Students will not have to wear face masks to sit optional autumn exams

students sitting in exam hall

Rooms will be cleaned after each exam, and seats will be kept a minimum distance apart from each other

Students will not be required to wear face masks in the optional autumn GCSE, AS-level and A-level exams – although they can choose to wear one if they want to, the Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed.

Candidates might be asked to wear face masks in communal areas before and after the exams, though, especially if they’re in an area that’s on local lockdown or if that’s their school’s usual rule.

The autumn AS-level and A-level exams will run from Monday 5 October until Friday 23 October, while the autumn GCSE exams are scheduled to start on Monday 2 November and finish on Monday 23 November. You can find links to the full timetables for all of the autumn exams and results days here.

Ahead of the exams starting, the DfE published guidance on its site on 18 September to explain how test centres should comply with social distancing rules. There were also new coronavirus restrictions announced for the wider country today on 22 September, with shop staff now being required to wear face masks and fines for breaking rules on gatherings increasing to £200. 

As well as clarifying the rules around face masks, the DfE guidance said that anyone arriving to sit the autumn exams should be kept separate from the other students coming in to school or college, and given a special waiting area before the exams start.

The exam rooms will be cleaned after every exam, and students chairs’ will be arranged at least 1.25 metres apart from each other for students who are already in the same year-group bubbles.  

Students who aren’t already in a year-group bubble with other candidates sitting the exam – if they’re private candidates, for example, or from a different year group – will sit two metres apart from each other.

Windows and doors will be kept open wherever possible, the guidance said, as “good ventilation is important”.

Exam invigilators will be able to walk up and down the aisles between desks, but there should also be a spot in the room where they can stand at least two metres from the closest desk and see all of the candidates.

And for anyone sitting the exam who needs support from the invigilators, such as students who need a scribe or a reader, the guidance said that “for encounters of over 15 minutes,” staff will need to keep a two metre distance where possible and will preferably in a separate room from the other candidates. 

The guidance added that if this distance is not possible for “some candidates who have complex needs,” those students’ “educational support should be provided as normal during exams”.

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