Why is it important to keep learning when the exams have been cancelled?

Following the government’s announcement last week that schools are closing and formal exams have been cancelled, many students have been left wondering why it is necessary to keep studying? Whilst the prospect of an extended break could initially be appealing, we believe it is crucial for students to continue their learning. Although schools up and down the country are preparing grades based on previous performance and attainment, receiving a grade is in itself not the most important thing.

We are encouraging parents to think in the long term. It is highly likely that disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic will have a meaningful impact on the remainder of your child’s education. There is of course, plenty that can be doing to keep learning and prepare for the next stage of their academic journey.

1. Consolidation is key

Students have spent the last two years working towards challenging exams. They have gone through numerous mock exams, extra classes with teachers and some families will have also worked with tutors. We remain adamant that their hard work over school year and over holidays is not in vain and will still be beneficial in future. It is important to review recently completed school work methodically in order to aid retention – a key purpose of the exams.

‘Learning loss’ is phenomenon usually associated with the long summer holidays, where students lose the stride and stamina that they have built up over the academic year. Studies have shown that over the summer holidays alone, students lose on average one-month of learning (Cooper et al). From our perspective, students should working to minimise any learning loss, especially at such crucial stages of education and with unprecedented circumstances.

Schools across the country are handling things differently and providing students with different levels of work and support. It is important that when your child arrives at university to start their degree or begins the first year of their A Levels, they are not at a disadvantage compared to students from other schools who perhaps had better access to online resources, or teachers who were comfortable with online teaching. Consolidation is the first step in ensuring they are prepared to commence the next step in their education.

2. Prepare to get ahead for your next stage of education

Students should make use of this time to get a head start on the curriculum. For current year 11 students, it is a good opportunity for them to be certain that they are happy with their A Level or IB subject choices, saving time and hassle once school restarts. Later in year 12, mock exams will determine predicated grades which will later be used as part of their UCAS application, determining which universities your child is able to apply to. Although we don’t know the full impact the Coronavirus will have on future applications and how universities will respond, it is a good opportunity for students to gain an advantage.

For students preparing for university, this would usually be a time of excitement at the prospect of commencing their further education in a subject which is their passion. There is no reason why this cannot be the case and there are many resources they can use to deepen their interest and do wider reading and research. They should take the time to research any recommended reading lists, articles or even films.

For many subjects, the first year of university consists of going over basics to ensure all students coming from different schools are starting on the same page. The prospect of not being in education for the next six months is only going to push their starting point back. Any work they can do now will only help them hit the ground running once the time arrives and will benefit them throughout their degree.

3. Study skills are essential and should be maintained

Throughout their school careers, students build up a range of study skills, as well as academic knowledge. This is not coincidental; schools, from a young age, are preparing their students for the independent learning at university (which can sometimes come as a shock to students!). Students find themselves in a new environment surrounded by news friends and in complete control of their time, needing to find ways to self-motivate for their studies. Without teachers to hold them accountable and be their biggest champions, students have to find their own motivation and study habits, as well as getting used to a new style of writing and presenting ideas. Many students struggle with this, during their first year of university so now is a perfect opportunity for them to get a head of the curve should take control of their learning, not being afraid to ask for help. We think it is imperative that students set aside some time to brush up on these skills ahead of starting the new term. UCAS has prepared a number of useful guides as an excellent starting point for perspective students.

4. The power of routine on wellbeing

This is a challenging time for students, the disruption in their routines and the cancellation of planed school events (leavers events and summer balls) is likely to be weighing down on them. With the announcement on Monday that non-essential shops and restaurants are closing, students will find themselves with a huge amount of spare time on their hands with the prospect of no formal education for six months. An extended period of time with no routine is going to be a tricky challenge to overcome and students should aim to combat this by keeping their brains active. Even if it is not a full school day, we recommend working with your child to establish a routine that works for them (made up of schooling, exercise and virtual socialising) and stick to it. You can read more about creating a routine in our recent blog ‘Simply Learning Tuition’s guide to educating your child at home during Coronavirus’.

5. Grades from teachers remain uncertain

Teachers in the UK are working hard to calculate grades for students, however, much like results days after exams, these will not be made available until the end of July. Ofqual, The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation has outlined that students who dispute the grade awarded by their teachers, will have the opportunity to either appeal their grade or sit optional exams in the summer 2021. Following this guidance from the government, we are recommending that students remain cautious and be prepared to continue with their GCSE or A Level preparation in case they are required to take these exams to proceed to the next stage of their education.

While the next six months will be hugely challenging for students, it is an opportunity to think in the long term and to start preparing to hit the ground running once we return to normality. We firmly believe that education is a tool for wider enrichment and source of curiosity, rather than just a vehicle to pass examinations. Simply Learning Tuition work with tutors who often take on a mentoring role and foster skills beyond academia, ready to pick up where your child’s school have left off.

Finally, in the coming weeks and months we want to do whatever we can to help the families of all the Key Workers who are currently doing so much for all of us, within our communities and our hospitals. If you know anyone who would benefit from our FREE TUITION FOR KEY WORKERS service, please forward the link to them.

If you have any comments or questions about this Advice Page, we would be delighted to answer them.

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