GCSE and A-level exams cancelled for students across Suffolk

Students have the option of sitting an exam in the autumn if they wish. File picture: PA WIRE/RUI VI

GCSE and A Level exams have been cancelled - Credit: PA

Students will not be asked to take GCSE and A-level exams this year, the government has announced. 

The news came just days after schools were forced to take learning online as part of the latest lockdown.  

It will be the second year in which the exams have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Last year, there were concerns about the systems used to award pupils' grades.  

However, education secretary Gavin Williamson said that teachers would help provide grades rather than algorithms.  

“The department and Ofqual had already worked up a range of contingency options,” said Mr Williamson.   

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“While the details will need to be fine-tuned in consultation with Ofqual, the exam boards and teaching representatives, I can confirm now that I wish to use a form of teacher-assessed grades, with training and support provided to ensure these are awarded fairly and consistently.” 

Anne Humphrys from Suffolk Parent Carer Network said feedback from SEND families had helped develop

Anne Humphrys said that cancelling exams was the only fair thing that could be done - Credit: Archant

Anne Humphrys, co-chair of Suffolk Parent Carer Network, said: "Cancelling the GCSE and A Level exams was the only fair thing the government could do when so much learning has been missed.  For some families it will be a relief and take the pressure off.   

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“However, for others, who perform better in exams it will be causing concern.   

“Families need to know urgently what will replace the exams and be given confidence that it will be a system which accurately reflects the ability of children and young people especially those with special educational needs and disabilities." 

Vice principal of students at Suffolk One, George Chittock-Nash, said: “We have developed a really robust online teaching method and our assessment system is rigorous, so we are confident that we will continue to help our students to be motivated and successful."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders - Credit: Archant

Geoff Barton general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and a former Bury St Edmunds headmaster, said: “It is frustrating that there is not an off-the-shelf Plan B ready to go.

"We have repeatedly called on the government and the regulator to prepare such a plan in the event of exams being cancelled, and have repeatedly offered to work with them in doing so. 

“What the government and Ofqual must certainly avoid is a repeat of the shambles of last summer.” 

Cancelling all exams this summer would be "premature", said the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) - which represents almost 300 leading private schools.

The organisation's general secretary, Dr Simon Hyde said: "Whilst it is important that the learning loss which some students have experienced is accounted for, and that disadvantaged pupils are not further disadvantaged, HMC believes that any decision to cancel all exams in England this summer would be premature."

He added: "The best way of ensuring fairness is not by cancelling all examinations but by externally moderating assessment in whatever form it takes. We require decisive leadership and a willingness to compromise to bring about such a system. Our students deserve no less."

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said there is no "perfect solution to assessment arrangements for Year 11 and Year 13 pupils given the current course of the virus" and acknowledged there is a range of views across the education sector and "many students will be disappointed to lose the opportunity to put their learning to the test through traditional exams".

He added: "It is now for the government and Ofqual to work with education professionals to produce a fair system of assessment that will reward all our young people with the grades they deserve."

Despite facing calls to cancel this month's Btec exams in light of the lockdown, the government has left it to school and college leaders to decide whether they want to go ahead with the vocational exam series.

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