GCSE and A-level exams will happen in 2021, says Keegan

GCSE and A-level students will sit exams as planned in 2021, the skills and apprenticeships minister Gillian Keegan has said

Kate Parker

GCSE and A level exams 2021 will happen, says Keegan

GCSE and A-level students in England will take sit exams next year as planned, the minister for skills and apprenticeships said today.

Speaking at WorldSkills UK's International Skills Summit, Gillian Keegan said that despite exams being cancelled in Wales, English students would sit exams in the summer. 

She said: “It is a difficult decision and there is no doubt that it is a difficult decision – but we have been very clear that there is not a fair alternative to exams, and whichever system you put in place has got its challenges. Actually a lot of young people, you can see by the amount of resits they are doing, they really want to do their exams, they want to prove what they’ve learned, they want to have something that everyone else has got – the result, the certificate. 

“What we are doing is the opposite to Wales, which is that we will obviously make some adjustments and those are being discussed right now, but exams will go ahead because we think that it is the best of all the alternative systems in place. I do acknowledge that it is a difficult decision because, clearly, there is still uncertainty as we live through a global pandemic." 


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Yesterday, Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams announced that coursework and teacher assessment would replace exams in Wales next year. 

Ms Williams said: “The wellbeing of learners and ensuring fairness across the system is central in our decision-making process.

“In line with the recommendations of both Qualifications Wales and the Independent Review, there will be no exams for GCSE or AS-level learners next year. A-level students will also not be required to sit exams.

“We remain optimistic that the public health situation will improve, but the primary reason for my decision is down to fairness. The time that learners will spend in schools and colleges will vary hugely and, in this situation, it is impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place.”

'Cannot risk another summer of chaos'

UCU's general secretary Jo Grady urged Westminster to provide clarity on the plans for next summer's exams – and said there could not be another "summer of chaos".

She said: ‘This has been an incredibly stressful time for students, with those from the least affluent backgrounds impacted most by lockdowns and working from home. It is right that the Welsh government has acknowledged the challenges students are facing during this pandemic.

"We now need clarity from Westminster on its plans for exams next summer and we need a coordinated response from all devolved nations, awarding bodies and universities to make sure that all students are treated fairly. We cannot risk another summer of chaos, with students being unfairly marked down by algorithms, last-minute government U-turns, and overworked staff being forced to pick up the pieces."

In October, the Department for Education revealed its plans for next summer’s exams. It confirmed that some English and maths GCSEs would take place before the May half term and that most GCSEs and A levels will take place three weeks later than planned – with the exam series starting on 7 June and finishing on 2 July.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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