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The coronavirus in schools has already forced at least 10 temporary closures in the UK. Across Italy, Japan and China, all schools are closed until further notice. Yesterday, Spain announced that schools in Madrid will close for two weeks.

You can follow updates on how coronavirus is affecting schools on our live blog here.

Though schools are remaining open in the UK in the short-term, there has been rumours of nation closures likely should the Government move to a delay stage of tackling the outbreak. But what could the crisis mean for the summer exam period? This blog post explains.


Coronavirus in schools: what will it mean for exams?

Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has said schools will remain open for now but things could change in the near future.

Currently there are no changes to exam timetables and schools are still preparing for them as normal. If a candidate is unable to attend an exam due to an illness or they are forced to self-isolate, it would be possible to use the appeals process.

If the school closes, appeals could be made by the schools regarding affected individuals. Potentially it may also be possible for students to sit exams elsewhere. In 2016, emergency arrangements were made for students in Edinburgh after their school was closed due to safety concerns.

In the event of widespread closures, it is “almost inevitable” that exams would be either postponed or cancelled. Exam bodies are likely to be reluctant to hold exams on different days in different places due to the high potential of exams being leaked online.

England’s qualifications regulator, Ofqual, and the exam boards are exploring contingencies that may be put in place if schools are closed before the start of the exam season in May.


How has Ofqual responded to the coronavirus?

Ofqual said:

We recognise that students, parents, schools and colleges will be concerned about the possible impact of coronavirus on the 2020 summer exam series. Our advice at this time is to continue to prepare for exams and other assessments as normal.

We continue to work closely with exam boards, other regulators and the Department for Education, and we have met to plan for a range of scenarios, as the public would expect. Our overriding priorities are fairness to students this summer and keeping disruption to a minimum.

It is still many weeks until exams start and we will issue updated advice if necessary, giving schools and colleges as much notice as possible.


Could exams be sat remotely due to coronavirus?

In Northern Ireland, Education Minister Peter Weir told the Assembly that there are no plans to cancel exams, but has also admitted there was “network capacity” to potentially allow pupils to sit A Levels and GCSEs remotely in the summer.

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) is liaising with UK exam regulators to discuss how exams could still take place in the event of school closures.

Peter Weir said:

The approach will, then, be worked through by CCEA with the exam regulators that look after exam across the United Kingdom.

At present, there are no plans to cancel exams, and we are working on an initial assumption that they will simply go ahead. However, that may be overtaken by events, and we will have contingency plans put in place.

Mr Weir was quizzed on the capability of the system to allow pupils to work remotely and whether it would require investment to the school system’s internet network, C2k.

My understanding is that what EA (the Education Authority, which operates C2k) has in place at present would enable remote learning and therefore, potentially, the opportunity for remote examinations to happen.

I am not sure whether some additional resources would be required. That can be looked at and prioritised. There is a basis there for remote learning and, therefore, remote exams.

For more updates on coronavirus in schools following our live blog here.


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