EXAMS could have to be cancelled AGAIN next year if a winter Covid surge leads to another lockdown, ministers have admitted.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has already drawn up a "contingency plan" to bring back teacher assessed grades for GCSEs and A-Levels.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said the Government is determined exams will go ahead but "had to prepare for the worst".
He has repeatedly insisted that they are by far the "fairest" way of assessing students' ability.
Mr Gibb told the Commons education committee: "We don’t want to cancel exams.
"But we do know teachers and the school sector want details of the contingency.
"They want to know what data they might or might not need to collect."
Mr Williamson said there will be an "extensive consultation" on how teacher assessment would work next year if it's needed again.
He added: "We would always rather go through the process of examinations rather than teacher assessed grades.
"We very much hope we'll be moving to a system where we're able to move into the more normal pattern of examinations from next year.
"But we're always conscious there’s this pandemic, we’ve not always been able to predict the course of it, and it’s absolutely right we have contingencies there."
The education secretary is determined to bring back exams next year after two years without them.
They would only be scrapped in the event another lockdown led to kids missing out on even more classroom learning.
And ministers are already mulling new top marks for A-Levels and GCSEs to tackle rampant grade inflation during lockdown.
Education chiefs are looking at the radical reform after the number of kids getting the highest marks spiralled under teacher assessment.
There are fears the huge growth in the number of top grades risks devaluing qualifications in the eyes of universities and employers.
Leaked plans have separately emerged for an A** category at A-level and a new top mark of 10 at GCSE to uphold standards.
Mr Gibb said: "There will be no change to the grading system for 2022, but we are looking at the longer term issue about grading in GCSE and A-Levels."
Exams watchdog Ofqual is set to carry out research into attitudes amongst students, parents, and teachers about possible changes to A-levels.
It is currently advertising for firms to do the work, according to the Times Educational Supplement.
In its contract tender it admits the move could cause “anxiety and uncertainty” for some pupils.
But it says "a new top grade" would help universities distinguish between candidates.
We are looking at the longer term issue about grading in GCSE and A-Levels
Ministers are also said to be considering plans to completely revamp A-levels by moving to a numbers-based grading system.
That would bring them into line with GCSEs which moved from letters to numbers in 2019.
Ministers have vowed to tackle grade inflation and hope a return to formal exams next year will help bring it under control.
A quarter of A-level grades were at A* and A when they were last sat in 2019.
Under teacher assessment that proportion almost doubled to 45% this year.
Inflation has been less pronounced in GCSEs but record results this year still saw a third of entries awarded top marks.
Under the lockdown system teachers graded their students based on coursework and their performance in class.
Ofqual then stepped in and carried out spot-checks on some results.
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