Thousands of pupils will sit common entrance exams this week – the only national exam to be held during the coronavirus pandemic.
The CE papers are the only national exams to go ahead this year during the coronavirus pandemic. All other exams, including GCSEs and A levels, have been cancelled.
Durell Barnes, the chair of the Independent Schools Examination Board, said that this week 4,600 pupils – 75 per cent of the number that would normally sit common entrance exams – would be completing them at home.
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"They’re sitting it at home, and obviously there are limitations as to what can be done there so they have arrangements with their schools – schools dispatch the papers to them by post or electronically," Mr Barnes said.
He added that parents and pupils would need to sign a declaration form confirming that the exam had been completed under timed conditions "properly and with probity".
"You can’t [monitor controlled conditions] and that’s why there’s a declaration to sign," he said.
"They can’t be done with a camera on them showing whether they’re doing them or being assisted, because there isn’t the technological backup for that."
Mr Barnes said senior schools did not only rely on the common entrance exam itself, and also received letters from pupils' prep school headteachers assessing their past performance.
"Obviously any disparity in past performance could be commented on. But the key thing is there’s a declaration to be signed that it’s done under exam conditions as far as that’s possible on a home basis," he said.
"Many of the pupils who take CE have taken a CE pre-test, either the year or two years’ before that and have been given a place at the senior school they’re going to, conditional on doing well at common entrance," he added.
"It’s very unusual that common entrance overrides that earlier assessment. It’s usually a confirmation of what was achieved at that stage."
Some prep schools appeared to have brought pupils back into school this week in order to sit the tests.
Fantastic to see some of our Y8 pupils again this week, as they sit their Common Entrance exams. Thank you to two of our lovely mums for these photos and good luck to all! pic.twitter.com/hEnaXrwe8c— St Michael's Prep (@StMichaels_Prep) June 3, 2020
At St Michael's Prep in Kent, Year 8 pupils had gone into school to sit the exams.
However, Wellesley House School, also in Kent, said its pupils would be sitting the exams at home.
Our Block 1 pupils are currently hard at work taking their Common Entrance exam...at home. After 2 years preparing for these exams, we know their hard work, talent and determination will bring them good fortune, wherever they take it. Wishing them all our best. #commonentrance pic.twitter.com/8gyW16Wldf— Wellesley House (@WellesleySchool) June 3, 2020