility to adopt different approaches based on what their cohorts have been taught.

‘We continue to work closely with Ofqual and exam boards to ensure teachers are supported in the assessment process, and work to address teacher workload and wellbeing in our long-term strategy.’  



Source | dailymail

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