I recently had the pleasure of a conversation with the current head of schools, Mr. Hugo Liz De Castro, in which he expressed that he is currently pushing for face-to-face exams to end off the academic year. He expressed that, in his view, it was a preferable option compared to the “non-exam” route which would require students to complete a number of internal assessments like essays. For the most part, I agree. Testing should be done in an environment where it would be more difficult (cough cough) to access external resources. However, there are still some issues with doing this right now.
Firstly, the vaccine is still not ready. Most students would likely not have already had the vaccine at the time of writing this. It would be still risky to bring students back to school regardless of the number of safety protocols and precautions imposed. Why? Speaking as a student myself, I would not trust myself and my fellow schoolmates to follow these safety procedures.
Social distancing and wearing masks constantly, sound good on paper and very possible but it is not practical in small classrooms and when in cafeterias sitting in groups. The current batch of A level students has over thirty people in a class. Stuffing them all in a classroom before was a challenge and now with them being six feet apart, they would need to occupy the entire school field.
Next, though there are a number of parents that support students returning to school, an even greater number would not send their children back before it is absolutely, no questions asked, free of any risk. Where would this leave them? Will they just have to get big red zeroes on each subject for this year? No that would be impossible, there are only two roads from that point. One would be that they eventually relent and go to school, or they hold their ground and it will be the school that has to make the concessions. The school would need to offer online testing as well, which would likely be the worst-case scenario. Having some in school while some are at home for exams would achieve nothing and be the worst of both worlds.
Finally, this has happened before. In January preparations were already made for the school to come back to physical face-to-face learning. The reasons it was canceled are unclear however the situation from then has just become worse. The number of cases has increased, vaccine rollout is still in early stages, and the second strain of the virus has become more prevalent. It is unlikely if it was rejected then that it would be approved now when everything has just gotten worse.
Essentially, though face-to-face exams should happen as soon as possible, with the current state of affairs it is not a favorable option.