School exam timetables should avoid clashes with Ramadan

Exam chiefs should review the GCSE and A-level timetables to avoid clashes with Ramadan that could jeopardise Muslim students’ grades, teachers have warned.

Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is marked by Muslims across the world with fasting from sunrise to sunset. From 2014, the 30-day period will fall progressively more in exam season, leaving students to sit tests when they have not eaten or drunk for up to nine hours.

Teachers fear that as coursework has become less important under education reforms, students’ grades become more dependent upon their exam performance – that may mean that Muslim students’ grades will suffer. Abdul Choudhury, a teacher from Tower Hamlets, said: “I have no doubt whatsoever that standards will be affected by this. We work so hard to get students that extra mark – if they go into exams without any water or food it will have an impact.”

Delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ (ATL) annual conference on Wednesday passed a motion to raise awareness of the issue, while ATL has been in discussion with the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents exam boards, to see what help can be given to Muslim students.

Michael Turner, director of JCQ said: “We are consulting on the examination timetable and we’ll be looking at the impact of Ramadan.”

Barry Lingard, a teacher from Bolton, said there was little that schools could do to help: “We cannot issue blanket guidance, some students would prefer to take exams in the morning, after they have got up early for the meal before dawn and their blood sugar levels are more stable. Others say they would prefer to sleep after the pre-dawn meal and then get up to do exams.

“Early planning with input from religious leaders and groups will help institutions to address the needs of religious students and ensure that no one is unreasonably disadvantaged.”

Source: The Guardian

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