Coronavirus and exams: 8 key questions about the update

Changes to 2021 GCSE and A-level exams were published today, but questions remain about how this will impact schools and students
12th October 2020, 2:20pm

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Coronavirus and exams: 8 key questions about the update

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/coronavirus-and-exams-8-key-questions-about-update
Coronavirus: Gcse & A-level Exams Should Not Take Place In 2021, Says Mat Boss

How will exams work in 2021? Despite the update we received today from the Department for Education, school staff and students are still waiting to know the real answer to that question.

The education secretary Gavin Williamson has announced a three-week delay to GCSE and A-level exams. But this gives little insight into how the exam season will be adapted in practice.

Reading the update, several new questions spring to mind:

  1. What contingency plans will be put in place for students who are unable to sit the exam owing to their need to self-isolate?

    The update says: "Given rising case numbers and the battle to suppress the virus, it is also right that there is consideration of the range of scenarios which might impact students' ability to sit exams and develop contingency plans".
  2. The English and mathematics GCSE will both have one early exam before the May half term. Will students who are only able to sit one half of their English language or mathematics exam have their mark "doubled" to give them a whole GCSE?
  3. It is clear from the current absence levels in schools that the exam period is likely to have students self-isolating or too unwell to sit the exam.

    The update from the govenment states that "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".

    But what proof will students need to provide to have their absence from the exam authorised?
  4. Results days for GCSE and A levels will now be held in late August. How will exam boards be able to process appeals in time for the new term, with the results days so close to the new term starting? 
  5. Does the late results day for GCSEs mean that the start of the new academic year will be delayed to allow time for students to choose their courses and be inducted for their new FE courses?
  6. The process of accepting a university place is sometimes lengthy and complex. Will the start of the university term be delayed to allow students to go through Ucas applications and clearing?
  7. The GCSE and A-level exam marking period looks set to be more intense than ever. Will markers who normally mark both GCSE and A level still be allowed to do both?
  8. Will exam boards need to employ more markers to cope with the shorter time frame to mark and moderate?

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