Will GCSE and A-level exams be held in 2021?

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Updated  Paula Antalffy

Disclaimer: Please note that due to an update in UK government policy, this blog is no longer accurate. Find out more here.

Will GCSE and A-level exams happen in 2021?

As of October 2020, English law makers have confirmed that 2021 GCSE and A-Level exams will go ahead. While in Scotland and Wales major exams have been cancelled, in England the main exam series will start on 7th of June following the May half-term. 

England has decided to delay exams by 3 weeks allowing for students to catch up on material they missed during national school closures in the Spring and Summer of 2020.

Why will English national exams go ahead?

Following considerable backlash surrounding the predicted grades used for students who missed their GCSE/A-level exams in 2020, English lawmakers have come to the agreement that “Exams are the fairest way of judging a student’s performance.”

There is broad consensus among English MPs and educators that exams are a critical part of the education system, giving students the foundation they need to move onto the next stage of their life. GCSE exams are an important assessment of a student's performance at age 16. A-level exams play an even more essential role, in determining the direction of a student’s higher education. 

During the 2020 exam season teachers and law markers did not yet know about the correct way to keep students safe. Nevertheless, for the 2021 exam season schools will be able to provide a safe environment for students to sit exams. The government is also working hard to ensure the effects of the pandemic are taken into consideration when grading final exams.

Student writing on exam paper
Student writing on exam paper

What will the government do to ensure exams are fair?

To combat the learning loss experienced by many students the government has delayed GCSE and A-level exams by 3 weeks, giving students more time to prepare. Furthermore, the government has created a £1bn ‘Catch Up Premium’ which included funding for supporting children and young people through exams. This catch up fund also includes the National Tutoring Programme, which dedicates £350m to helping disadvantaged students.

All of these extra resources aim to help accelerate the academic progress of students and tackle any gaps created by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

What if there is another national lockdown?

The extent to which National Lockdowns will be necessary in the coming year is unknown. This is why schools and law markers must prepare for every scenario. 

The English government has agreed that keeping schools and colleges open is a national priority; this is why they remained open during the national lockdown during November. Therefore the government expects exams to go ahead even if there is another nationwide lockdown or a local lockdown in areas of the country during exam season.

There has also been further assurance that schools and colleges can safely hold exams, even in areas of local restriction. The autumn exam series, which involved over 20,000 exam entries was able to go ahead.

Want to learn more about GCSEs, A-level and studying tips? Read our other blogs about exams!

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