Williamson pledges extra support for students facing exams next year

Gavin Williamson has vowed to bring in extra support for youngsters whose learning has been disrupted by Covid ahead of GCSE and A-level exams next year.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

The Education Secretary said pupils would benefit from exam dates being pushed back while further support measures will be announced to ensure "absolute fairness".

It comes amid growing concerns over the amount of schooling children have missed due to the pandemic.

Schools in England closed in March when the country went into lockdown, and since reopening in September many pupils have been forced to isolate at home for periods of up to two weeks at a time due to Covid cases in year groups.

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Next year's exams have already been cancelled in Wales, but South Staffordshire MP Mr Williamson remains committed to running exams in English schools on a delayed timetable to allow pupils more time to study.

Thousands of pupils across the Midlands have missed classes in recent weeks due to Covid cases, with some schools forced to temporarily close due to staff shortages.

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green told the Commons that across the country pupils at some schools had been sent home on five separate occasions, with some missing "up to one third of their time" in class.


Conservative Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, said reports suggested 600,000 children were absent from class due to Covid-related reasons and that sending pupils home has become "more commonplace".

He supported exams taking place in "some form or another" next year but sought assurances for an "absolute level playing field".

Mr Williamson said exams were "the best and fairest way" to ensure that all children "get the best possible grades".

"What is so important is that we deliver fairness for all youngsters right across the board," he added.

"We have already announced a package of measures to push back the date when exams will take place, so people can catch up on lost learning. We have also announced a £1 billion package to support schools to deliver extra assistance for those youngsters.

"We will announce further measures to ensure absolute fairness in our exam system, so that young people have the best opportunity to prove themselves when they have the opportunity to take their exams."

Asked by Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant what the Government was doing to ensure that students from a disadvantaged background are not penalised when it comes to exams, Education Minister Nick Gibb said: "We are also working with exam boards and Ofqual to make sure the experience students have next summer is as fair as possible given all that they have experienced over the last year."

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