GCSE and A-level exams to be delayed by three weeks

English and maths GCSE exams will take place before May half term to avoid disruption

Catherine Lough

Exam hall

Most GCSE and A-level exams will be pushed back by three weeks in 2021 to give students more time to prepare, the government has announced today.

Almost all exams will begin on 7 June and end on 2 July, a statement from education secretary Gavin Williamson will state today, setting out an approach backed by prime minister Boris Johnson. 


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However, GCSE maths and English exams will be held before the May half term to minimise disruption.

Mr Williamson will tell MPs this afternoon: "We know that exams are the fairest way of measuring a student’s abilities and accomplishments, including the most disadvantaged.

"We want to give our young people the opportunity next summer to demonstrate what they know and can do." 

But heads have spoken of their "dismay" over the plans, branding them "inadequate".

And exam boards have raised concerns over the "challenge" of delivering GCSE results on time when the exams are being sat weeks later than usual.

Ofqual has previously announced that there will be more choice in GCSE history exams and a reduction in compulsory content for GCSE English literature.

Results day next year for both GCSE and A level will be held in the same week, with A level results going out on Tuesday 24 August and GCSEs released on Friday 27 August. 

More detail on measures to cope with the disruption faced by students are expected to be published later in the autumn.

GCSE maths and GCSE English language will both have their paper 1 exams 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 the government has said there will be no further subject-level changes to exams and assessments will be made for GCSEs and A levels, following those already announced by Ofqual.

There have been calls from some quarters for exams to be scrapped next year owing to the amount of learning time lost from the pandemic. Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Community Learning trust, said running exams next year was a "gamble" as there was no "level playing field" for pupils impacted by the pandemic in 2021. 

But some academy chief and other senior educationalists have publicly argued that exams must go ahead next year.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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