Exams scheduled for a Saturday have raised concerns among students and a teachers’ union over school work encroaching on extra-curricular activities and well-being.
Mt Albert Grammar School has scheduled its scholarship English and calculus mock exams for Saturday, September 9.
One student said the decision was causing “widespread distress and frustration among students and their families” who had work, sport and family commitments that would clash with exams held on weekends.
Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) acting president Chris Abercrombie echoed those thoughts, saying the union had “serious concerns” about the impact on teachers and students.
But Mt Albert Grammar School acting headmaster Jo Williams said the decision was made so that the school could offer two extra days of teaching to make up some of the time lost because of weather events and industrial action that had interrupted schools this year.
The student said he was concerned the decision to hold the exams on a Saturday could jeopardise the employment of students who would need to take the day off and put “undue strain” on families where students had significant family duties.
He said the scheduling also placed no regard on the well-being of students who used the weekend to rest after a busy week of school.
“This unjust decision has been made without any consideration for the personal lives, work commitments and other responsibilities of the students,” he told the Herald.
“By occupying this free time with exams, the school is not considering the mental well-being of the students.”
The student did not believe it was fair or reasonable for the school to require students to sit exams outside school hours.
“This issue is not just about one examination but reflects a deeper disregard for the lives and concerns of students.”
PPTA acting president Chris Abercrombie says he is concerned about exams being held on weekends. Photo / Supplied.
Abercrombie said there were several implications the school would need to work through before requiring teachers or students to attend weekend exams.
“We don’t want to see this initiative becoming more frequent or widespread – families have a lot of commitments and time pressures already and we don’t believe it would be healthy for students or their families to have curricular activities encroaching on the weekend. Everyone needs a break at the weekend to relax, refresh and revitalise.”
He agreed there was the potential for issues with students who played sport or had part-time jobs on Saturdays. The school would also need to think about transport for students who usually travelled on a school bus.
As for teachers, there needed to be agreement from staff and a corresponding reduction in work or time off if they were expected to supervise the exams, Abercrombie said. Alternatively, schools could employ other people, such as retired teachers, to supervise.
Williams said running exams on a Saturday was not standard practice, although that had happened with scholarship exams during Covid.
“Scholarship exams are the extra exams that are layered across the timetable and that have fewer students sitting. Many students sit three, four or five, and some even six or seven, scholarship papers so to squeeze these into an already shortened exam period puts extra pressure on students – hence the opportunity to sit these on a Saturday morning.”
There could also be the possibility of catch-up opportunities on the weekend for students who missed other exams, she said.
She was not aware of any concerns being raised about it and said students who had other commitments could reschedule their exam for another day.
Amy Wiggins is an Auckland-based reporter who covers education. She joined the Herald in 2017 and has worked as a journalist for 12 years.
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