The Education Secretary's first announcement about School Exams during Coronavirus

Clarity on GCSE and A levels? Wash your hands – but don’t hold your breath

School’s out and the public exams scheduled for May and June are cancelled in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. But, even this morning, there has been a suggestion that a new style of lockdown exam might be created in the light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The National Association of Head Teachers have said there are “more questions than answers” after the announcement yesterday by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson that exams as we know it will not go ahead, and there are serious fears that students will lose out in the light of the current system being scrapped.

"Every option is not as good as a full programme," Williamson told the Today Programme on Radio 4 this morning speaking about sweeping changes during the COVID-19 worldwide virus.  "And we will be revealing more details tomorrow. But children will not be sitting exams." 

But speaking just 20 minutes earlier on the Today Programme on Radio 4 this morning, Tom Bewick, the Head of the Trade Association for Examining Bodies, said students will have to wait for “a few more days” for true clarity on next steps.  

Exam boards have said they will move swiftly in a number of days to reveal their alternative methods of assessments.

Gavin Williamson has said the government is “focused on certainty” but has warned there are “many complicated issues that need to be immediately addressed.”


Will some kind of exams be going ahead? 

The key question for most parents and pupils, many of whom are continuing to head into school today as a large number of schools remain open for students in Year 11 and Year 13, is will they take some form of exams this year?

When pressed on the Today Programme as to whether pupils will need to sit any further test or exam or whether the exam boards will rely on work that has already been done, there was little clarity.

Is there any form of test or exam that can take place in lockdown? asked the presenter Nick Robinson. 

“Absolutely,” said Bewick.  

GULP. Cue a nation of GCSE and A level pupils pulling their revision guides out of the recycling.

Surely Boris’ categorical “cancelled” cannot now mean that the exams are sort of not cancelled and another form of test will be put in place?

But Bewick neither confirmed or denied that a lockdown testing process will be agreed.  


Will students go to university as normal?

“We can arrive fairly quickly at a solution that combines internal assessment with some external moderation,” said Bewick. And assured listeners that the government was working with exam boards to ensure the students get the qualifications they need to go on to the next stage of their education.

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said they would be working to ensure that the migration to university goes ahead as usual – assuming migration is possible come the autumn. “If you are holding an offer from a university; please don’t worry,” he said. “We’ll find a way for students to start university and continue with their education.”

The suggestion was that the universities are “very experienced in assessing offers” and the offers, which are based on a combination of grades, personal statements and references, may be honoured. In essence, making every offer unconditional.


Updates for Parents

School Guide will work to post daily updates on the School Guide blog over the coming weeks. Parents are also welcome to email our Founder, Victoria, whose son was due to sit his GCSEs this summer, with questions and we'll do our very best to help in these unprecedented and worrying times: 

[email protected]