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Education insights: 2021 exam plans, university students rent strikes and self-isolating pupils

December has arrived which means Christmas is around the corner and everybody is looking forward to a fresh start in 2021, perhaps some of us with slight trepidation but mostly with hope. With plans being put into place to recover from the pandemic, we’ve pulled together some key news and highlights from the education sector this week.

Exams and accountability in 2021: The proposals in full

The government has started to announce its plans to resume next year’s exams and handle other outstanding issues, such as league tables and primary assessment, which were impacted this year. It’s positive to hear extra measures will be introduced to support students and boost fairness for next summer’s GCSE and A-level exams in England after a challenging year. The Department for Education has also promised more generous grading, advance notice of exam topics and additional papers to try to make up for any learning gaps or delays caused by the pandemic.

Covid: Some students not back until February next term

Only university students studying hands-on courses, such as medicine or performing arts, will be returning to university in January as part of the government’s plan to stagger course starting dates. This means other subjects will be taught online at the start of term which has, understandably, created a lot of frustration as many students will have to continue to pay rent on properties they won’t be allowed to live in. At a few universities, students have been holding rent strikes with the aim to receive refunds on accommodation they couldn’t use.

Ofsted: total school disruption in some areas

The mayhem caused by the pandemic continues for students as education has been “completely disrupted”, according to Ofsted regional bosses. The attendance of students has been significantly impacted by the rules around self-isolation, with 22% of pupils in secondary schools being absent last Thursday. Figures show that some students are being sent home in 75% of schools which is concerning as the gaps in their education continue to grow. 

Gen Z concerned employers hire grads based on nepotism and physical appearance

A new survey from leading graduate careers website Milkround has revealed that UK students fear that physical appearance (58%), race and/or ethnicity (52%) and nationality (52%) have the greatest impact on recruitment decisions. With the students of today already having the difficulty of entering a very competitive job market, these findings show that they also have wider concerns about whether companies are doing enough to recruit inclusively and equally. There is clearly work to be done to not only improve the recruitment process of some companies but also to help support students when applying for entry-level roles.

Top teacher wins $1m and gives half away

An inspiring piece of news from this week is that a teacher from a village school in India, praised for improving the education of girls, has won this year's Global Teacher Prize which includes a cash prize of $1m (£750,000). Ranjitsinh Disale has very generously given half of it away already, sharing it with the runners up of the competition. Mr Disale was praised by the competition’s judges for his work to ensure disadvantaged girls in India went to school and achieved high results rather than missing out on school and facing early marriage.

About the author

Georgia Shiels

Georgia began her career in marketing while racing competitively in motorsport where she then gained her degree in automotive engineering. Georgia’s passion for encouraging young girls into STEM subjects grew from here. She volunteered as a STEM ambassador and she brings her STEM passion alongside many years of marketing and comms experience to her work at Hopscotch.

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