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A-Level and GCSE exams to go ahead as normal despite disruption, says Nadhim Zahawi

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 17/01/2022 Rachael Burford
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi © PA Wire Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi

A-level and GCSE exams will go ahead as normal for the first time in two years despite high numbers of teacher absences due to Covid, the education secretary said on Monday.

Students taking tests in the summer will have experienced two years of disruption during the pandemic, including school lockdowns and the bubble system which saw entire classes sent home during a Covid outbreak.

The chaos resulted in exams being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 in favour of teacher awarded grades.

Nadhim Zahawi said markers will acknowledge the significant disruption students have faced when grading papers, but they will go ahead as normal.

“Exams in vocational [courses] have gone ahead this month and colleges have done brilliantly,” he told Sky News.

“Exams in summer are going ahead and we are full steam ahead making plans for those.

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“We don’t know what this virus will do, all I can say is we are witnessing the transition from pandemic to endemic.”

One in 12 teachers were absent from school in England during the first week of the current term, Government data shows.

The spread of Omicron resulted in almost five per cent of teachers and school leaders missing the first week of teaching after the Christmas break.

Mr Zahawi said he was making contingency plans for rising rates of staff absence and urged retired teachers and career-switchers to come forward to help with shortages.

The Covid self-isolation period was cut to a minimum of five days on Monday.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Government needs to act decisively and give schools the equipment they need to ensure proper ventilation in schools and colleges in an attempt to keep Covid infection as low as possible.

“Relying on a workforce of retired teachers appearing from thin air and in record time is just not enough to meet this challenge.”

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