Students in England 'will not be asked' to sit GCSE and A-Level exams this summer

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

GCSE and A Level students in England will not be sitting exams this summer after the country's third Covid lockdown has further disrupted education.

Ahead of a statement in Parliament on Wednesday, the Education Secretary released a briefing that said: "The government position is that we will not be asking students to sit GCSE and A Levels."

It added that 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.

It follows the exams fiasco of 2020 which saw the government U-turn on its initial algorithm to award results after the system was branded "unfair".

A-level students protested after grades were initially based on an algorithm. Credit: PA Images

Gavin Williamson will make an address to MPs on Wednesday, outlining what support is available for pupils after schools and colleges were, once again, closed.

The majority of students - excluding vulnerable children and children of key workers - have returned to remote learning after England went back in to Covid lockdown.

Mr Williamson said "a strengthened remote learning offer" would be out in place, and said the next steps for alternative arrangements for 2021 examinations would be outlined.

The minister added: "It is now vital that we support our young people at home, including making sure all students are receiving the best possible remote education, and that those students who were due to take exams can still progress to their next stage of education or training."

Gavin Williamson Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Mr Williamson said: "I know what a challenging time this is for families, young people, and for everyone working so hard in education.

"I also know the enormous lengths that teachers and support staff have gone to throughout this pandemic – the benefit of that work on children’s education and wellbeing is quite simply immeasurable, and has enabled millions to be back in classrooms spending valuable time with their teachers."

"Education continues to be a national priority - these new national restrictions do not change that. I am determined that this virus, and the steps we all must take to fight it, do not come at the cost of children’s life chances," he added.

Credit: PA

It comes as Btec students in England were, on Tuesday, told that their schools would be responsible for deciding if vocational exams went ahead this week.

Ministers had been facing growing calls to cancel the exams due to concerns over students’ safety regarding the new variant of Covid-19, and fairness.

But now the government has advised schools to make the decision, with advice urging exams can continue where educational institutes "judge it right to do so."

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand explains the huge number of futures at stake with changes to Btec exams:

Among the government's scaled-up support for to students stuck at home is the promise of more than one million laptops for disadvantaged young people.

While Number 10 said it would work with networks to ensure free additional mobile data would be available until the summer for families without Wi-Fi.

While the BBC is also offering unprecedented programming of educational content from 11 January.

Ayani Mirza has four school age children but only one laptop. Credit: ITV News

CBBC will have a three-hour block of primary school programming from 9am each weekday and BBC Two will cater for secondary students with at least two hours of content each weekday.

There are still concerns, however, that digital poverty will cause some students to fall behind during the latest lockdown - furthering the attainment gap.