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Time to postpone exams because of the snow?

Eddie Mair | 14:14 UK time, Friday, 8 January 2010

s1034.JPG By now we're all well aware of the problems snow and ice can bring. But it seems there's a new one on the horizon.

Many school pupils are due to sit exams next week which will count towards their A Level grades. Will the bad weather prevent them? The exam boards say they can't allow some schools to hold the exams on different days...something the regulator Ofqual agrees with.

Radio 4's The World at One heard from one principal who wants things changed.

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Peter Mills emails to say "Since the entire UK appears to be covered in snow, the answer to next week's A level exam problem is surely to postpone the exams for 14 days for everyone. Not an insurmountable rescheduling task!"

In PM tonight we'll hear from Ofqual. Here is the unedited version of the interview:

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Comments

  • 1. At 3:18pm on 08 Jan 2010, gossipmistress wrote:

    I can't listen to the interview here at work as no sound on our computers, but my niece is facing a postponement of exams to the summer and I'm sure after all her revision she would rather it went ahead in 2 weeks' than in 5 months' time

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  • 2. At 3:22pm on 08 Jan 2010, Bax-of-Delights wrote:

    As some schools have been closed for most of the week and in our area look to be doing so for at least the early part of next week should we not expect the teachers to "make up" the time they have had away from work by, for example, shortening the Easter holiday by a week? I only ask this in light of the workers at Tesco, Sainsburys and the like who are expected, nay required, to make up for the time they should have been at work.

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  • 3. At 4:53pm on 08 Jan 2010, oik wrote:

    Without wishing to be rude, that seems a tad naive. As a teacher myself, far from sitting around or playing in the snow, I've spent much of the last 3 days setting work electronically and monitoring and advising students with regard to exam preparation and coursework completion. In fact I spent a good portion of yesterday afternoon phoning students to make sure their exam preparations were on track and helping with their issues. Hardly time off... Can workers at Tesco and Sainsbury's say the same?

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  • 4. At 5:16pm on 08 Jan 2010, Boredrubber wrote:

    I, like Oik and I am sure many other colleagues, have spent the last few days marking, writing UCAS references and helping students with their applications, preparing lessons, organising the paperwork for school trips, contacting parents about various different issues etc. In short, my working day has been pretty much 8am-7pm - so no different from any 'normal' school day in length. This means I am reluctant to accept the idea that I need to make up 'wasted' time. Indeed, I am not sure how practical it would be, given that I am - again along with many other colleagues - already planning to spend at least 4 days in school over the Easter holdidays, as well as some time over Half Term. In addition, how would opening schools in the holiday, presumably for compulsory lessons, fit with parents' holiday plans?

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  • 5. At 5:31pm on 08 Jan 2010, carice wrote:

    I'd like to suggest that the exam boards just announce that they will give all the candidates an A* and just get it over with. This would save time and money while producing the result which appears to have become inevitable in recent years.

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  • 6. At 5:37pm on 08 Jan 2010, davmcn wrote:

    oik 3, Can you sell me a chicken?

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  • 7. At 5:42pm on 08 Jan 2010, oik wrote:

    davmcn - aisle 4 for fresh, 21 for frozen.

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  • 8. At 6:00pm on 08 Jan 2010, Happyteacher wrote:

    Though I recognise the complex administrative problems the examining bodies would have in postponing the January A Level exams, I really hope they will consider delaying the exams for a couple of weeks. The college where I teach has been closed since last Tuesday and may well be closed for at least part of next week. I am doing my utmost to support students via email and our college intranet, but not all students have access to either at home, and these ones in particular will find themselves disadvantaged by missing the all-important revision sessions which I would be holding if the college was open. Some students also find it hard to learn in isolation. Therefore, in the interests of 'equality and diversity' and 'Every Learner Matters' (both phrases that OFSTED expects to be used on all our lesson plans and schemes of work) the Exam Bodies should seriously consider postponement.

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  • 9. At 6:01pm on 08 Jan 2010, Elizabeth Ashcroft wrote:

    OK.... back to this business about opera singers... In 2000 I attended a peformance of Turandot at the Met in New York. Leading roles were sung by Luciano Pavarotti & Jane Eglen. Visually.... a laughable experience, as Pavarotti and Eglen were both well into middle age (elderly in Luciano's case), and medically obese. But, ahhh, close your eyes.... and what heavenly music. Dumplings with the voices of angels.... Such is opera.

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  • 10. At 6:27pm on 08 Jan 2010, Amie Cox wrote:

    I am a student and to be totally honest this small amount of snow seems to have our council hit a brick wall. Nobody knows what is going on. I have been revising for the last 4 months for my January exams and i don't really want all of my exams in July if they are postponed. It is way too much pressure for students taking their a levels. I attend a college based over 4 schools. However my home base school is 6 miles away from my house in a village which is hard to get out of in snow!! I have one of the other schools around the corner but i am not allowed to take my exams there? why not??? it would be so much easier as i cant walk down a dual carriage way to get to school so if i get snowed in i have no way of getting to school! I have been told that my grade will be put down as a U!!! if i don't sit the exams and i will have to pay to resit them in June! I think it is appalling that the government has no contingency plan for some poxy snow and is running out of salt again! For me as a sixth former who works a 30 hour week around full time education, I am a tax payer and cannot see where that bit chunk of my wages is going each month?? Some answers would be nice but they are unanswered questions that are going to put us all under pressure in June! Think the government are going to be looking at some bad exam results this year!

