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Gavin Williamson Has Confirmed GCSE and A-Level Exams Will Be Cancelled This Year

4 min read

GCSE and A-Level exams will be cancelled for all pupils in England this summer as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Commons pupils would instead be offered teacher assessed grades based on their work rather than using the failed algorithm system which saw exam results thrown into chaos last year.

Mr Williamson said the decision to force the closure of schools in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus meant it was "not possible" to hold the exams over the summer, but that the final details of how the assessment process would work was being "fine tuned" with exams regulator, Ofqual.

Meanwhile, Williamson announced that state schools in England would still be ordered to provide between 4-5 hours of online teaching for pupils during the lockdown to ensure they could continue their studies.

Announcing the changes in a Commons statement, Mr Williamson said: "Although exams are the fairest way of assessing what a student knows, the impact of this pandemic now means that it is not possible to have these exams this year.

"I can confirm that GCSE, A Level and AS Level Exams will not go ahead this summer. This year we are going to put our trust in teachers rather than algorithms.

"The Department and Ofqual had already worked up a range of contingency options. While the details will have to be fine tuned in consultation with Ofqual, the exam boards and teaching representative organisations, I can confirm now I wish to use a form of teacher assessed grades with training and support to ensure these are awarded fairly and consistently across the country."

But Mr Williamson said exams for vocational and technical qualifications could still go ahead this month, provided colleges and schools felt it was "right to do so".

"I know students and staff have worked hard to prepare for the January exams and assessments for technical and vocational qualifications and we want to allow schools and colleges to continue with these assessments where they judge it is right to do so," he added.

"No college should feel pressure to offer these and we will ensure all students are able to progress fairly, just as we will with VTQs in the summer."

The Education Secretary also pledged extra funding to support the free school meals programme, claiming that pupils unable to access the programme through their school would be provided with vouchers.

"I know there is understandable concern about free school meals," he said.

"We are going to provide extra funding to support schools to provide food parcels or meals to eligible children. Where schools cannot provide food parcels or use local solutions, we will ensure a national voucher scheme is in place to ensure every eligible child can access free school meals while school's are closed."

His comments come after a series of government U-turns over school closures, with the order to shut them coming just hours after many pupils had returned for their first day.

But speaking on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said while the government was being "extremely cautious" about the timetable for easing restrictions that schools would be the "very first things to reopen".

"I know many people will ask whether the decision on schools could have been reached sooner and the answer is that we’ve been doing everything in our power to keep them open because children’s education is too vital and their futures too precious to be disrupted and until every other avenue, every other option has been closed off, and every other course of action has been taken", he said.

"That's why schools were the very last thing to close as I’ve long promised that they would be and when we begin to move out of lockdown I promise that they will be the very first things to reopen.

"That moment may come after the February half-term although we should remain extremely cautious about the timetable ahead, and as was the case last spring, our emergence from the lockdown cocoon will not be a big bang but a gradual unwrapping."

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