Students are likely to be awarded their GCSE and A-level grades this summer based on a combination of predicted grades, mock exam results, coursework and teacher assessment — with a possible exam session in the autumn for those who feel their grades are unfair, a schools leader has said.
As teenagers, parents, and teachers called on the government to explain how grades would be awarded, Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts — which represents academy trusts — revealed the plans in an email to headteachers on Wednesday night after meeting with education secretary Gavin Williamson and officials earlier this week.
Schools will be closed "until further notice" from Friday afternoon, except for the children of "key workers" and the most vulnerable pupils, as the government urgently seeks to curb the rapid rise of coronavirus around the UK.
In the email, seen by BuzzFeed News, Cruddas said: "Perhaps the most controversial of decisions announced today relates to public tests and exams. There will be no primary assessment.
"GCSEs and A-levels will be awarded on the basis of moderated assessment with the exam boards and Ofqual [Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation]. Of course this is not ideal.
"But I am persuaded there is no better option. For those young people who feel that they could have done better than their predicted grade, I believe there will be [a] mini-session in the autumn."
Williamson confirmed on Thursday that students would not be sitting exams as normal but would get their GCSE and A-level results in August. He said details of how these would be awarded would be revealed on Friday.
Williamson told BBC Radio 4 that he had looked through "every option" of replacing exams and "every option is so much less good than the exam process".
He was asked whether the government planned to simply assess students based on mock exams and teacher assessments — or make them sit an online test as well.
Williamson would not answer this but said the government had a "clear preference".
He also said it was vital for children who had "put so much work into all their learning" to have a "proper and fair system" if they disputed the grade they were awarded.
The Cabinet Office will be unveiling details of who counts as a "key worker" later on Thursday. Williamson suggested this could include those who made hospitals and schools function, national infrastructure workers, and distribution drivers who made sure there was food in the shops.
In the email, Cruddas said schools would need to limit provision from Monday to a "basic level of care for the most vulnerable and the children of frontline workers".
She said: "There is no precedent, within our lifetimes, for the decisions that the government is having to make. Mass school closures could have the effect of collapsing the NHS leading to a substantial civic crisis on top of a public health emergency.
"The mass closure of schools would have a huge impact on the economy and would mean that many parents – frontline workers and those in the so called gig economy – could not work. The impact of this on children and young people — on food poverty, safeguarding and welfare — is huge."
The Department for Education declined to comment on the email and said it was a fast-moving situation.