Boris Johnson has cancelled A Level and GCSE exams as he closes all primary and secondary schools under England’s third national lockdown.
The Prime Minister this evening plunged the country into a national lockdown even more brutal than last March in a desperate bid to keep the mutant coronavirus strain at bay while vaccines are rolled out.
Just a day after he urged parents to send their children back, the PM declared that schools will be shut from tomorrow until at least February half-term, with only the vulnerable and offspring of key workers allowed to go in.
Mr Johnson also said ‘alternative arrangements’ will have to be made for this summer’s exams as it will not be ‘possible or fair’ for them to go ahead as normal.
The Government has previously been adamant that exams will be sat in 2021 after the closure of schools meant they had to be scrapped last year and students were instead awarded their predicted grades.
The policy u-turn comes after headteachers urged Mr Johnson to call off the tests again because ‘wider public health, pupil and staff safety should be prioritised ahead of examinations.’
Boris Johnson is widely expected to announce that schools across England will remain closed in the coming weeks as part of a new national lockdown
Head teachers are calling on the Government to scrap this summer’s GCSE and A-level exams
Furious students and parents claimed it was simply ‘not fair’ to make teenagers sit exams when in-person contact hours are non-existent.
This week, a spokesperson from the WorthLess? campaign group – a collection of 2,000 head teachers in 80 local authorities – told The Sunday Times: ‘Wider public health, pupil and staff safety should be prioritised ahead of examinations.
‘Public safety should not be risked or driven by an inflexible pursuit of GCSE and A-levels.’
Furious Britons took to Twitter to call on the Government to call off exams for this summer due to a lack of contact time
But not everyone agreed that cancelling exams was the best way forward, with Science teacher Dr Ella Swamp writing: ‘Cancelling exams is pretty much the same as cancelling all learning for year 11 and 13’
The area in red is where the Government ordered all schools to shut. The areas in pink are where headteachers have shut down anyway
Naomi Carpenter, a 20-year-old sports rehab student at Hull University, takes a swab for a lateral flow Covid-19 test at the campus sports facilities as students return to the university
Furious Britons earlier took to Twitter to urge the Government to call off exams for this summer due to a lack of contact time.
Last year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson faced calls to resign after thousands of A-Level students missed out on university places due to a highly-criticised algorithm.
In the end, students were handed their predicted grades for their final mark.
Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy wrote: ‘If schools are being closed for face to face learning across England it is virtually impossible to see how GCSE and A level exams can go ahead this year.’
Becca Jiggens added: ‘Young people’s mental health would be served by swift confirmation that exams will not be taking place – teacher assigned grades would help keep remote learning motivation up.’
Schoolchildren make their way to primary school in Leeds (left) and Cheshire (right) – but millions of children are now at home for at least a fortnight
Samantha Booth asked: ‘What about exams? Will there be extra measures to help students?
‘Especially if schools are going to be closed until possibly mid-Feb as is being reported.’
Another outraged Briton added: ‘If schools get closed again they better cancel the exams because that’s not fair.’
Nickwa wrote: ‘It would be an atrocious abdication of duty to make these years take exams.
‘It is criminal, the handling of this whole pandemic response.’
But not everyone agreed that cancelling exams was the best way forward, with Science teacher Dr Ella Swamp writing: ‘Cancelling exams is pretty much the same as cancelling all learning for year 11 and 13.
‘This was the worst decision made in March.
‘Now we have loads of children who have gone on to the next stage in their education without properly learning the exam content.’
Children enter Manor Park School and Nursery in Knutsford, Cheshire, as schools across England return after the Christmas break – but unions are demanding that all schools are closed immediately
Euan Stanton, a year 7 pupil at a secondary school in Ashford, Kent, studies at home as many schools switch to online learning from today for at least a fortnight
Mr Johnson’s address to the nation came hours after Nicola Sturgeon announced that schools in Scotland would remain closed for all of January as part of a new lockdown north of the border.
Ms Sturgeon said she hoped schools in Scotland would be able to return on February 1.
Wales has said it will push ahead with reopening schools over the next fortnight unless there is new evidence about the variant strain.
Under England’s new lockdown, University students are being told to stay at home and study remotely, while exams will not go ahead as planned. Nurseries can stay open.
Ministers have faced union fury over the Government’s chaotic plans for the reopening of schools in January
Non-essential retail, all hospitality, gyms and swimming pools are being ordered to close across the country.
Cafes, bars and restaurants will be allowed to serve takeaway – but in a tightening from the draconian measures last spring, they will not be allowed to serve any alcohol.
Vulnerable people are being told to shield where possible. Communal worship can continue with social distancing in place.
The public will once again only be allowed to leave home for one of five reasons: to go to work if essential, shop for necessities, exercise – allowed with one other person from another household, care for someone, or to seek medical help.
The extraordinary third national squeeze will come into effect as soon as regulations are made tomorrow, but Mr Johnson urged the public to adopt the new rules now. MPs will get a vote on them on Wednesday when Parliament is recalled, although there is no prospect of them being defeated. Aides believe there is little chance of them being lifted for at least seven weeks.
In an address from Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: ‘Our hospitals are under more pressure than at any time since the start of the pandemic. It’s clear we need to do more.. while our vaccines are rolled out.’