Parentkind supports cancellation of exams but calls on government to outline alternative arrangements as soon as possible to alleviate significant mental health concerns

08 January 2021
The Prime Minister yesterday announced that formal GCSE and A‑level examinations in England are to be cancelled for summer 2021 exam cohorts.

This news will be welcomed by the 49% of parents of secondary school children who selected no exams – teacher assessment only” in a snap Parentkind poll; the most popular option for making exams as fair as possible for all. Parents’ views were gathered in December 2020 in response to the government’s previous announcement that exams would be pushed back three weeks to allow catch-up on missed learning. The poll of 1,189 parents of secondary school children living in England found that only 19% of parents agreed that previous adjusted arrangements for exams would have made them as fair as possible.

With schools now closed to the majority of children until at least half term, parents need urgent clarity on the alternative arrangements to allocating grades. 84% of parents of secondary school children told Parentkind in an October 2020 poll [1,501 respondents] that the lack of clarity over arrangements for exams had had a negative impact on their child’s mental health. 

The latest school closures will inevitably result in further missed learning. We therefore welcome the government’s recognition that it would no longer be fair to require cohorts experiencing so much disruption to their education to sit exams. Although many parents and their children may be relieved in the short term, there is a need for speed to confirm what the alternative arrangements are for allocating final grades. Parents have consistently told us that they support at least some inclusion of teacher assessment in determining their child’s’ abilities and fairly allocating grades. Our previous polls also tell us that the lack of clarity over the arrangements for exams causes stress within families. For the sake of children and their parents, an announcement setting out arrangements for this year’s exams cohorts must come sooner rather than later. We hope that policymakers listen to parents’ wishes and concerns when finalising decisions. We will continue to ask parents their preferences for their child’s education and exams in light of the rapidly changing circumstances. However, in making alternative arrangements to exams fair, special consideration should be given to disadvantaged pupils, where the digital divide is having an adverse effect on both the quality and quantity of learning at home.”

John Jolly, CEO of Parentkind