Exam hall

A decision on whether to delay next year’s GCSE and A-level exams will be made “very soon”, schools minister Nick Gibb has said.

Ministers have been considering the issue since mid-June, he told the BBC, adding: “We’ll make a decision as soon as we can.”

He said the decision would be made with exam boards and the regulator, and take other UK nations into account.

It comes as most pupils in England and Wales prepare to return to school.

For many, it will be their first time in the classroom since March.

Labour has called for the exams – usually taken in May and June – to be pushed back to mid-summer to help cope with the impact of coronavirus.

On Monday, shadow education secretary Kate Green said students starting Year 11 and 13 in September had “a mountain to climb”, having missed months of schooling.

Scheduling exams for later next year would allow more catch-up teaching time, she said.

Mr Gibb said the government had to consider the time needed for exam marking and the university admissions process in making its decision.

“The issues are not simple,” he told the BBC.

“We have to take into account the other nations in the UK which also use the GCSEs and A-levels in their term dates; you have to take into account the time for marking, making sure results are delivered on a certain date for university admissions and so on.

“There are a whole range of factors that the exam boards, Ofqual and the Department (for Education) are looking at, but we will form a decision very soon.”

Pushed on whether an answer would come by October, Mr Gibb added: “It will be very soon because we know schools need to know the answer to this question.”

This year’s exams were dogged by chaos and left teachers, parents and pupils calling for a major rethink of next summer’s exams.

Nearly 40% of A-level grades awarded to students using an algorithm were below teachers’ predictions, with disadvantaged students particularly badly affected.

Days after results were announced, and following widespread criticism, the government performed a U-turn and decided to base grades on teachers’ estimates instead.

But many pupils were left in limbo, having already missed out on university places for this year’s intake.

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