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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Students hit out at 'guinea pig' status
sarah beer
Sarah Beer: "I think pupils will suffer"
Sixth formers say they have been used as guinea pigs over the new AS-level examinations.

Students accused the government of rushing through changes to the curriculum with little consideration of the likely workload and stress.


I am now about to take my seventh exam in the space of a week

Holly Wellesley-Garnham
Teachers were ill-prepared for the new AS-level syllabuses - brought in this year - adding to the confusion and pressure, they claim.

The students feel especially victimised because theirs is the same year group that was the first to experience the national curriculum and the first to have to sit national tests at the age of seven.

Sarah Pyke e-mailed BBC News Online to say: "I cannot believe that once again our year has been the 'guinea pigs' of a failed system.

"I have worked myself so hard this year that I have become ill, working from 8.30am to 11pm nearly every night.

"I am so stressed out about these exams that my health is starting to suffer and I am furious that the government are only just realising."

Holly Wellesley-Garnham from Wymondham College wrote: "These AS-levels were rushed and not properly thought out before they landed them on us".

"This is going to affect many students' university entries and jeopardise their chances of achieving the grades needed."

Seven exams a week

Holly said she was overloaded with study.

"I am now about to take my seventh exam in the space of a week, putting the effort into revising four subjects and next year dropping an AS-level and taking up a new AS-level, along with general studies.


I think they've been a disaster this year, because the government hasn't really thought about them properly

Rosie Williams
"The pressure is only going to get worse, there are going to be many disappointments when the results envelopes are opened on the 16th of August," she warned.

"Why does it take three terms and get to the point where we are all taking our exams for the government to realise the vast amounts of struggling suffered by the guinea pig year of AS levels?"

Teachers were just as much in the dark as the students, she said.

Timetable clashes

"Not only are the students totally unprepared for these reforms, but the training undergone and the lack of preparation for the teachers is just as bad as what the students are suffering."

Sarah Beer is one of those who - because two of her exams were scheduled to take place at the same time - has had to spend a night in "isolation" at the home of a teacher, then sit one of the exams on her own the following day.

"I think pupils will suffer because of this because some people don't cope with pressure as well as others," she said.

Asking people to perform to their best ability in such a short space of time is undoubtedly going to make them stressed and probably not do as well as they could do."

'Enormous pressure'

Sixth former Sukhjit Saini, 17, e-mailed BBC News Online saying she and her peers were studying under enormous pressure and felt highly stressed.

They were being used as "educational guinea pigs", Sukhjit said.

"It is comforting to know that we are not suffering in silence and that the media is beginning to realise the negative aspects of the new system," she said.

'Overpowering workload'

AS-level student, Rosie Williams, 16, from Woldgate School in north Yorkshire said: "I think they've been a disaster this year, because the government hasn't really thought about them properly".


Asking people to perform to their best ability in such a short space of time is undoubtedly going to make them stressed

Sarah Beer
"There's been an overpowering workload, so much work to do, so many exams that it leaves little time for anything else," she said.

She called on the government to cut down on the workload or make the syllabuses more specific for next year.

"The teachers don't seem to have a very clear understanding of it because everything's all a bit confused at the moment," she said.

Exam clashes

Sarah Beer, from John Leggott Sixth Form College in Scunthorpe, is one of many students affected by an exam timetable clash.

This meant she had to stay overnight at a teacher's house and sit one of the exams in isolation the next day.

Sarah said many of her peers were struggling with the intensity of the curriculum.

"I think pupils will suffer because of this - some people don't cope with pressure as well as others.

"Asking people to perform to their best ability in such a short space of time is undoubtedly going to make them stressed and they'll probably not do as well as they could do," she said.

The new Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, has ordered a review of the way the changes have been implemented.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mike Baker
"Students... feel they have been treated as guinea pigs"
The BBC's James Westhead
"The main problems are AS levels"
AS-level student Rosie Williams
gives her response to the exams
See also:

12 Jun 01 | UK Education
11 Jun 01 | UK Education
06 Jun 01 | UK Education
25 May 01 | UK Education
02 Jun 01 | UK Education
30 May 01 | UK Education
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