College leaders in England have warned that large numbers of students retaking maths and English GCSEs next month could pose a public health risk, as coronavirus infection rates continue to rise in many parts of the country.
Tens of thousands of students, whose GCSEs were cancelled over the summer, are due to sit the exams in further education colleges across the country, including many in high-risk areas where tighter restrictions are already in place to try to reduce transmission.
Colleges have raised concerns about the logistics of bringing together large volumes of students to sit exams. Some are considering closing their campuses to other students on exam days to reduce risks, others say the exams should be postponed.
The Association of Colleges (AOC) has written to education minister Nick Gibb calling for urgent talks. It says colleges in high- and very-high-risk areas of the North West, Yorkshire and West Midlands are reporting a significantly higher number of resits than in previous years, with some having to accommodate more than 500 students.
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AOC’s chief executive, David Hughes, wrote: “Colleges will of course apply