Headteachers in UAE seek dialogue on alternatives as GCSEs and A-level exams are cancelled

Schools in the Emirates hope exam boards consult teachers to ensure final grades are fair

HYDE, ENGLAND - JULY 16: Pupils sit apart during a socially distanced language lesson at Longdendale High School on July 16, 2020 in Hyde, England. The Government plan to spend GBP 1 billion to help pupils catch up with their education before September after spending months out of school during the coronavirus lockdown. (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)
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School principals in the UAE are awaiting clarity and early guidelines from UK authorities after GCSEs and A-level exams were cancelled.

On Tuesday, UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove confirmed board exams have been cancelled for this year.

Heads of schools in the UAE said they hoped teachers would be consulted before creating plans to assess pupils to ensure final grades are fair.

GCSEs and A-levels examinations, sat at Year 11 and Year 13, respectively, were cancelled last academic year.

This year, principals at overseas British schools hope for a smoother experience for pupils as the announcement was made early.

Kelvin Hornsby of Gems Cambridge International School Abu Dhabi, says they have a portfolio of evidence for each pupil based on numerous mock results and other school work. Courtesy: Gems Cambridge International School 

"It is not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal. The education secretary will work with the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation to put in place alternative arrangements," said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on Monday.

Michael Wilson, principal at Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, a UK curriculum school, said unlike last summer, authorities have time to make plans this year.

“We are urging proper dialogue, then decision-making. Not decision-making followed by dialogue,” he said.

Since September, his school has worked to prepare itself for a scenario where GCSEs and A-levels may be cancelled.

“I hope that this year, exam boards will take the time to reflect, collaborate with each other, the education authorities and schools before coming up with a plan,” he said.

He asked pupils to be patient and allow time for authorities, schools, and exam boards to speak to each other.

Michael Wilson

Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, urged authorities to provide all necessary information and clear guidelines as early as possible to help schools plan appropriately.

“There will also need to be a decision on whether IGCSEs, an equivalent qualification of the GCSEs, will take place or not, as the exam is not regulated by Ofqual,” he said, referring to England’s exam watchdog.

Mr Fulton said it was likely IGCSEs would follow the direction from the regulator.

There are five GCSE examination boards – AQA, Pearson Edexcel, OCR, CCEA, and WJEC - and all are regulated by Ofqual.

IGCSEs are accredited by either Cambridge (Cambridge International Examinations) or Edexcel (Pearson Edexcel) exam boards.

“We are waiting for confirmation of the process, but we expect schools will once again provide assessment grades for pupils in the absence of formal exams,” said Mr Fulton.

In 2020, A-level marks were calculated by Ofqual through an algorithm to standardise final results after physical tests were cancelled.

Kelvin Hornsby, principal at Gems Cambridge International School, Abu Dhabi, said many international exam boards that offer the IGCSEs intend to go ahead with the summer exams.

“We are already working closely with the examination awarding bodies and have meetings scheduled this week and next,” said Mr Hornsby.

UAE pupils return to school on August 31, 2020 - in pictures

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