The Exam Question: The impact of cancelled exams and learning with Zoe Enser

Who knew unprecedented times could still give you a sense of deja vu? The cancellation of GCSE and A Level exams in the summer 2021 sitting has divided people: those who think the exams should have gone ahead as the fairest way to grade students; and those who have long held that exams should have been cancelled due to the significant disruption students have faced and for many the startling disparity in access to education and schooling. Whichever side you come down a fairly crucial question remains: what does this mean for student’s courses and their final grades?

This podcast episode looks at the impact that the exam cancellations have had and, importantly, what it means for the students due to take exams in 2021.

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Nathan McGurl, founder of The Study Buddy is joined by Zoe Enser. Having spent more than 20 years in teacher roles, including as Head of English, Zoe is currently a Specialist English Advisor with The Education People. As well as writing many pieces for education publications, including The Times Education Supplement, she is an active blogger. Zoe has also co-authored “Generative Learning In Action” which looks at the activities students can do to learn.

In this week’s episode, Zoe and Nathan discuss the decision to cancel the summer 2021 exams and what that means. Touching on wellbeing, we explore whether too much emphasis has been placed on terminal exams. We also considering the need for students to continue with their studies. Zoe talks about how students can positively influence their own learning. And why that must continue to avoid harming further and higher education ambitions.

It’s fair to say that our students, like many others, weren’t especially surprised by the announcement of exams being cancelled. Some had seen this coming for a while; others saw it as inevitable at the end of the holidays with the announcement of the third lockdown. However, the announcement doesn’t bring any real relief for them. What now? Is the question most are asking. They know that their teachers will be making assessments. But they are not sure if there’s any point studying from this point on.

Zoe explores exam cancellation and why it is important for students to carry on. With reference to Generative Learning, she gives advice on how students, and their parents, can undertake activities to promote better learning.