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  • 11. At 7:02pm on 08 Jan 2010, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Amie, thanks for sharing your personal experience of this. I was wondering why schools can not liaise with other schools, council buildings, libraries, colleges, Citizens Advice Bureaus - wherever they could find suitable rooms for exams and people who may be prepared to invigilate for them.

    A friend of my son's broke his wrist just before their 'A' level exams and it was arranged with his school that I would act as his 'transcriber'. He read the papers and dictated his answers to me, as I sat silent and typed them up for him - finding myself in the rather odd position of knowing exactly what questions my son was being asked in another room.

    Surely there are ways to solve these exam problems? People like Amie should not have to delay when they have been focused and preparing for months for exams now, not in six months time.

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  • 12. At 7:27pm on 08 Jan 2010, annasee wrote:

    About opera -(and I'm about to start a season of La Boheme so will be looking carefully to judge size, age, etc of singers after this item!) surely 9 above is correct? Opera should be a musical experience, not primarily a visual one. I know you look at the singers on stage, but you're a long way from them, and can't make out that much detail. It's not like television or film. Age and size don't matter nearly as much as quality of voice. If a singer can still hit the notes accurately with power and a tone that people want to hear, then I don't think audiences would complain. Obviously an attractive youngish singer in a principal role might enhance the publicity posters for the production, but if she/ he looks great but can't sing or act, I don't think they would have much success.

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  • 13. At 9:59pm on 08 Jan 2010, emkwlq wrote:

    i am a student taking an a level exam a year early. i live in a rural area which is a lot harder to get out of due to the fact that none of it has been gritted (which is understandable) and it's quite in the country. if the weather gets any worse than it is now, it's gonna be almost impossible for me to get in, which means i will just fail and all the hard work will be for nothing. also, the days which we have had off were supposed to be our prep lessons, so none of us are fully prepared for it. the exams should be postponed for the whole nation, i'm sure anyone unaffected by snow wouldn't complain about an extra week to revise!

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  • 14. At 01:00am on 09 Jan 2010, Emma Lake wrote:

    I really think that the comments the chief executive from ofqual said were unhelpful.
    At this point what we need is a definate answer, will we be given an extra week/5 months or not? "emkwlq" wrote that in the days we have had off we havent been able to do prep lessons. In my case, although I go to one of the only colleges open, because class sizes are as small as 3/4 people, the lessons don't cover much in comparison to usual lessons, and so are relatively pointless.
    If we are to wait I think it is fair to the students to just say "you have to wait until february to do your examinations" because if we are all revising non-stop until our exams next week, as many of us have for weeks/months now, and then turn up to our exams only to be told they wont be going on, it will be quite ridiculous and unfair.
    For my exam I will have to leave around 6.30/6.45am and so how prepared are we going to be if it snows more sunday night/saturday day and we have to leave earlier?
    I think I speak on behalf of every student who hasn't commented yet when I ask for a definite answer. Waiting on the weather is stressful and an added stress we do not need!

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  • 15. At 06:01am on 09 Jan 2010, Lady_Sue wrote:

    Good to hear from these students. I hope their voices are heard by people with the authority to act appropriately.

    Annasee - totally agree.

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  • 16. At 1:11pm on 09 Jan 2010, Sarah wrote:

    I'm an AS student and I have an exam on Tuesday. Now, I live fairly close to my school, so even if tons of snow falls on Sunday night, I'll be alright to get into school. But what I want to say is that I think, as this weather problem is a nationwide thing, the exam boards SHOULD postpone the exams for a week or two. Or even just postpone it to February. Having to take these modules plus another 5+ in June will be way too stressful for ALevel students, and like someone else has said, there could very well be some bad results come August.

    I'm sure I speak for pretty much every other student by saying that I would probably forget everything I've revised over the last few weeks/months and I somehow doubt teachers will want to waste more lesson time going over these old topics when we have the new ones to cover. I may end up resitting in June anyway, but I'd rather have my exam now, as I'm sure everyone else would. So really, postpone the exams. Its the sensible thing to do.

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  • 17. At 4:48pm on 09 Jan 2010, davmcn wrote:

    Maybe they could do an exam in snowman building.

    oik 7, See, you couldn't even tell me which supermarket.

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  • 18. At 5:19pm on 09 Jan 2010, Jayne Cassidy wrote:

    I'm currently in my first year of sixth form and am preparing to sit my first AS module on Wednesday.I live close to my school and the snow isn't as bad where I live compared to other places but there are a large amount of students who travel in from rural areas to the school who won't be able to get in if the snow gets any worse. In all honesty I'd be extremely grateful if I was given another week to revise, as an average student I need to do as much revision as I can and another week could to revise could help bring my grade up.

