Shropshire education charity calls for rethink on plans to scrap fieldwork from exams

Plans to scrap fieldwork from GCSE and A-level exams for a further year are ‘flawed’ and will perpetuate an ‘unnecessary cycle’ of lost learning and opportunity for pupils, a leading Shropshire environmental education charity has warned.

The Field Studies Council, which is headquartered at Preston Montford, near Shrewsbury, and welcomes 150,000 school pupils each year to its network of UK residential field centres, said proposals by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) were ‘out of kilter’ with national educational recovery efforts and risked irreversible damage to the outdoor education sector.

Ofqual is currently analysing feedback from a two-week consultation on proposals to lift the mandatory requirement for fieldwork in subjects such as GCSE, AS and A-level geography for another year to cover summer 2022 exams.

The regulator has said that due to public health restrictions, it might be difficult for schools and teachers to arrange opportunities for fieldwork.

However, Mark Castle, FSC’s chief executive, has called on the regulator to reverse its thinking.

Mark Castle

He has also written to MPs nationally to highlight the charity’s concerns and gain support.

“This flawed, clumsy approach takes no account of the radically different public health situation compared to a year ago," he said.

"Sadly, the proposals perpetuate unnecessarily the cycle of disadvantage and bake in yet more lost opportunities and missed experiences that are a core part of a subject.

“They continue the damage caused by Covid for a cohort that has already missed out on so much learning.

"They all but guarantee that learners emerge without some of the skills and knowledge needed for work or further study, compared to cohorts less impacted by Covid.

“Ofqual’s proposal is out of kilter with the national recovery, the government’s aim to make the route out of lockdown irreversible, the urgent need to help learners catch up and public health guidance on the importance of fresh air.”

The charity, which has been providing outdoor education for more than 75 years, has taken significant measures to ensure its centres can undertake Covid-secure fieldwork and host school residential trips safely.

Since restrictions eased on May 17, FSC has successfully welcomed 150 different schools back to its sites in England.

However, Mr Castle says if Ofqual continues to push its plans through, it would undermine the recovery of the sector and place considerable financial pressure on the future of the charity and its ability to support some of society’s most disadvantaged children in the future.

The consultation period by Ofqual ended on May 28 and feedback from schools, teachers and other organisations impacted by the changes are being reviewed.

As well as changes to geography fieldwork, the plans include adjustments to non exam-based assessments in other subjects, including English language, design technology, modern languages, dance, music and drama.

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