Three-week delay on most exams in England next year, says government

Next year’s exams will go ahead in England but most will be delayed for three weeks to allow schools additional teaching time, the government has announced.

Education secretary, Gavin Williamson, confirmed GCSEs and A-levels would be held in the summer. Small curriculum adjustments have already been outlined by the qualifications regulator, Ofqual.

Three-week delay on most exams in England next year, says government

Mr Williamson said: "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.

"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."

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union said that the decision is 'cruel'.

“Today’s announcement amounts to a dereliction of duty by government to pupils, parents and education professionals.”

The delayed start date - proposed by ministers in June - has been described by Geoff Barton, head teachers union leader, as a "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 he warned still did not address how exams could be a level playing field for pupils who had faced different levels of disruption.

Headteachers have been calling for students to be given more topic choice in exams, to take into account the fact they will not have been able to cover all the curriculum.

The summer exam series will start on 7 June 2021 and end on 2 July for almost all AS/A-levels and GCSEs. Vocational and technical qualifications will also be moved back.

Results for both GCSEs and A/AS-levels will be held in the same week for the first time, with A and AS-level results on Tuesday 24 August and GCSEs on Friday 27 August, enabl ing students to start the following academic year as normal.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government said it would not hold exams for its National 5 qualification, its equivalent of GCSEs, and would instead award grades using a new system of school assessments. The timetable for Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers – the equivalent of A-levels – will be delayed.

A-level, AS and GCSE exams in Northern Ireland will start one week later in 2021 but will still finish by 30 June. Schools have been told to keep evidence of pupils’ progress in case it is needed as part of contingency arrangements.