Coronavirus contingency plans needed to avoid exam disruption, schools told

Schools have been told to prepare contingency plans to avoid any disruption to exams amid the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

Exams regulator Ofqual said it was in discussion with the Department for Education (DfE) about any “additional measures” that might need to be taken this summer to ensure GCSE and A-level tests run smoothly.

Its existing guidance states that schools should identify alternative venues if needed and ensure all question papers can be securely transported to the new location.

Where accommodation is limited, schools should prioritise students whose progression will be “severely delayed” if they cannot take the exam as planned, the guidance said.

In a letter to headteachers, Ofqual’s chief regulator Sally Collier said schools need to be prepared to “deal with disruption” should it occur.

“We recognise schools and colleges might have concerns about the possible impact of Covid-19 (coronavirus) on the 2020 summer exam series,” she said.

“We routinely consider whether there are particular risks to the smooth running of exams, and we are considering with the exam boards and with the Department for Education whether any additional measures might be needed this year.”

She said any changes would be provided through the department’s existing guidance, adding that students should continue to prepare for the summer exams as usual.

It comes as at least 10 primary and secondary schools were closed over the past week amid coronavirus fears.

Public Health England (PHE) has advised schools to stay open, with medical director Paul Cosford saying: “Schools have to face difficult decisions, given the complexity of issues that they are facing.

“What I would say is that our general advice is not to close schools.”

However, when asked about what public safety steps would be taken in the UK if the illness becomes a pandemic, Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty later said schools may face long-term closure.

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