Entire campuses will close for November GCSE resits, AoC warns

Colleges in high and very high Covid-19 risk areas will be forced to close entire campuses to cater for “substantially high” GCSE resit student exams in November, the Association of Colleges has warned.

In a letter to schools minister Nick Gibb today, AoC chief executive David Hughes (pictured) said the resits for maths and English pose “potential public health risks”.

He explained that normally there are over 50,000 GCSE English and maths college entries in each subject in November, but a number of colleges and awarding organisations were reporting “substantially higher entries” for next month, with several in the “500 plus bracket”.

Many of those colleges are in “high or very high tier areas in the North West, Yorkshire and West Midlands”, Hughes continued, saying that while they will apply the social distancing and health measures, for “many” it will result in the “closure of entire campuses to other students on the exam days to manage numbers safely”.

“Controlling entry and exit points will be a particular issue because exams have fixed start and end times.”

Hughes added: “We have serious concerns about the potential public health risks this presents and would welcome urgent discussion about whether going ahead with this series of exams is the right thing to do.”

Earlier this week, advice made on 21 September by scientists from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) was released and recommended that teaching at all colleges and universities should be online unless “face-to-face teaching is absolutely essential”. The government has since maintained that all colleges should stay open for face-to-face delivery.

Hughes said the rapid spread of the coronavirus second wave, and the SAGE advice “are worrying college leaders who want to make the right balance between safety of students and supporting them to take these [resit] exams.

“If the November resits do go ahead, we would welcome a rapid review of the guidance, particularly for the highest risk areas and I would ask you to extend the support funding available for the autumn series to include post-16 ‘Condition of Funding’ (resit) candidates.”