GCSE resits may come with 'potential public health risks', education body warns

A leading education body has warned about the “potential public health risks” of going ahead with exam resits next month amid the current coronavirus climate.

The Association of Colleges said they were concerned over plans for students to resit English and maths GCSEs next month.

“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,” they said.

The body said college leaders were worried about “the rapid spread of the second wave”, as well as the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) committee advice last month which recommended a short lockdown to help tackle Covid-19.

They warned a number of colleges and awarding organisations had reported a much higher number of students wanting to take these exams this autumn, and for many entire campuses may have to be shut for the resits to go ahead.

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Shortly before GCSE results day this year, students were given the option to take the higher mark of their teacher-submitted grades – an estimate of what they would have got in an exam – or their calculated grades in a controversial moderation process. 

Exams were cancelled this year due to coronavirus. 

The Association of Colleges said if November resits were to go ahead, they would like a “rapid review of the guidance, particularly for the high risk areas”, as well as the support funding available for the autumn series to include post-16 resit candidates. 

Next year’s GCSE and A-levels have been pushed back by several weeks, in a bid to give students and teachers catch-up on lost teaching time due to coronavirus-related disruption. 

“The autumn exam series is a crucial part of ensuring fairness for students who would like to sit an examination this year, or were unable to receive a grade because, for example, they are private candidates,” a Department for Education spokesperson said. 

 “We have worked with Public Health England to develop and publish guidance for schools and colleges running exams in autumn 2020 to enable staff to run exams and other assessments safely for both students and invigilators.”

They added:  “This guidance also sets out that we expect schools and colleges in areas under local restrictions to run exams.”

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