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image captionGCSE, AS and A-level exams are set to go ahead in Northern Ireland in 2021
A union representing many school leaders has said cancelling exams in 2021 “cannot be ruled out”.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said it was “ever more likely” that exams would not fully take place next year.
There has been some disruption to schools since the start of term, with
significant numbers of pupils self-isolating for 14 days.
The Welsh education minister is due to announce 2021 arrangements on Tuesday.
An independent review in Wales recommended any form of GCSE or A-level exams in 2021 would be unfair due to Covid-19.
In Northern Ireland, the exams board CCEA has reduced the number of exams in many GCSE subjects.
But GCSE, AS and A-level exams are set to go ahead, with the Education Minister Peter Weir saying they are the most valid and reliable method of assessment.
However Dr Graham Gault, president of the NAHT in NI, said the union was concerned at the stress experienced by pupils “around the uncertainty of the 2021 examinations”.
“We are calling for urgent concrete contingency planning,” he said.
“NAHT contend that the cancelling of examinations cannot be ruled out and must be a viable and well-considered option in contingency planning.
“Whilst the future is unknown, in the current climate it seems ever more likely that examinations will not go ahead fully in 2021.
“The more planning and the more certainty we can give our young people now the more stress we can alleviate from them.
“We believe that the current package of mitigations from Minister Weir do not go far enough.”
In 2020, pupils received grades calculated by their schools as exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.
The government in Scotland has already decided to cancel National 5 exams – which are roughly equivalent to GCSEs – in 2021 and replace them with teacher assessments and coursework.