Exams are never popular and are never going to be. They’re stressful and known to induce waking nightmares well into adulthood. Occasionally I’ll wake up in cold sweats thinking that I’ve missed my History A-level paper on Henry VIII’s foreign policy. There is no point in glamourising it: exams are horrible.
They are however, necessary. Exams are the first time you feel the reality of having your future in your hands. To be able to excel under your own steam and with those results, craft a future of your own choice. Life as we know it is pressured, and exams introduce a person to that in a controlled environment. They teach time management and stress control.
Yet there are a cohort of teenagers whose first experience of exams may also be their last. It is the 2003-2004 age group whose GCSEs were cancelled last year, no longer sit AS levels, and who must face their final school exams with no real preparation at all.
GCSEs should be considered a learning curve, a stepping stone. I am in full agreement with those that think children of that age are put under too much stress – but not with those that want them removed completely. AS levels used to represent the next step, to break the leap into higher education. Being worth half of the overall marks, they provide the opportunity to learn and improve the following year.
Whilst 50 per cent of this cohort will likely go on to university or college, the other 50 per cent will not, either moving into apprenticeships or the world of work. Both demographics will suffer from not having experienced the preparatory rigour of exams.
If the cancellation of the last two years’ worth of exams, (and potentially next summer’s too) led to a genuine overhaul of our education system where we began to cherish learning for learning’s sake instead of mass-produced league table fodder, I would understand. If we replaced these assessments with another form that delivers the same lessons in diligence without so much anxiety, I would be all for it.
Alas, I see no such utopia in sight. Therefore this cohort’s lost opportunities must be addressed, and plans to mitigate how this will affect their futures long term should be made now.
Photo credit: Studio Neat