A HEADTEACHER called for ministers to work with school leaders to ensure students can be tested fairly after formal exams were scrapped.
Wales High head Pepe Di’Iasio (pictured) welcomed the Government’s decision on Monday to tell most pupils to stay at home — a day after the new term was allowed to start for Rotherham’s primaries — but said “dogmatic” politicians had left the move too late.
“The last thing anyone would want is to see schools not open to students,” he said.
“However, like many headteachers, I am relieved that the Government has finally bowed to the inevitable and agreed to move all schools and colleges to remote education in response to alarming Covid infection rates.
“Everybody understands this is a fast-moving situation, but ministers have to stop boxing themselves into a corner by being so dogmatic and last-minute about their plans, even as those plans are obviously unravelling.”
Mr Di’Iasio said there were now question marks over summer assessments, with so many Year 11 and 13 students having missed weeks of school and the whole of this half-term due to be taught remotely.
“The new lockdown will be disruptive to learners who have already been hugely disrupted,” he added.
“Our students, parents and staff will all be very worried about how exams can be made fair in these circumstances, and I know that headteachers are keen to work with the Government and the exam regulator, Ofqual, to make this process as fair as it can possibly be and we look forward to hearing more regarding this so that we can support and guide our students.
“I just hope that the Government will now work constructively with headteachers to bring all pupils back into schools as soon as it is safe to do so, with timely information and guidance so that students and parents can return to school with confidence that it is safe to do so.”
Meanwhile, Cllr Gordon Watson, Rotherham Council’s cabinet member responsible for schools, called for school staff to be vaccinated as a priority.
In a letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson, he said: “In Rotherham, we have had to close (either partially or fully) some schools last term as there were too many staff off — either with Covid or self-isolating — so the school could not open safely.
“I would hope you would recognise as we do that this is ultimately harmful to the education of the children affected.
“Given this, and that understandable concerns being expressed now by all teaching unions, I would therefore urge you to make staff in schools a priority for vaccination as the Government have done with medical staff and care home staff.”
Setting fair, formal exams this summer would be “impossible”, said Cllr Watson, with Year 11 and 13 students across the country having missed uneven numbers of weeks of school.
“It is just too far from being a level playing field,” he said. “It is now important that the Department for Education explain quickly how GCSE, A-level and BTec grades are to be awarded this year.
“Students and teachers deserve to know what they are working towards as soon as possible.”
Before the start of the new term on Monday, education unions jointly called for a “pause” in pupils going back, but the DfE said shutting schools should only be a “last resort”.
But on Monday the Government performed a U-turn, ordering schools must be closed to all students except vulnerable and key workers’ children in favour of remote learning until February.