International A Level, GCSE Exams Still On

The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced on the 18th March that all UK schools would close on Friday, 20th March, and that A Level and GCSE exams will not take place. Some international boards have said IGCSEs, international A' Level exams will go ahead as planned.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

In his daily update on Wednesday, 18th March, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that schools in England would close Friday, 20th March, indefinitely. A Level and GCSE examinations will not take place in May and June.  The Edexcel and Oxford AQA exam boards are both currently planning to continue to hold exams where it is safe to do so. However, on 24th March, Cambridge International made a u-turn and cancelled its exams globally. 

Cambridge cited the increased number of countries closing schools as the reason behind its u-turn. "The situation with the Covid-19 outbreak is changing rapidly. In recent days, many more countries have decided to extend school closures into May and June, making it impossible for many of our schools to hold examinations..."

"Today, therefore, we have taken the difficult decision not to run our international examinations in the May/June 2020 series in any country. This includes Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge O Level, Cambridge International AS & A Level, Cambridge AICE Diploma and Cambridge Pre-U.

Please check our homepage for an independent story on the decision, which will be updated if and when other exam boards join Cambridge in its decision to cancel exams this summer.

Previously Cambridge International had said, "the June 2020 exam series timetable is global and we work in over 160 countries...

"It is not possible for us to make changes at short notice because timetabling across many different countries is so complex. Cambridge International exams will go ahead outside the UK in countries where schools are open or exams can be held safely.  For schools in England that take Cambridge International exams, we are working with the UK government to understand more about their intentions. We will provide more information to schools as soon as possible.

Oxford AQA still plans to forge ahead with IGCSEs and A' Levels. It says:

"The UK Government announced.. that as a result of the impact of the coronavirus, schools across the UK will close until further notice and the summer exams will not take place. We need to work through the practical implications of this situation for our colleagues in the UK, but would like to reassure our schools, teachers and students that we currently intend to proceed with our summer series of international GCSEs and A-levels as planned. We will keep you updated with any further news as soon as we can."

Pearson Edexcel in a statement posted on their website, today, 20th March, has stated 

"Where [international] schools are closed and public exams are not permitted due to COVID-19, students will have the opportunity to receive a grade for qualifications where an entry has been made. These will be awarded using the same principles as the UK GCSE and GCE A Level which will not have exams in any country in May/June 2020. Further information will be available in the coming days confirming the process to be followed."

In his statement, Mr. Johnson said:

"The Government will make sure that students' progress will not be impeded and the Government will ensure that students receive the qualifications fairly, as they deserve."

The government has now stated how grades will be awarded. Details may be found here [UAE site].

Clare Marchant, who heads the UK's Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, said in a statement: "[UCAS] will be working through the implications of today’s announcements for students, teachers, universities and colleges over the coming days, which was one of the scenarios we were planning for.

"Flexibility within the admission process will be enhanced and extended to deal with the coronavirus outbreak and the announcement that there will be no exams this year. We are confident that our team and systems are ready to adapt throughout the spring and summer.
"As soon as any changes are confirmed, students will be emailed to explain how this might affect them, so it’s important they keep their email address up to date in Track. We will also communicate further and extend support to all of customers during these challenging times."

In an interview on Sky News on the 19th, in the evening, Ms. Marchant commented that

"UCAS and universities already know a lot about students, through GCSE results, predicted grades, personal statements and references. Contextual information (personal circumstances) are already known to UCAS, and predicted grades are only one point of data." 

She encouraged students to continue to study to prepare for university so that they get a head start, noting that their studies so far will not be wasted.  UCAS is working with other authorities to ensure grades are fair and will begin to put out advice for international and mature students.

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