13th October 2020: England has announced that the upcoming A-levels and GCSE exams will take place, however, with reduced content for some subjects and a start date pushed back by three weeks.
In an attempt to compensate for the lost teaching time, most exams will begin from 7 June.
Headteachers are accusing ministers of an “inadequate response” to the scale of disruption faced by pupils and teachers.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson explained that further back-up plans would be decided later for “all scenarios”.
Exams are the fairest way of judging performance.
We’re giving students and teachers the certainty that exams will go ahead in 2021 with more time to prepare plus support from the Covid Catch Up Fund. pic.twitter.com/eoGyrqJCfY
— Gavin Williamson (@GavinWilliamson) October 12, 2020
The Department for Education states that it expects vocational qualifications to align accordingly with this changed timetable.
The promised “contingency measures” will address how exams will be further adapted in the face of local lockdowns and if exams cannot go ahead as planned.
However, headteachers are expressing their anger over the lack of a decision regarding those contingency plans and are confused about what information they should be gathering in case exams are cancelled again and grades have to be estimated.
The delayed start date – proposed by ministers in June – was described by heads’ union leader Geoff Barton as of “marginal benefit” compared with the amount of lost teaching time from the pandemic.
He said it had “taken an eternity” for the government’s response, which still did not address how these exams will be fair for pupils who faced different levels of disruption.
Students expected to appear for their exams this year have already 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.
The modifications to exams will be those previously put forward by the Ofqual qualifications watchdog, which Mr. Barton, leader of the ASCL headteachers’ union, who described it as “only tinkering at the edges”.
These modifications include removing field trips from geography and reducing the areas needed to be covered for English literature.
Teachers’ unions had suggested that questions should be structured differently next year – such as providing more options so that students are able to answer a question on a topic they had studied, regardless of the amount of course their school had managed to cover.
Mr. Williamson announced that result days for A-levels and GCSEs next year will be in the same week – 24 August for A-levels and 27 August for GCSEs.
The universities minister has also said that universities can change their autumn term dates to accommodate school exams being pushed back.
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