To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether his Department has made assessment of the steps that will be required to help ensure that examinations in 2022 happen in the normal school setting, in the event of rising covid-19 cases.
4 November 2021
The government has made it a national priority that schools and colleges should continue to operate as normally as possible during the COVID-19 outbreak.
All schools have a range of measures in place to manage COVID-19 transmission day to day. This includes ventilation and hygiene measures for schools and testing for pupils in Year 7 and above.
Schools must continue to comply with health and safety law and put in place proportionate control measures, such as keeping occupied spaces well ventilated. Schools must regularly review, update and monitor their risk assessments, outlining what they would do if children or staff test positive and how they would operate if measures needed to be stepped back up to break chains of transmission.
The government is committed to ensuring the safety of all pupils, which is why CO2 monitors have begun to be provided to state-funded nurseries, schools and further education colleges. This has been backed by £25 million in government funding.
There is of course continued uncertainty about the path of the COVID-19 outbreak, including whether further disruption may occur over the course of the 2021/22 academic year. The department believes it should be possible for students to take exams safely next year, supported by the permitted adaptations. This includes advance information on the focus of some of the questions in most GCSE and all A/AS level subjects which have exams. Advance information will be deployed by 7 February to support revision. The department retains the flexibility to deploy it earlier if there is significant further disruption to education.
The department does understand that contingency arrangements are also needed to deal with the unlikely event that exams cannot go ahead fairly or safely. We and Ofqual have proposed teacher assessed grades (with changes) as the main contingency option – the consultation closed 13 October 2021 and the outcome will be announced shortly.