For the second year running, the government’s decision to cancel GCSEs and A-Levels has been met with an outpouring of mixed emotions from students, parents and teachers alike.

Following months of assurance by the government that it was committed to examinations taking place, schools in England have now been informed that grades will instead be calculated by teachers, in a similar format to last year.

Many pupils, however, have questioned the fairness of this process, with others frustrated over the sudden change in policy, particularly since students in other parts of the country made clear cut decisions, with students given advance notice of the changes. 

‘It’s an unspoken thing, really, but I think in the run up to exam season there’s definitely a sudden rush to work for the grades you want’, said Kiana Mirrazavi, a student in Year 11. ‘We were told that we would take our exams in the summer, so we worked with that in mind. It seems completely unfair to judge us based on tests and pieces of work we assumed wouldn’t really matter.’

Others have admitted feeling ‘exasperated’ and ‘disconcerted’ by the government’s sudden U-turn. Eva Slocombe-Rulf, a GCSE student at a West London school, said she felt ‘stressed about making up grades’ in the coming months, and additionally described her sympathy for teachers: ‘our teachers don’t know any more than us, so they can’t tell us anything we don’t already know.’

Yet ambiguity still exists over whether some forms of exams will actually be taken. iGCSEs, International versions of GCSEs taken by students in many public schools, have yet to be cancelled. Meanwhile, neither the government nor OFQUAL have offered much information as to how internally assessed grades will be awarded. As such, schools are being forced to plan for the coming months with very clarity on what lies ahead.

Ultimately, as one teacher described it, there is now ‘great uncertainty and anxiety’ surrounding GCSEs, with teachers finding it ‘hard to reassure’ their students. It is unclear how long this disarray will continue for, or indeed when further information will be provided by the government. The universal hope, however, remains that students will receive the grades they have worked so hard to get.