GCSE and A-level students in England will not be asked to sit exams in summer 2021

GCSE and A-level students in England will not be asked to sit exams this summer, the government has confirmed. 

It comes after Michael Gove suggested end-of-year exams would be scrapped in favour of alternative styles of assessment following the new lockdown.

On Monday evening, the Department for Education (DfE) said: “There is recognition that this is an anxious time for students who have been working hard towards their exams.”

“The government position is that we will not be asking students to sit GCSE and A-levels.” 

The DfE said they will work with Ofqual, England’s exam regulator, to consult on how to award grades to pupils this year. 

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Exams were cancelled last year over coronavirus and a new grading system set up, awarding students with calculated grades. Pupils were allowed to take their original teacher predicted marks, following backlash over the system.

On Monday, Mr Gove was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether A-levels and GCSEs in England were cancelled for the second year in a row, and replied: “Yes.”

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The former education secretary said: “We will be putting in place alternative arrangements in order to make sure that the hard work that students have put in to acquire knowledge and develop their skills is appropriately assessed, recognised and awarded.”

He also told Sky News that Gavin Williamson, the current education secretary, will address parliament on Wednesday to update MPs on how pupils will be assessed at the end of the year, following further disruption to their learning.

Under England’s new lockdown, schools will move to online-learning only until at least the middle of February, for all students except vulnerable children and those of key workers. 

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Around a month ago, the government announced changes to summer exams in England- including more generous marking – on top of a three-week delay planned for most exams, in a bid to make grading as fair as possible amid the pandemic.

While schools remained open last term, more than half a million state school pupils were off school during the final weeks of term for coronavirus-related reasons, Department for Education (DfE) estimates show.

The government faced backlash over how grading was done last year amid cancelled exams, when teachers submitted grades they estimated students would have achieved in exams for standardisation.

Student protests followed A-level results day, which saw nearly 40 per cent of marks downgraded in the controversial moderation process.

In a U-turn days after A-level results came out, the government announced A-level and GCSE pupils could use their teacher-estimated marks — Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) – if higher than moderated marks.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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