Medway Labour and Co-operative group have raised concerns at the plans for 2021 examination arrangements unveiled last week, set to worsen existing inequalities between students who have suffered different levels of disruption due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

The plans, unveiled last week in Parliament by the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, confirmed that examinations would not be cancelled next year. In addition, students will be given advanced notice of topics and awarded more generous grades in line with summer 2020’s results. Teaching unions have welcomed the announcement, but expressed that the information had come far too late in the academic year, and are set to intensify disparities in learning.

Government data revealed that the number of pupils nationally missing school last week alone totalled almost 1 million.

As of last week, all secondary and most primary schools in Medway had positive coronavirus cases, with year-group bubbles being sent home to isolate for two weeks and in some cases whole-school closures.

The Medway Labour and Co-operative group have continued to speak out about the hundreds of pupils in our community forced to miss school due to Covid outbreaks. In November, Medway Labour Spokesperson for Children and Young People Cllr Clive Johnson wrote to the South East Regional Schools Commissioner, urging an urgent reassessment of the need for a ‘circuit break’ within schools due to increasing community transmission and teacher absence.

Cllr Chrissy Stamp, who sits on the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee said that, ‘Whilst we are pleased the Government has finally announced support for students dealing with such a stressful point in their education alongside a global pandemic, these details have come far too late in the day.

‘Students are understandably anxious about the upcoming examinations, and after months of silence these dispensations simply do not address inequality in learning.

Cllr Clive Johnson, Medway Labour and Co-operative Group’s Spokesperson for Children and Young People added, ‘Many students in Medway have been badly affected by the disruption to schools.  Pupils in Years 11 and 13, in particular, have been affected by the first lockdown and are likely to have faced problems this term, too.  Schools have been heroic in their efforts to keep schools open and to ensure that learning continues.

However, national government needs to recognise that some areas have had greater disruption than others. It also needs to recognise that some communities and families will have more resources to enable them to cope.

‘We need to ensure that disadvantaged or vulnerable students or students who have had to cope with more prolonged or repeated breaks to their learning, are not disproportionately affected.’

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