A-Level 2021
The UK government has finally decided to scrap national examinations this summer. Source: Shutterstock

Students sitting for the GCSE and A-Level in 2021 should brace for change both examinations will not be held as usual in May and June. This comes as England enters its third lockdown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, from January 4 until February 15. All schools and colleges are ordered to shut, along with non-essential businesses.

England is currently dealing with a new strain of COVID-19, which is more easily transmitted than its predecessor. Prime Minister Boris Johnson acknowledged that while children are still unlikely to be severely affected by COVID-19, schools must be closed as it is too easy to pass the virus along in this environment. “We recognise that this will mean it’s not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal. The Education Secretary will work with Ofqual to put in place alternative arrangements,” he said in a national address.

What’s the alternative to GCSE, A-Level 2021?

Several school leaders and teaching unions had been calling for exams to be cancelled as cases spike in England. In Birmingham, for example, the case rate for five to nine-year-olds have nearly doubled since December. This decision is therefore welcomed with relief by most quarters.

While they await an alternative assessment scheme, parents, teachers, and students are determined to avoid the fiasco brought about by the government’s A Level u-turn last year. Teacher assessments and assignment grades seem the preferred methods of assessing student performance so far. As former Education Secretary Lord Kenneth Baker told The Sunday Times, “[Teachers] are better than algorithms and they are the only people who can possibly assess the achievement of their students in this extraordinary time.”

With the cancellation of GCSE and A-Level in 2021, England joins Wales and Scotland, which have replaced examinations with an aggregated grade system. More details to come following developments from the Department of Education and exam regulator Ofqual.