Exams

Schools brace for Covid exams disruption as pupil anxiety rises

Invigilator shortages, requests to sit exams in separate rooms and Covid infections cause major headache for heads, says union

Invigilator shortages, requests to sit exams in separate rooms and Covid infections cause major headache for heads, says union

11 May 2022, 0:01

More from this author

Most headteachers have seen a rise in exams-related anxiety since the Covid pandemic, with many expecting infections among pupils and invigilator shortages to disrupt the tests, a survey suggests.

The poll by the ASCL school leaders’ union also found the majority of heads had received requests for students to take exams in separate rooms, with three in five fearing Covid disruption will escalate.

Pupils across England are preparing for the start of their GCSE and A-level exams next week – the first summer in-person tests since 2019.

But with Covid cases still affecting schools, some leaders fear infections among pupils may cause them to miss exams.

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton warned that while schools “are doing everything possible” to support pupils’ mental health, but the “government has simply not shown enough urgency in improving mental health support for young people”.

8 in 10 leaders report increase in anxiety

The survey, completed by 527 headteachers last week, found that 82.2 per cent of leaders reported the level of stress and anxiety among exam pupils was higher than in pre-pandemic years.

In many cases this resulted in high levels of pupil absence, ASCL said, while other headteachers reported a rise in challenging behaviour and incidents of self-harm.

Stress was found to be greater among A-levels pupils, who have never sat a major exam after Covid led to the cancellation of their GCSEs.

Geoff Barton

In addition, just under 8 out of 10 headteachers said they had received more requests than before the pandemic for pupils to sit exams in separate rooms away from the main exam hall.

The union said this was mainly as a result of high levels of stress and anxiety.

Schools Week previously revealed that schools faced a “logistical nightmare” in organising additional exam rooms and invigilators.

Barton added: “This is far from being a return to normal, and we are particularly concerned about the impact on the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

“Stress and anxiety were already problems pre-pandemic. It must surely be possible to slim down the exam system and make it more proportionate and humane.”

2 in 5 heads struggle to find invigilators

As schools attempt to accommodate the requests for separate rooms, they continue to struggle to recruit a sufficient number of invigilators.

More than a third of headteachers (38 per cent) said their school had still not recruited enough.

Last month, the National Association of Examinations Officers revealed over four in five of 1,000 exam officers surveyed reported a shortage.

While the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) announced that this year schools will be allowed to use fewer exam invigilators to alleviate the anticipated disruption.

Barton said the reintroduction of free Covid testing may reassure staff and invigilators.

Elsewhere 14 per cent of leaders stated the level of Covid infections among pupils was a concern in terms of pupils potentially missing exams.

A further six out of 10 headteachers said they are concerned their Covid levels “will escalate”.

Schools have been told to follow UKHSA guidance which states pupils who test positive for Covid should be encouraged to isolate for three days.

Under JCQ guidance pupils who miss exams are eligible for “special consideration”. But they will only be awarded grades if they have “completed one whole component within the specification”.

The Department for Education was approached for comment.

Latest education roles from

Tutorial Learning Mentor

Tutorial Learning Mentor

Barnsley College

School Liaison Admissions Tutor

School Liaison Admissions Tutor

Riverside College

Study Coach

Study Coach

Heart of Yorkshire Education Group

Lecturer in Maths

Lecturer in Maths

Heart of Yorkshire Education Group

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

EA to the CEO & Senior Directors

Haberdashers’ Academies Trust South

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Head of Faculty (History and RS)

Ark Greenwich Free School

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspire creativity in your classroom. Sky Arts’ Access All Arts week is back!

Now in its third year, Access All Arts week is a nationwide celebration of creativity for primary schools (17-21...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Unleash the Power of Sport in your setting this summer! National School Sports Week is back!

Unleash the Power of Sport this summer with National School Sports Week powered by Monster Kickabout! From 17-23 June,...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

Exams

Exams: Entries boost in statistics and engineering GCSEs

Further maths and physics A-levels also see increase in entries, but GCSE citizenship and A-level sociology become less popular

Freddie Whittaker
Exams

Sir Ian Bauckham is Keegan’s pick for permanent Ofqual chief

But his confirmation will be left up to whoever forms the next government

Freddie Whittaker
Exams

Civil service boss: Covid exams U-turn ‘most awful governing ever’

Simon Case said in August 2020 that 'lots of people should lose their heads' over exams fiasco

Samantha Booth
Exams

Exams: GCSE and A-level prices soar by inflation-busting 6.4%

CPI over the same period was 3.8%, but Ofqual says prices in line with inflation over a longer period

Freddie Whittaker

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *