GCSE and A Level exams to be delayed

Education: Secondary / Mon 12th Oct 2020 at 12:36pm

MOST GCSE and A level exams will be pushed back by three weeks in 2021 to give students more time to prepare, the government has announced today.

Almost all exams will begin on 7 June and end on July 2, a statement from education secretary Gavin Williamson will state today, backed by prime minister Boris Johnson. 

School leaders have called for a “Plan B” in case the pandemic makes it impossible to take exams.

Most exams will now start from 7 June, rather than mid-May, in an attempt to make up for lost teaching time.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said back-up plans will be produced later this term for “all scenarios”.

“Exams are the fairest way of judging a student’s performance so they will go ahead, underpinned by contingency measures developed in partnership with the sector,” said Mr Williamson.

“Students have experienced considerable disruption and it’s right we give them, and their teachers, the certainty that exams will go ahead and more time to prepare,” he said.

The modifications to exams will be those previously put forward by the Ofqual qualifications watchdog – which were rejected by head teachers’ leaders as “only tinkering at the edges”.

These included removing field trips from geography and reducing the areas needed to be covered for English literature.

The announcement from Mr Williamson also says that results days for A-levels and GCSEs will be on the same week – 24 August for A-levels and 27 August for GCSEs.

The universities minister has already said that universities could change their autumn term dates if they needed to accommodate school exams being pushed back.

After this summer’s problems with providing replacement grades for cancelled exams, England’s education secretary has repeatedly called for the 2021 exams to go ahead as written papers.

But students will already have lost months of teaching time – and many are still facing further disruption, with almost one in five secondary schools sending home pupils because of Covid cases.

School leaders and teachers’ unions have warned about the lack of time to cover exam courses – and challenged whether exams can be fair when students in different parts of the country will have faced different levels of disruption to school.

In the face of the unpredictability of what lies ahead with the pandemic, school leaders have pressed for clarity over what information they might be expected to gather if exams are subsequently cancelled and grades again have to be estimated.

The statement from the education secretary includes a promise of contingency plans – but with no details so far of what that might involve.

The announcement for England is a less radical approach than Scotland, where last week exams for National 5 qualifications were cancelled, replacing them with teacher assessments and course work, while still going ahead with Higher exams.

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