Ofqual and Ofsted clash over Ramadan exams

The bosses of England’s two education watchdogs have clashed over the timing of GCSE and A-level exams to fit in with Ramadan.

Dame Glenys Stacey, chief executive of the exams regulator Ofqual, has written an open letter to Ofsted chief executive Sir Michael Wilshaw.

It follows his warning yesterday that exam dates should not be moved to accommodate religious events such as Ramadan, which falls partly in the exam season this year. Sir Michael said this would set a “very bad precedent”.

The chief inspector was asked on LBC radio about reports that exam dates had been changed to accommodate Ramadan.

He said he worried about religious communities “piling in” to try to have examinations moved, saying: “Once we give in to one religious group, we’ve got to give in to the other.”

“Other groups might say, ‘We’ve got a festival here, a holy day there, we want you to change’,” he said. “Schools would find it very difficult to manage that.”

But now Dame Glenys has written to Sir Michael to tell him he had misunderstood the situation.

“I refer to your comments broadcast in a recent LBC radio phone-in concerning Ramadan, which have been picked up by a number of the national newspapers today,” she said.

“I would like to confirm that exams have not been moved this summer to accommodate Ramadan, nor is there an intention to move them.

“Schedules are set to ensure that, as far as possible, no child is disadvantaged due to the timing of exams. This includes consideration of those who follow Islam.”

The JCQ, which represents exam boards, issued a statement yesterday that said: “Exam boards will always aim to be as fair as possible to all.

If a small change can be made for any one group that does not impact negatively on most students, it will, quite rightly, be considered – but these are made before the timetable is published.”

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “Sir Michael was asked by a caller, live on LBC’s Nick Ferrari show yesterday, if he thought exams should be moved to accommodate Ramadan, and he replied that he did not think they should. Sir Michael is grateful for the clarification from Ofqual.”

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