Labour calls for next year's GCSEs and A-levels to be delayed

Labour is calling for A-level and GCSE exams in England to be pushed back next year to help pupil’s cope with the impact of the coronavirus crisis. 

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said pupils going into Year 11 and 13 face ‘a mountain to climb’ after losing up to six months of teaching time because of the pandemic. Calling for an unprecedented change in the education timetable, Ms Green said exams due to be taken next May need to be delayed until June or July to allow for extra teaching time.

Union leaders have said the plan should be ‘seriously considered’ in an effort to avoid ‘this year’s chaos’ – but suggested it could lead to other problems. 

Ms Green said: ‘Pupils across the country who have missed out on vital teaching time will have a mountain to climb to prepare for May exams unless the Government steps in.

‘Ministers had warning after warning about problems with this year’s exam results, but allowed it to descend into a fiasco.

‘This is too important for Boris Johnson to leave until the last minute. Pupils heading back to school need clarity and certainty about the year ahead.’

It comes after the A-level results fiasco saw students miss out on university places and have their results downgraded by an algorithm – before a Government U-turn meant they could take their predicted grades, having been unable to sit exams this summer. 

But there are fears that a delay next year could also impact university places and jobs.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: ‘What is most important is that we don’t see a repeat of this year’s chaos.

‘Poor planning and last-minute changes by the Government caused misery for many students. It would be indefensible if that happened again.’

He continued: ‘Labour’s suggestion of a delay to help with “catch-up” is worthy of serious consideration.

‘A delay is not without its problems, a consequential delay to the publication of results will put pressure on higher education providers such as universities and colleges as well as employers. All this will need to be dealt with.’

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: ‘Getting all children back into their classrooms full-time in September is a national priority as they are the best place for their education, development and wellbeing.

‘We recognise that students due to take exams next summer will have experienced disruption to their education, which is why we prioritised bringing Year 10 and Year 12 pupils back to school last term.

‘Exams will go ahead next year, and we have been working closely with the sector, Ofqual and exam boards to consider our approach.’

Labour is also urging ministers to review the existing support arrangements for post-16 students so that pupils preparing to sit their A-levels are not left without help.

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