GCSE and A-level exams in England cancelled in 2021, Government confirms

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This summer’s GCSE and A-level exams in England have been cancelled.

Exams regulator Ofqual and the Department for Education (DfE) will work together to consider how to grade pupils in a way that reflects their hard work, the department said.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is due to outline to MPs on Wednesday, January 6, a package of support for young people following the closure of schools and college to all but vulnerable children and those of key workers.

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Ahead of the statement in the Commons, the DfE said it recognises this is “an anxious time for students who have been working hard towards their exams”.

GCSEs and A-levels cancelled as third lockdown begins. Picture by David Davies/PA WireGCSEs and A-levels cancelled as third lockdown begins. Picture by David Davies/PA Wire
GCSEs and A-levels cancelled as third lockdown begins. Picture by David Davies/PA Wire

It added: “The Government position is that we will not be asking students to sit GCSE and A-levels.

“Working alongside Ofqual, the department will consult on how to award all pupils a grade that reflects the hard work they’ve done and will continue to do.”

In a televised address on Monday, Boris Johnson acknowledged that shutting schools meant “it’s not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer, as normal”.

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In a statement, Mr Williamson said: “It is now vital that we support our young people at home, including making sure all students are receiving the best possible remote education, and that those students who were due to take exams can still progress to their next stage of education or training.”

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said there is no “perfect solution to assessment arrangements for Year 11 and Year 13 pupils given the current course of the virus” and acknowledged there is a range of views across the education sector and “many students will be disappointed to lose the opportunity to put their learning to the test through traditional exams”.

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He added: “It is now for the Government and Ofqual to work with education professionals to produce a fair system of assessment that will reward all our young people with the grades they deserve.”

Despite facing calls to cancel this month’s Btec exams in light of the lockdown, the Government has left it to school and college leaders to decide whether they want to go ahead with the vocational exam series.

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The decision came after ministers faced calls to cancel the January exams.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has declined to guarantee that all children in England will be back in classrooms before the summer holidays.

But the Prime Minister said he is full of “optimism and fundamental hope” that things will be different in the spring.

All pupils – except children of key workers and vulnerable pupils – have moved to remote education until February half-term.

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School leaders have said they are expecting a high turnout of children of key workers and vulnerable pupils onsite amid the national lockdown in England.

Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Charitable Trust – which has 53 schools across England, said heads were preparing for a greater number of pupils to turn up to school on Wednesday than in the lockdown in March as more children were classed as vulnerable and more parents who were key workers wanted a place.

The Government guidance now says vulnerable children may include “pupils who may have difficulty engaging with remote education at home”.

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