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Fenland students' fears over exams

GCSE and university students have spoken of their frustration after they were forced to return to remote learning due to the third national lockdown.

GCSE students and step-sisters Tilly Ransome and Joanna Mota, who live in Lutton, have raised concerns after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced schools were to close earlier this month.

Students are now dealing with the reality of their exams being cancelled following Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s announcement that teachers’ estimated grades would be used to replace GCSE and A-Level exams this summer.

GCSE students Joanna and Tilly Ransome (43847883)
GCSE students Joanna and Tilly Ransome (43847883)

Both Tilly and Joanna are concerned that their results might not accurately reflect their work, which they feel could impact their future career hopes.

Tilly (15), who attended Tydd St Mary Primary School before joining University Academy Holbeach, said: “At my school we have done our mock exams and I have my results so I think they will base it on them. It’s annoying as I might have been able to do better in my actual exams.

“I’m worried people will look at my grades and if my teachers give me good ones they’ll say I didn’t actually achieve them.”

Alfie Ransome (43851072)
Alfie Ransome (43851072)

Joanna (also 15), formerly of Nene Infants School in Wisbech and now attending Spalding High School, agreed and added: “I feel like people will look at our CVs and think that we are the children who were born in 2005 and didn’t take our GCSEs so are these grades accurate?

“We haven’t done any exams at my school but my predicted grades are a lot lower than I would get.

“I’m worried that without an exam I won’t be able to prove what I can do at GCSE but there’s nothing you can do about it. I think I would retake them if I didn’t pass my maths.

“Before I wanted to do my exams because I want to know that the grade I get is what I worked for, but as it was getting closer and closer to when we should be taking the exams it feels like it wouldn’t have been fair to take them.”

The social side of school life is also being missed by the students who felt that going into class gave them a sense of normality during a time which is so far removed from what they are used to.

Tilly, who is hoping to go on to work in a hospital, said: “I haven’t got used to remote learning at all. If we are remote learning until mid-February it’s tough because we are missing out on a lot – we are being taught but it’s not the same learning that we’d get in class.”

Joanna, who is working towards becoming a barrister, added: “I’ve noticed that it’s really easy to lose motivation and if you’re falling behind in class you can’t ask the teachers to go back as you would if you were in the classroom.

“I preferred school how it was when we went back in September as we stayed in one block so we were never late to class. It was also the only chance we had to see our friends.”

University students have also found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The girls’ brother Alfie Ransome (18), who also attended Tydd St Mary Primary School before going to Spalding Grammar, has been studying psychology at De Montford University in Leicester – almost entirely online – since September and has returned to his student flat.

However, was not initially sure whether to go back to his digs after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to mention universities at all in his initial lockdown address to the nation.

“How can they have forgotten uni students? There was no mention of us,” he said.

“In fact, about the only time the Government had mentioned universities was to blame us for the spread of the virus.”

Alfie had seen online instructions for students not to return to campuses, but lives in a flat away from the university and added: “A lot of my notes were in my room and I was also concerned about my online seminars and lectures.

“Internet in Lutton is poor and I don’t think I would have got online if the girls were both on Microsoft Teams. Some of the De Montford lecturers had to teach face to face last term anyway as where they lived did not have good enough Broadband.”

He was also angered at the Government insisting online learning is no substitute for the classroom, when he had still been charged full price for his virtual university experience.

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