GCSEs: Covid rules for exams to relax from autumn term

No need for 2m distance from staff in exams from September, new Department for Education guidance says

Catherine Lough

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Measures introduced to minimise the spread of the coronavirus during exams will be relaxed as part of the country's move to "step 4", the government has announced, but schools have been told not to make changes until the start of the autumn term.

During the summer term, pupils have needed to be kept apart as they arrive to take exams, and schools were told there should be an area where candidates could wait beforehand that could  "support social distancing between group 'bubbles' as well as between on-roll and off-roll candidates".


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The country moved to step 4 on July 19 with bubbles no longer being required in schools.

However, schools have been told to keep Covid-19 exam restrictions in place over the summer to minimise disruption to any exams and assessments still taking place.

From the autumn, schools have been told they will not need to make alternative arrangements "to avoid mixing at lunch or while arriving and leaving exams".

There will also be no need to make sure that any candidates who arrive late for the exam follow social distancing measures and distancing measures for when candidates leave the room are also being relaxed.

Guidance on setting up the exam hall in accordance with Covid safety measures will also no longer apply from the autumn term.

During the summer term, schools were told that desks should not be set up face to face and candidates should be seated 2m apart from each other but this will not be required from the start of the new academic year.

The restrictions also included advising invigilators and other staff to stand alongside candidates when interacting with them rather than face to face, and that scribes, readers or other individuals who are supporting candidates, should maintain a 2m distance where possible. 

The guidance says: "For exams and assessments taking place from the start of the autumn term, these additional steps are no longer necessary but you should continue to adhere to the infection prevention measures detailed earlier in this guidance."

On the timing of the changes, the guidance says: "You should plan to introduce changes as a result of moving to step 4 from the start of the autumn term rather than doing so during July or August.

"This will minimise disruption to any exams and assessments still taking place over summer 2021."

In May, exams regulator Ofqual confirmed that an autumn exam series for GCSE, A-level and some AS exams would be going ahead for students awarded a teacher-assessed grade this summer to give pupils the opportunity to improve on their grade.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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