The last 6 months due to COVID-19 and cancellation of A-level examinations has caused a range of different pressures for everyone. We have all dealt with the situation differently and found ways to manage these issues.
Unfortunately this situation has led to increased pressure, in particular for students moving into Year 13 for a number of different reasons.
-The university acceptance situation for 2021 is currently changing daily. There are currently insufficient university places (for certain courses) for those now attaining the required grades. Some universities are offering ‘bursaries’ to this years’ applicants if they defer their entry to 2021. Meaning more competition.
-With the added Autumn examination series this potentially means more applicants applying for university next year as they were unable to meet their requirements from CAGs. Again leading to increased applicants for 2021, meaning more competition.
-Many students moving into Year 13 have missed upto 5 months of full-time school teaching. Whilst schools endeavoured to deliver some form of online delivery, many students are likely to have missed huge chunks of AS theory. This will have a huge impact on their attainment and will have a knock on effect with their progress at A-level. For example, A-level Biology is significantly harder-with conceptually more complex theory and a large proportion of applied content. If the groundworks from AS are not secured, their A-level will suffer as a consequence. For example, if a student has not fully understood the process of facilitated diffusion across a membrane, they will struggle to apply this concept to nerve impulse transmission and the generation of an action potential.
-Relating to the above, as I understand it, students attending independent schools have had a much more consistent approach with ‘live’ online teaching whereas many state school pupils have been set tasks to plough through themselves at home. For A-level Biology in particular, this is a huge undertaking and not an easy task even for the brightest of students. Similarly, some students have been lucky enough to access online tuition with experienced professionals whereas others are not in a position to consider this. Will this have a bigger impact than normal in the spread of students’ attainments come August 2021?
-UCAS applications have also been affected. Students under normal circumstances would use the summer term of Y12 to visit and build a short list of universities and courses they are interested in studying. Will Year 13 students have had the opportunity to research thoroughly their future career pathway?
-Work experience has been curtailed in many areas due to the risk involved. This is usually a way of ascertaining if plans for your future careers fit your expectations. Would you enjoy this role? Is it what you thought it was? Work experience is also an integral part of the UCAS personal statement. What can be used instead to display interest in a particular university degree?
-Year 13 studies this coming year will also be affected in different ways dependent on the subjects. For example, A-level Biology students are sadly no longer required to carry out all 12 named practicals themselves. Teachers can demonstrate them instead. This is to ease the pressure on teaching time. In terms of A-level Biology, I believe this is really detrimental to a students enjoyment, understanding and recall of a topic. The practicals are what ‘brings the subject alive’. It really is the essence of what students remember from their A-level studies and it is a huge shame they will miss this experience.
All in all there are no easy answers for how to deal with all the above, but I would strongly recommend Year 13 students ensure they learn theory as they go along; display their true ability in every test and aim to prove their capabilities from Day 1 in September.
20th August 2020, Nicky Tweedle