Exams cancelled as students in England 'not asked' to sit GCSE and A-Levels this summer after Covid closes schools

GCSE and A-Level exams have been axed this summer, it has been announced tonight.

Hours after Boris Johnson gave a press conference on England's strict new March-style lockdown, ministers have confirmed summer exams are cancelled.

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It came as:

  • England entered another lockdown today – with schools shut and people told to stay at home
  • Brits started panic buying yet again with shelves stripped bare
  • International travellers are set to be told to have a negative coronavirus test to get into the UK as Britain toughens up its borders
  • Experts said even this stricter lockdown might not be enough to curb the spread of the new strain
  • Hospitals continued to get busier as the NHS was just weeks from being overwhelmed
  • One in every 50 Brits now has coronavirus as a rampant mutated strain takes hold across the UK

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has released a brief statement ahead of a speech in Parliament tomorrow.

He said: "The Government position is that we will not be asking students to sit GCSE and A Levels."

Ministers are working with the exams regulator Ofqual to find a system for awarding grades that "reflects the hard work" of pupils across the country, he added.

It's likely that, as was the case last year, teacher-assessed grades will be assigned.

It comes after the PM last night said the exams wouldn't be "possible or fair" for kids forced out of face-to-face teaching for months during the pandemic.

Schools will remain shut until at least the February half-term as a mutant strain of Covid takes hold in every region of England.

However, in another blow for beleaguered parents, Mr Johnson has refused to guarantee that all kids will be back before the summer holiday.

The decision to plunge the country back into a strict new lockdown comes as one in every 50 people living in England is now thought to have coronavirus.

Hospital admissions have soared 40 per cent above the peak in April, while the new variant is said to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

Experts don't believe the mutation is any more dangerous to children.

However, officials fear youngsters are spreading it among themselves – before taking it back to their family homes.

It's understood that although traditional exams are out for the year, schools and colleges in England will be given the flexibility to decide whether they want to run vocational exams due to take place this month.

Ministers faced calls to cancel Btec exams scheduled for this week amid concerns over students' safety and fairness in the wake of new restrictions.

But the Department for Education (DfE) has said schools and colleges can continue with the January exam series "where they judge it right to do so".

And on Monday night, the DfE said vocational exams in England would continue as planned in January and students taking exams "should attend as scheduled".

But after an outcry, the Government has softened its approach.

A DfE spokeswoman said: "In light of the evolving public health measures, schools and colleges can continue with the vocational and technical exams that are due to take place in January, where they judge it right to do so.

"We understand this is a difficult time but we want to support schools and colleges whose students have worked hard to prepare for assessments and exams where necessary."

During a sombre address to the nation last night, Mr Johnson told Brits summer tests will be cancelled.

He said: "It is not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead as normal.

"Alternative arrangements will be put in place."

And this morning Michael Gove, former education secretary, said: "Obviously we can’t have A-levels, GCSEs or BTecs in the way that we have had them in the past.

"But there are ways of ensuring that we can assess the work that students have done, give them a fair recognition of that and help them on to the next stage of their education."

When asked if that meant exams would be cancelled, he replied: "Yes."

More to follow…

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