ES News email

Time is running out for next year’s GCSEs and A-levels to be delayed, headteachers warned today as they called for clarity on the 2021 exams.

Students are “anxious” and “nervous” and teachers are unable to plan until a decision has been made on whether the exams will be pushed back, they said.

Teenagers starting years 11 and 13 face exams next summer despite having missed out on nearly half a year of face-to-face teaching due to the pandemic.

A campaign has been launched to push the exams back from May to July to give students time to catch up.

But despite schools reopening earlier this month, exams regulator Ofqual has yet to announce a decision.

Sarah Hannafin, senior policy adviser at the NAHT, which represents school leaders, said: “The impact of this situation on students cannot be under-estimated.

“Year 11 and Year 13 are immensely pressured years in any circumstances.

“But teachers have no definite answers other than the plan is that exams and assessments will happen as normal.”

She added that the content of exams needs to be overhauled because it is impossible to guarantee that all students will be able to catch up with the work that has been missed.

She said: “Any changes ideally needed to be known at the start of term so that teachers knew how to plan students’ learning and exam preparation. So time is rapidly running out.”

GCSEs and A-levels were mired in chaos this summer after an algorithm used to determine pupils’ grades was discredited and withdrawn.

Salsabil Elmegri, NUS Vice President Further Education, said: “Students are understandably nervous having seen what the cohort above them have been through… so it’s really important that this cohort receive clarity and assurances from government.”

But campaigners said these changes are not far-ranging enough and crucially no decision has yet been reached on whether to delay the exams.

A spokesman for Ofqual said: “We are continuing to work with the Department for Education, the exam boards, regulators in the devolved administrations and groups representing schools, colleges and higher education to consider the best approach.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said a range of measures had been proposed following a public consultation by Ofqual, including “a possible short delay to the exam timetable and subject-specific changes”.