GCSE and A-Level exams will be scrapped this year after Boris Johnson said summer tests aren’t “possible or fair” for the nation’s kids.
The Prime Minister is axing the exams for a second year, he revealed as he announced a third lockdown for England.
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The March-style lockdown will see schools closed, non-essential shops shuttered, Brits confined to their homes and most travel banned.
In his sombre address tonight, Mr Johnson said the number of people testing positive for Covid has exploded across England as a mutant strain takes hold across all regions and infections triple in just a month.
Public Health England researchers found people with the new variant are 54 per cent more likely to pass it on to others.
And it’s being blamed for surging rates in London and the south-east, where hospitals are nearing crisis point and the sick sent to wards miles away from their homes.
Under the new shutdown to tackle the variant, primary and secondary schools, as well as colleges, will stay shut until after the February half term.
Nurseries will be unaffected.
Mr Johnson hailed the “great national effort to fight Covid“, adding that there is “no doubt that if we were fighting the old variant, our collective efforts were working”.
However, he said: “We now have new variant and it’s been both frustrating and alarming to see speed with which it’s spreading.
“Scientists confirmed it’s between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible, meaning you’re much more likely to catch it and to pass it on.
“Our hospitals are under more pressure than at any time since start of pandemic.
“In England alone, the number of patients in hospital with coronavirus has increased by a third in the past week to just under 27,000 Covid patients – 40 per cent higher than first peak.
“On December 29, more than 80,000 people tested positive – a new record – while the number of deaths is up 20 per cent on last week and will sadly rise further.”
Schools must close to tackle the spread of the super-contagious strain, he said.
“We have to do everything we possibly can to stop the spread of the disease,” he said.
“Schools and colleges across England must move to remote provision from tomorrow, Tuesday, except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.”
“Alternative arrangements will be put in place.”
The decision to take kids out of class once again comes just hours after millions returned following the Christmas break.
Mr Johnson said he “completely” understood “the inconvenience and distress this late change will cause millions of parents”.
“Parents whose children were in school today may reasonably ask why we didn’t take decision sooner,” he said.
“We have done everything in our power to keep schools open because we know how important each day in education is to children’s life chances.
“The problem is not that schools are unsafe for children – children are still very unlikely to be affected – it’s that schools may act as vectors and cause the virus to spread between households.”
The Government has previously been adamant that exams will go ahead in 2021 after the closure of schools meant they had to be scrapped last year.
In 2020, students were awarded their predicted grades.
But the decision comes after headteachers urged Mr Johnson to call off the tests again.