THE family of a North Yorkshire teenager who is undergoing cancer treatment is looking to alter the rules surrounding GCSEs after the schoolgirl is being forced to complete her exams while she’s laid in hospital ill.

Over the next few months, year 11 student at Northallerton High School, Grace Sanderson, should be sitting all her GCSE exams.

But, instead, she currently lies in Newcastle RVI after the teenager was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia on March 11, 2022 – where she spends most of her time.

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Despite starting chemotherapy on March 14, and having to spend 16 days within intensive care, the teen has been told by the exam board that, even though she has sat two full sets of mock exams, if she is too poorly to sit her exams, she won’t get any grades.  

Following the decision of the exam board to “force” exams on to their daughter, Grace’s mum, Emma Sanderson, has launched a petition to try and force change for children too ill to sit exams across the UK.

It so far has 2,500 signatures only 24 hours on from it going live online.

The Northern Echo: Grace Sanderson. Picture: EMMA SANDERSON.Grace Sanderson. Picture: EMMA SANDERSON.

Speaking to The Northern Echo, Mrs Sanderson has highlighted how “incensed” she is with the reasoning from educational agencies – who have cited that they “understand” the situation but aren’t prepared to move on their stance.

She said: “We’ve got in touch with education bosses, Rishi Sunak MP, and it’s no use. Grace is made to feel like it’s her fault and like it’s her choice to miss the exams.

“She’s spent 16 days in ICU and only six days at home since March – surely some common sense and leniency can prevail?

“It shouldn’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach for kids.

The Northern Echo: Grace with her family. Picture: EMMA SANDERSON.Grace with her family. Picture: EMMA SANDERSON.

“We’ve been told that they can apply post-exam measures, but they can’t go off mock exams or coursework, even though they’ve done it throughout the pandemic.  

“She tried to sit a biology exam on Tuesday in the hospital, but she could barely hold a pen and keep her eyes open, let alone do an exam for a few hours.”

Despite her family’s frustrations with the system, Mrs Sanderson is “heartened” by the response of her campaign, which she believes shows the strength of support for this change.

She added: “Grace’s school has shown a lot of support to her, but it’s not backed up in how the education boards act.

The Northern Echo: Grace spent 16 days in ICU. Picture: EMMA SANDERSON.Grace spent 16 days in ICU. Picture: EMMA SANDERSON.

“It’s a horrible situation Grace finds herself in.”

“We ask that the exam boards consider individual circumstances and award fair teacher assessed grades as they did throughout covid.

“We are not asking them to do anything which has not been tried and tested and feel that our daughter and other teenagers in similar situations should not be penalised for having cancer.”

In response to the Sanderson’s concerns, the Minister of State at the Department for Education, Robin Walker MP, has sent a letter to the family – expressing his understanding but laying out the rules for ill children sitting exams.

In a letter shared with The Northern Echo, Mr Walker writes that he’s sorry that Grace is in the situation she is in and explains about post-exam measures that can help.

However, he goes on to say that “Rules are in place for the provision of exams, and exceptional circumstances will be taken into account.”

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