“If you run exams in the morning because of this, you may be disadvantaging a non-Muslim pupil who then has two exams in one day rather than one.” But who cares about them? This is the brave new Submissive Britannia, eager as always to accommodate its new Muslim masters! Why doesn’t the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Union add to its agenda a discussion about making girls sit in the back of the class, so as not to offend Muslims? “Bid to bring forward GCSEs so Muslim pupils aren’t fasting for Ramadan while they take their exams,” by Julie Hendry for the Daily Mail, April 5 (thanks to Joe):
GCSE and A-level examinations could be brought forward for hundreds of thousands of pupils to avoid a clash with Ramadan under controversial proposals.
Teachers and lecturers in England and Wales are pushing for the summer exam timetable to be altered to help Muslim students who will be fasting when they sit papers.
School exam boards and universities are considering the radical shake-up from 2016, when the religious period of Ramadan clashes with the exam season.
One option is to hold some exams earlier within the usual May-June exam season. Another is for fasting Muslim students to be eligible for extra marks under ‘special consideration’ rules if they believe their performance has been affected.
The holy period in the Islamic calendar, which requires Muslims to fast during daylight hours, starts to fall earlier and earlier in the summer from next year, progressively clashing with the exam season in June.
The clash also coincides with Michael Gove’s return to O-level style exams, which are taken at the end of the two-year course rather than at intervals throughout it – making the summer exams the only chance to do well.
This month, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Union (ATL) conference will debate how to ‘minimise the impact’ on Muslim pupils.
Barry Lingard, who is on the ATL executive committee, said: ‘The consequences are quite huge, particularly with the return to three-hour exams at the end of the course in the summer.
If some of the big vital exams like English and maths could be rescheduled for before Ramadan kicks in, that would certainly be supported by the majority of teachers.’
Ofqual, the exam watchdog, and the Joint Council for Qualifications, which represents the main three exam boards, have met with Muslim groups to discuss the issue.
Another suggestion is to run exams in the morning, when pupils are less likely to be hungry and tired, rather than the afternoon.
The government-funded Equality Challenge Unit, which advises higher education, said exam time-tables should be overhauled.
‘Institutions should be prepared to consider significant adjustments to their exam schedules and think creatively about assessment methods in order to eliminate disadvantage to particular groups,’ it said.
Muslim undergraduates at university are also affected by the clash of dates. At the University of East Anglia in Norwich, they have already been told: ‘Where a student feels that fasting has affected their performance, this should be submitted as an extenuating circumstance.’
But Chris McGovern, a former head teacher and spokesman for the Campaign for Real Education, said children had been coping with exams for decades in many different circumstances.
‘Where there is scope for some flexibility the exam boards should exercise it, but I don’t think it is realistic for a board to rearrange their timetable to fit in with a minority religion, or any religion for that matter,’ he said.
‘If you run exams in the morning because of this, you may be disadvantaging a non-Muslim pupil who then has two exams in one day rather than one.’