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'More needs to be done' for students sitting exams next year

Discussions have been raised to push GCSE and A Level exams back by three weeks next summer, which has been widely supported by schools across Peterborough – but there is still a long way to go until things are "back to normal" for students.
More needs to be done to support exam students in Peterborough this year (photo: Pixabay)

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said that most exams in summer 2021 will be delayed by three weeks to give students more time to catch up on their studies. 

The exams, which usually begin in May, will be delayed to June and July – apart from the English and Maths GCSEs which will take place before the half-term.

GCSE and A-level results will be given out to students in the same week in August following the change, Mr Williamson announced.

The announcement has been well-received by educators across the UK, though it is vital for students to have further contingency plans in place.

Mark Woods, Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust, said: "It is important that young people have every opportunity to sit the exams they have prepared for next summer, wherever it is possible and safe to do so.

"Clearly the government and OFQUAL also need to plan for how to fairly address the issue of the learning and teaching time that has already been lost, or may be lost in future as a result of disruption caused by Covid-19.

"Monday's announcement of a slight delay to the exam schedule next summer goes some of the way to providing clarity, but more needs to be done and students and schools look forward to greater details and contingency plans emerging in the coming weeks."

The announcement to make adjustments to when exams are sat comes after education unions accused ministers of an "inadequate response" to the scale of disruption that students due to take exams next year are facing. 

In a written ministerial statement on Monday, Mr Williamson said: "We know that exams are the fairest way of measuring a student’s abilities and accomplishments, including the most disadvantaged.

"We want to give our young people the opportunity next summer to demonstrate what they know and can do."

Dame Glenys Stacey, interim chief regulator of Ofqual, said the three-week delay would "optimise the time now available" for teachers to help pupils to catch up with their learning.

She added: "Of course, we will need contingency plans. We are discussing with government, exam boards and the sector, the detail of that – taking into account the risk of disruption at an individual, local and regional level."

This past year, students were unable to take their exams and many were subsequently marked lower than their predicted grades, before the government changed the assessment criteria. 

However, the government are striving to ensure that all students take their exams this year, though slightly delayed in comparison.