Education secretary Gavin Williamson has suggested today that public buildings could be used as exam centres as he appeared before the Commons Education Select Committee to answer questions on this summer's exam-grading fiasco.
And he said that the government is still considering moving back exam start dates for next year.
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Susan Acland-Hood, acting permanent secretary of the Department for Education, told the committee: "One thing we've put as a very firm stake in the ground is that just as we have said, we'll do everything we can and make it a national priority to keep our schools, colleges and other places of learning open as far as we possibly can through this pandemic, we will do our absolute utmost to make sure that exams take place effectively next summer."
Asked about the dates of exams for next summer, Mr Williamson said that Ofqual had consulted earlier in the year about the idea of moving back exam start dates to give pupils more learning time next year.
"We do equally have...the challenge if we want young people to be able to progress onto universities, college, that that does limit the amount of shift that you can do but is something that we're actively considering," he said.
Asked about the prospect of pupils who would be unable to sit exams next year through being unwell with coronavirus, and how schools would ensure exams were socially distanced, Mr Williamson said public buildings could be used as exam centres to create additional space, and that a "reserve" set of exam papers might be needed for pupils unable to sit an exam on a given day.
"So we're very much looking at that, very much taking on board what Ofqual has said about maybe needing to have a reserve set of papers for youngsters who as you've highlighted may not be in a position to take that examination, and obviously it wouldn't be possible for them to take the same examination just a few weeks' later...we are planning for that," he said.
"We are also planning for the fact that there may need to be a different approach in terms of creating extra capacity within schools and wider use of public buildings for exams centres, if that is required and that is needed in local communities as a result of further social distancing."