Cai Parry is an A grade student. He also cares for his father who has MS. He wants to go to university to study politics, but with half his work online since September and schools and colleges shut once again, the 17 year-old is worried that he won’t get the A level results he needs.
A lot of his day is taken up with caring for his dad, Ian, and he misses seeing people his own age at Cardiff and Vale College.
Cai , who is in his second year studying A level chemistry, physics and politics, said caring duties affect his study at the best of times, but even more now all his work is from home..
Schools and colleges were ordered to shut again to all but key worker and vulnerable children last week amid rising coronavirus rates. They are unlikely to re-open until February half term.
Meanwhile, although assessments to replace exams this term have been cancelled as a result of latest closures, they are still on the timetable for the summer term.
The Welsh Government said today that discussions about summer assessments are ongoing but confirmed they have not been ditched.
Cai believes this is unfair with classrooms shut again and no certainty about when or how they will re-open. Many learners have difficult circumstances at home even if they are not on the list allowed to access hub schools.
He wants Wales to return to the Centre Assessed Grades from teachers to arrive at A, AS and GCSE grades. That was adopted last summer in a U-turn after a row over standardised grades which downgraded results for thousands of exams taken.
The A level student said: “With the summer assessments being external, it would be incredibly unfair to make every child sit the same exam.
“Some system that accounts for extenuating circumstances should be put in place with these summer assessments cancelled.
“Teachers should be able to account for these circumstances when giving their assessments as long as there’s written evidence of it, should teacher assessments be adopted, that is.
“I am very worried about my grades now. Sitting down and trying to crack on with my work at home I am panicking that I don’t know everything I ought to by now,” the teenager said.
“My independent study is affected by other duties. I am also missing seeing people at college.
“Caring for my father can take up a lot of the day. My grandfather also lives with us but quite a lot of the work falls to me
Cai hopes to study politics at university but fears he hasn’t been able to cover the work to get in with marks he needs.
He believes these externally set and marked assessments would be just as unfair as cancelled exams because once again not everyone has had the same amount of face to face teaching, or the same quality of remote learning.
“Assessments were not perfect, but I supported them. Now we have a second lockdown and schools and colleges are shut again they are not fair and not viable any more.
“Some students may be young carers, or have other issues and this affects ability to work from home.
“This (academic) year I have had about 50% learning online whatever was going on with the pandemic and had some technical problems. I understand why remote teaching needs to happen but it is not ideal and not as good as in person.”
Cai got A grades for his politics, chemistry and physics AS levels last summer as well as a B in AS maths after results were finally awarded on Centre Assessed Grades. CAGS are based on past work, exams and teacher assessment rather than the standardising algorithm initially adopted by Qualifications Wales.
England has announced it will base results on CAGs for a second year and the teenager wants Wales to do the same.
During last summer’s exam marking row Cai led a student campaign in Cardiff – part of wider campaigns – to have the original results, which were downgraded by a standardising algorithm, overturned and replaced by the Centre Assessed Grades.
Teaching union UCAC has warned: “There are certainly groups of Year 11 and Year 13 pupils whose access to face-to-face learning will have been extremely limited during this school year (not to mention the last school year), and for whom distance learning has not been a sufficient substitute, despite schools’ best efforts, for a variety of reasons. “
The Welsh Government, exam regulator Qualification Wales and exam board WJEC all said talks are continuing but no decision has yet been reached about assessments next term.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “In January, a decision was made to move to remote learning on public health grounds and as a result Qualifications Wales made an early announcement to cancel the spring internal assessment window to provide reassurance to learners.
“The Design and Delivery Advisory Group will now be considering how we build on and adapt the proposals announced before Christmas to support learner wellbeing and progression.
“The Minister is also discussing with stakeholders including young people and will provide a further update as soon as possible.”
A WJEC spokesman said: “The WJEC is engaging with the Design and Delivery Advisory Group, Welsh Government and Qualifications Wales to confirm the approach for summer 2021 assessments.
“Once a recommended approach has been agreed we will work with schools, colleges and the wider education sector to support the implementation.”
The Design and Delivery group, headed by former headteacher Geraint Rees , was set up by Welsh Government last term to look at how results could be arrived at now exams are cancelled once again.
Mr Rees has said 2021 results should “stand the test of time.”
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk