Summer exams will not “go ahead as normal” this year, the prime minister said tonight after announcing schools and colleges will close to most students from tomorrow.
Addressing the nation to announce a new national lockdown, Boris Johnson said primary schools, secondary schools and colleges across England will “move to remote provision from tomorrow except for vulnerable students and children of key workers” until at least the February half term.
He added that it is therefore “not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal”.
The educations secretary Gavin Williamson will “work together with Ofqaul to put in place alternative arrangements”.
However, the 135,000 BTEC and other technical exams being sat over the coming weeks will still go ahead as planned, the Department for Education confirmed after the prime minister’s speech.
On school and college closures, Johnson said: “I completely understand the inconvenience and distress this late change will cause millions of parents and pupils up and down the country.
“Parents whose children were in school today may reasonably ask why we did not take this decision sooner, and the answer is simply that we’ve been doing everything in our power to keep schools open because we know how important each day in education is to children’s life chances.
“And I want to stress that the problem is not that schools are unsafe for children. Children are still very unlikely to be severely affected by even the new variant of Covid. The problem is that schools may nonetheless act as vectors for transmission, causing the virus to spread between households.”
He added that he hoped the country could “steadily move out of lockdown, reopening schools after the February half term and starting cautiously to move regions down the tiers”.
The prime minister did not mention if these new restrictions would apply to other further education providers. FE Week has asked for clarification on this.
Tonight’s announcement comes just five days after Williamson announced the start date for college students in exam year groups had already been pushed back to January 11, with all learners due to go back on January 18 at the earliest.