British Columbia

Provincial secondary school exams scheduled for next week postponed until spring

Provincial assessments scheduled to start Monday for students in grades 10 and 12 have been postponed due to staffing shortages, according to the Ministry of Education. 

Most students will write the exams later this year, in April or June

The province is postponing grade 10 and 12 numeracy and literacy assessments until the spring. (Tobias Arhelger/Shutterstock)

Provincial assessments scheduled to start Monday for students in grades 10 and 12 have been postponed due to staffing shortages, according to the Ministry of Education. 

"Over the past few months, the administration of grade 10 to 12 provincial assessments has been impacted significantly by workforce capacity issues related to COVID-19," the ministry said in a statement. 

The numeracy and literacy exams, which were scheduled throughout next week, will be postponed until April and June. 

However, the province is cancelling assessments for Grade 12 students who are graduating early this school year. 

According to the ministry, there are about 150 students who plan on graduating early, meaning after the current semester they would meet the requirements for graduation and would only need their final assessments for their diploma. 

Post-secondary admissions for Grade 12 students will not be impacted, the ministry says.

"No Grade 12 students who are on track to graduate in the 2021-2022 school year will be negatively impacted by this cancellation."

'Huge relief but also mad annoying'

 Abbotsford Senior Secondary School student Mia Gill, who is in Grade 12, describes the decision as, "a huge relief but also mad annoying."

"It feels like we had obstacle after obstacle. And now to cancel this is frustrating because we are just trying to hold on to what we know is still happening."

Student Mia Gill says the exam postponement is a relief but it is also creating further uncertainty amid the unpredictability of a pandemic. (Mia Gill )

She says the announcement was a surprise and is frustrating for students who have worked hard to prepare for the January exams, keeping university applications in mind. 

"There's a really big sort of hype surrounding taking the provincial exams, and a lot of people consider it as a really big deal."

However, Gill said she is relieved because she can focus on other pressing coursework. 

Teachers frustrated

While pandemic challenges are understandable, the timing is problematic, says Nicole Jarvis, a teacher at École Salish Secondary School in Surrey. 

"It's exasperating more than anything else," she said. 

"When decisions are made so last-minute like this, it becomes hard for us to feel confidence in that ministry," she said. 

Jarvis is a social studies teacher and says a lot of planning goes into provincial assessments.

This includes arranging practice tests, discussing test anxiety, finding spaces for hundreds of students to have access to computers, and helping students arrange schedules for their exams. 

"It takes a tremendous amount of energy to manage the logistics for these kinds of ministry assessments," she says. 

Teri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, said the federation was not consulted about the decision, but cancelling January assessments is a responsible move.

Educators say they understand concerns about COVID-19 and staffing but the announcement's last-minute timing was problematic. (CBC)

"We also have the reality in B.C. that we have a very significant teacher and education assistance shortage … there just aren't a lot of people to fill in for when people within the education system get sick," said Mooring. 

However, she said communication about the change was poorly executed. The education field is already grappling with a "high level of stress right now" due to the pandemic, says Mooring.

"Ideally, you certainly do give families and students more notice than a couple days," she said.

"There are certain preparations that happen in anticipation of these assessments as well. And I'm not sure why the notice was so short."

The province says schools will remain open to students during the assessment period.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Baneet Braich

CBC Journalist

Baneet Braich is a journalist with CBC News. Connect with her at baneet.braich@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @Baneet_Braich

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