Its ‘Snow’ Joke – The January Exam Season Started Today

Over the last week, thousands of schools across the country have been closed due to severe snow and ice. Here in Gloucestershire, 296 out of 308 state-run primary, secondary schools and colleges were closed on Wednesday, with similar numbers on Friday.

However, with weather conditions set to stay very similar over the next few days at least, the snow is now going to effect the exam season for many. Even for those places that do manage to open next week, a lot of classroom time has been lost to the snow.

There are inevitably many students who will have spent the majority of their week outside, playing in the snow, building things out of the stuff. However, there are many more who have spent the week sat inside, revising for next week’s exams. To have lost out on nearly a whole week of classroom time is ideal for nobody – two hours of classroom time are no match for two hours of revision time, even for those who have access to e-mail and use ‘Virtual Learning Environments’ such as Moodle to allow classwork and homework to be set without the need for the school/college to open.

You’d think, therefore, that the date of exams would be changed to allow schools and colleges to make up for that lost time. But no. Exam regulator Ofqual have released a statement, saying what should happen in the event of exams needing to be cancelled:

We did discuss rescheduling any cancelled exams, but decided that this was not the best course of action. As not all areas of the country are affected, alternative papers would have to be prepared for the centres that had to cancel. This could impact on the comparability of standards. It would also be difficult for the awarding bodies to make the necessary arrangements in the short timescales involved.

Quoted from Ofqual
Contingencies for Examinations

Now… the problem with this is that all those with exams effected by the weather will have to sit their exams in the Summer of 2010. Not a problem, you might say. But many already have other exams – such as the next module in their course, or final exams for another subject – planned for the Summer.

In addition, the exam papers have already been printed, and sent out. Do schools now have hundreds of pages of paper to recycle, unused? What a waste!

Not all areas may be effected – but those areas are a minority. We all know the weather will end and improve at some point within the next week or so. So why not reschedule the whole exam timetable for everybody – push it back two or three weeks? Schools and colleges which closed over the last week (or maybe even, ones which will close over the next week), will be able to make up the lost time and their students will enter the exams fully prepared and students who were unaffected by the weather will surely be grateful by a little bit extra time to revise. In addition, because the original exam papers will remain locked away for everyone, no new papers will have to be re-printed.

It seems that I’m not the only one feeling this way about exams. There is a group on Facebook, entitled “Postpone the GCSE and A Level Exams ‘till After the Weather Goes”. Over 500 students are in the group. As the creator of the group writes:

Please join this group if like me, you support the work by the teaching unions to get the GCSE and A level exams until after the weather. It is not fair how the lead up to the exams has been malnurished from revision and how some people will be struggling to get to their exams.

Please join this group and invite all your friends so we can really make an impact.


Quoted from Facebook

Now… I don’t think the exams need to be postponed by very long. Only 1 week, or maybe even 2 at the most. After all, it in only in very exceptional circumstances which cause the closure of schools for more than two or three days at a time.

I appreciate that it is too late to change anything now – however, on the very small change that anyone from Ofqual, JCQ – or anyone with any authority – happens to be reading this article, I seriously urge you to take note of my comments and make ammendments to your contingency plans in time for the 2011 (and future) exams. It doesn’t have to be your one and only contingency plan – as it is now – because one plan will not fit every possible scenario effecting exams.

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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