Generation on Mute: UTC South Durham writes open letter to Ofqual and DfE

20th November 2020

The Principal of a Durham School has collaborated with a Year 11 pupil to write an open letter to Ofqual and the Department for Education to ask if there is a more manageable way for students to complete their assessments.

Tom Dower, Principal of UTC South Durham, received communication from OCR who, following Awarding Body discussions with Ofqual on assessment requirements, decided that students are expected to complete all units as in a normal year, despite the disruptions to learning due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Alongside the exam board update, Mr Dower received an email from year 11 pupil Arron KIllip titled “Generation on mute” which read:

Two hundred and thirty-one days, we have had reducing hope and no voice. Our generation is on mute. Nothing is dearer to us than our future; a future that is now unstable. We have been given something of a life-line – a three-week delay to exams. But does anyone really think that’s enough to steady our course?

Who is the head that decides our fate, my fate and the fate of many others? As far as I know, they are not just about to take the exams that are set to determine their future.

Who is the head that will listen to a generation who are drowning in anxiety? As far as I know, they have not felt the confusion and fear of missing six months of work only to be told you will sit in front of invigilators and take the exams with no regard to the trauma of this pandemic.

So please hear US, the generation who feel forgotten, our mouths taped shut as our future slips through our fingers. Please listen, because we are the future of this country, please listen because we are truly dealing with the toxic fallout of the choices of our education system.

You know me as Arron, but I am confident these are the words of an entire generation.

Concerned for the future the Principal felt it was necessary to draft a letter to the Secretary of State for Education and Ofqual in order to give his pupils who were affected by this decision a voice. This news comes within a week where Schools North East have called on the Secretary of State for Education to ‘protect our schools’ in a letter urging the department to consider the increasing challenges which teachers are facing caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and once again, calling for decisive measures on exams to minimise disruption and bring England’s exams in line with devolved nations. You can read the full Schools North East letter here.

In his letter, Mr Dower questions the suitability of a three-week delay to exams writing: “Please do not tell me that a three-week delay to exams is enough. Most Year 11 and 13 students across the country lost around 70 days of face-to-face learning in the first lockdown.” Alongside this, he cites that, as with the majority of schools nationwide, there has been a drop in year 11 attendance due to the need for isolation. This continued disruption further proves that a three week delay is far too short if the Government expects pupils to sufficiently catch up before sitting their exams. You can read Tom Dower’s full letter to Ofqual and the Department for Education here.