A-levels and GCSEs to be delayed in 2021

The majority of A-level and GCSE exams in England will be delayed by three weeks next year due to the on-going coronavirus pandemic, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed.

The 2021 exams will go ahead, but the majority of tests will be pushed back to give pupils more time to catch up on their learning following school closures.

In a written statement on Monday, Mr Williamson said: “I can confirm that GCSE, AS and A level exams in 2021 will go ahead, with most exams moved back three weeks next year to give students more time to prepare and a chance to catch up on education lost due to COVID-19.

“We know that exams are the fairest way of measuring a student’s abilities and accomplishments, including the most disadvantaged.”

The summer exam series will start on 7 June and end on 2 July for almost all A levels and GCSEs. One maths and one English GCSE exam will be held just before the May half-term, giving any Year 11 pupils who are affected by Covid-19 “the best possible chance” of still sitting a paper in each of these core subjects.

Results days are Tuesday 24 August for A levels and Friday 27 August for GCSEs, allowing students to start the following academic year as normal.

The DfE said there would be back-up plans in case exams were disrupted, but that students, teachers and parents would have to wait until “later in the autumn” to find out what they are.

In response to the announcement, a group of leading education unions have urged the Government to cut down the exam syllabus and give pupils greater choice over the topics they answer questions on – a proposal the Government has rejected at this stage.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL school leadership union, said he was “dismayed” by the announcement, and said delaying the start if exams would be “of marginal benefit when compared to the loss of learning from the national lockdown and ongoing disruption”.

“It has taken the government an eternity to reach a very inadequate response to the scale of the challenge which lies ahead for students who are taking GCSEs and A-levels next year.”

The announcement comes following the fiasco around grading of GCSE and A-level students this summer after exams were cancelled amid COVID-19. Thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by an algorithm, before England’s exams regulator Ofqual announced a U-turn allowing them to use teachers’ predictions.