GCSE and A-level exams could be pushed back next year to give pupils more time to study, the Education Secretary has said.

Gavin Williamson said England’s exams regulator, Ofqual, was working with the education sector to decide whether there should be a “short delay” to the exam timetable in 2021.

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Exams could be pushed back to June or July next year[/caption]

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson[/caption]

The possible delay would be due to the fact that students missed out on most in-person teaching this year since schools closed in March due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Williamson told the Daily Telegraph: “I know there’s some concern about next year’s exams, and that’s why we’ve been working with Ofqual on changes we can make to help pupils when they take GCSEs and A-levels next year.

“Ofqual will continue to work with the education sector and other stakeholders on whether there should be a short delay to the GCSE, A and AS-level exam timetable in 2021, with the aim of creating more teaching time.”

Exam season usually begins in May, but the paper said sources suggested they could be pushed back to June and July – but they would not cut into the summer holidays.


Mr Williamson’s comments – on the eve of many schools in England reopening to all pupils for the first time since March – follow a call from Labour for a delay to next year’s exams.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said pupils entering Year 11 and 13 who have lost up to six months of teaching time face “a mountain to climb” unless the timetable is changed.

She said: “Pupils across the country who have missed out on vital teaching time will have a mountain to climb to prepare for May exams unless the government steps in.

“Ministers had warning after warning about problems with this year’s exam results, but allowed it to descend into a fiasco.

Secondary school students with their GCSE results at Kingsdale Foundation school in south London[/caption]

“This is too important for Boris Johnson to leave until the last minute. Pupils heading back to school need clarity and certainty about the year ahead.”

Ofqual announced earlier this month that it needed more time to decide whether it would recommend an exam delay, though the decision ultimately depends on the Government.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Labour’s suggestion of a delay to help with ‘catch-up’ is worthy of serious consideration.

“A delay is not without its problems, a consequential delay to the publication of results will put pressure on higher education providers such as universities and colleges as well as employers. All this will need to be dealt with.”

A sixth form student speaks on the phone after receiving her A-Level results at The Crossley Heath Grammar School in Halifax[/caption]

Many headteachers are calling for exams to be moved from May to July to give students time to catch up. 

David Benson, head of Kensington Aldridge Academy, said: “I support moving the 2021 exams back.

“The timing of the exams was raised in the consultation Ofqual did, but in their consultation response document they said they are yet to reach a decision.

“It would be helpful if they could confirm the timing soon.

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“The extra teaching weeks would help if the exams were June/July 2021, instead of May/June, and I imagine other heads feel the same.”

Exams were cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but A-Levels and GCSE students received a calculated grade instead.

Ahead of schools reopening in England tomorrow, Mr Williamson called on the “whole nation” to get behind the millions of children returning and “help them learn, play and be kids again”, The Telegraph reported.

Exams were cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic[/caption]


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