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Wed, 30 September 2020

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Next year's exams could be pushed back to allow pupils to catch up, says Education Secretary

Next year's exams could be pushed back to allow pupils to catch up, says Education Secretary

Gavin Williamson suggested exams next year could be pushed back to help pupils catch up after the pandemic (PA)

2 min read

Following the A Level and GCSE fiasco next year’s exams could be pushed back to help pupils catch up with the syllabus after the coronavirus disruption, the Education Secretary has suggested.

Gavin Williamson said England's exams regulator, Ofqual, was looking at whether there should be a "short delay" to the timetable, after a survey suggested the majority of students will be three months behind in their studies when they return to classrooms this week.

He 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."

While exams usually get underway in May, they could be postponed to June and July - something Labour has been calling for.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said pupils entering Year 11 and 13 this week face "a mountain to climb" after missing out on months of schooling due to the pandemic.

She said: "Ministers had warning after warning about problems with this year's exam results, but allowed it to descend into a fiasco.

"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."

It comes after a poll of nearly 3,000 school leaders and teachers found 98% felt students were not as far along with their learning as would normally be expected at the end of the 2019/20 school year.

Almost a quarter believed boys had fallen further behind than girls according to the National Foundation for Educational Research's survey.

And while on average pupils were estimated to be three months behind in their studies, more than half of those teaching in the poorest schools in England reported their students were "four months or more" behind in their learning, compared to 15% of teachers in wealthier settings.

In response the Department for Education said its £1 billion "Covid catch-up package" will tackle the impact of lost teaching time and include "targeted funding" for the most disadvantaged students.

But Ms Green said: "The learning that children have lost in recent months shows that keeping schools safely open to all must be a national priority in the months ahead.

"When schools are closed, we see deep inequalities become more entrenched, and those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds lose out most."

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