Coronavirus and exams: a guide to the rules for absence

The autumn exam period has begun, but with student absence rates rising, you may find some students are unable to sit their exams. Our guide explains what you need to do
14th October 2020, 2:00pm

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Coronavirus and exams: a guide to the rules for absence

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/coronavirus-and-exams-guide-rules-absence
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With the autumn exam period under way and the coronavirus pandemic still very much active, we asked the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and Ofqual to explain the guidance around what should happen if a student is unable to sit an examination as a result of needing to self-isolate. Here's what they said.

For students entered for the resit GCSE and A-level autumn series, what evidence will be required in the event they are absent owing to self-isolation? 

JCQ: Where a candidate is self-isolating and consequently absent for an examination, a short concise file note would be produced. 

This would be produced on centre-headed paper, signed and dated by a member of the senior leadership team. 

The relevant senior leader will need to support an application for special consideration. The candidate needs to meet the minimum threshold for enhanced grading. The senior leader needs to be satisfied as to the candidate's absence.  

Ofqual: Where a candidate is self-isolating, their school or college would need to provide confirmation of this - in a format specified by the exam board. Medical evidence would not be needed.

If a student is self-isolating, will it be possible for them to sit their autumn resit exam in isolation? 

Ofqual: If a student is self-isolating, it will not be possible for them to sit an autumn resit exam in isolation.

JCQ: The Department for Education has provided guidance and a coronavirus helpline, which exam centres should make use of.

Exam centres should also refer to the latest public health guidance to ensure exams are held safely.

Would a student be able to use 'special considerations' to apply for extenuating circumstances if they are suffering with 'Long Covid'? 

JCQ:  Where a candidate has on-going health problems at the time of their examinations as a consequence of contracting Coronavirus earlier in the year, then the centre could apply for special consideration.  For example, the candidate is suffering from extreme fatigue.

The candidate is present but disadvantaged on account of these on-going health problems.

If a student has had a positive test, will a negative test be required to sit their autumn resit exam? 

JCQ: No.

If a student is absent for one out of two papers of their resit, will their mark for one paper be scaled up and therefore they will still be awarded their qualification? 

Both: The candidate must have completed a minimum of 25 per cent of the total assessment for the subject concerned.

In the case of high levels of absence during the autumn series, will there be another opportunity to sit an exam in January?            

Ofqual: The next scheduled opportunity to take GCSE, AS- or A-level exams is summer 2021. We will monitor absence levels during the autumn exams.

JCQ: There are currently no plans for a January 2021 examination series in England for GCSE, AS- and A-level qualifications. The next available assessment opportunity would be June 2021.

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