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Distance learners risk being denied the A level and GCSE qualifications they have studied for because of new exam rules

Service personnel, parents looking to return to work after raising children, people with disabilities, in long term hospital care, mature students with full time jobs or home educated teenagers are all some of the estimated 50,000 people who sit GCSE and A level exams under their own steam. 

But from May 2017 these candidates face a new barrier to getting their qualifications after a ruling that coursework (known as "non-examined assessments") must be assessed by the same geographically based exam centre as where the student takes their written exams. 

Non-examined assessments are a part of A-level history, English Literature, English language and all modern languages and English GCSE. 

However distance learners say this simply won't work. For many years candidates have struggled to find an examination centre willing to let them sit the written papers for the courses they have studied. The National Extension College worries that no exam centres will take on the additional burden of supervising and assessing coursework too. The plan also does not meet professional standards as it would involve teachers in exam centres authenticating work of students they had never met.

Previously organisations such as the National Extension College had put in place robust systems agreed with exam boards whereby allocated tutors managed distant learners’ coursework.

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, who recently visited the Cambridge based National Extension College is deeply concerned. He has contacted the Education Secretary asking for this matter to be urgently reviewed.

He said: "This is a terrible unintended consequence of exam reforms. Students urgently need clear information about exam arrangements when they enrol in September. I urge the Government and Ofqual to think again so as not to place a limit on aspiration."

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