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  • 19. At 6:39pm on 09 Jan 2010, Sindy wrote:


    How the mighty are fallen - one day Lord Adonis of Education, next Lord Adonis of Salt.

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  • 20. At 8:42pm on 09 Jan 2010, chris walker wrote:

    I am currently in my first year of A Levels, luckily, I am only taking one january exam this Tuesday, but even with one exam, there is alot of work that has to go in, and it would significantly increase stress in the main june exams, however I have some friends, taking 4 or 5 this month... if they have to take these in June, that's 12 exams ... and when January A level exams have to be prepared for over the past few months, its months of wasted revision time, as well as the time needed to review the work again before June, obviousley, pupils in one school cant take an exam whilst another doesn't, and this is going to prove a problem because of the weather. therefore the obvious, and simple solution, as stated in the article is to postpone all exams for 14 days. many of my friends also live quite a distance from school, and may be unable to make it in ... I personally only live a 40 minute walk from my school, but with slippy pavements, it takes me near to an hour to walk to school. so, needing to be into school for 9, i would have to leave at 8, getting up at 7, people who live further obviousley having to get up even earlier to make it on time, maybe even half 5 - 6 am... is this really a good start on a morning of an exam?? the other main issue for me, and many others is, if all exams are in June, there is no chance for any retakes, therefore, if a pass is not achieved first time round (which is entirely possible if all exams are piled up at once) we would be unable to carry on to A2 level in '10 - '11. Ofqual seriously needs to have a think about this, and consider postponing until the end of January.

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  • 21. At 9:25pm on 09 Jan 2010, emkwlq wrote:

    i completley agree with all of these posts. Ofqual seriously need to sort this out! I have a huge amount of GCSE exams to take in June, and the added pressure of this A Level would definatley not help. I also have some GCSE exams the week after next, which i am finding it hard to revise for because i'm too stressed about this A Level exam. At least if i knew it was put back a couple of weeks i could shelve that worry and concentrate on the GCSE. I also agree with chris walker, like him, i would have quite a trek to get into school if my mum is unable to get me in, i'd have to leave home at 7 at the latest, walk there in the cold, and get there to be freeezing cold and sitting in a even colder exam room. how does this help me in my exam? Surely we are the most important, as we are the ones taking the exam and therefore need all the help we can get!

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  • 22. At 12:40pm on 10 Jan 2010, Raechelle Little wrote:

    As a student, I've also been revising hard. However, I've come to realise that, because I panic in exam situations, it's almost inevitable that I'm going to fail anyway. I'd feel more comfortable knowing that I had until the summer to make sure all the information on my subjects can properly set in, and I'll definitely remember it all. A Level Psychology is a lot harder than I thought.

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  • 23. At 12:56pm on 10 Jan 2010, lucien desgai wrote:

    22 Raechelle
    It's just nerves amplified by the cold. Go into the exam room, draw a deep breath and take a couple of minutes to read through and take in the question paper. Once you start writing everything you've learned (and a bit more besides) will come flooding through. And then it's all over! It'll feel like a lot less than three hours.
    If you're listening to PM and posting on this blog then I think you're a lot smarter than you realise. :o)

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  • 24. At 1:00pm on 10 Jan 2010, musician wrote:

    I know there are going to be some students who can make it into college for their exams this week, but for the majority i would say it is going to be really difficult and whilst having to take them all in the summer would be really frustrating, i feel that it is the only way - at least the timetable is scheduled whereas i suppose it could be more difficult to only put them back by a week or so.

    Even with the snow supposedly going to ease off, there is still the question of ice and the danger that the students will face in having to get to college, let alone the nerves of the exams and the added worry of getting to college safely and on time - it does not bode well for good performances.

    It is even more stressful for students today who are still unclear as what is going to happen, because quite frankly it is ludicrous that the exam boards are being so inflexible, they should just make the decision to postpone and make it NOW!!!! It will be less stressful for them once they do and at least then everything can move forward.

    They must realise that not everyone is going to be satisfied - but at least if everyone has to take them in the summer, then it cannot be considered unfair that some will have the chance to retake if they perform badly, if they continue with the attitude of making the exams go ahead this week.

    I really hope that pressure is severely put on the exam boards to make a decision, and the right one, and to make it TODAY!!!!

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  • 25. At 10:56am on 11 Jan 2010, Annie_x wrote:

    I'm an A2 student re-sitting AS Biology tomorrow (Tuesday) and I think it's highly unlikely that it'll be postponed now. However, my school is a fairly large one and a lot of students live a good 30-40 minutes away from the school- and with a lot of the buses and coaches not running I think a lot of people won't be able to get in, or will be forced to drive, which is okay for adults who have driven for years but most of us are 17-18 and won't have been driving for long. I only passed my driving test a week ago and with no bus service I won't have any choice but to drive in on the ice, which I'm terrified of doing. The roads around my school are narrow and haven't been gritted and it feels to me as if the government haven't considered every school in this... allowing so many teenagers to drive through narrow, icy roads at the same time is surely an accident waiting to happen. The only advice from our school has been to get lifts in from parents, but most of our parents work and I doubt that will limit the amount of cars in that area anyway.

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