A-level chaos as students fail to turn up for exams

Tests go ahead despite thousands of pupils being stranded at home by snow
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The Independent Online

A-level students face re-sitting their exams or being given special consideration after failing to make it through the snow in time to sit the tests yesterday.

Hundreds of schools which closed for most of last week reopened yesterday so that pupils did not have to put back their exams until the summer. Among them was Pershore High School in Pershore, Worcestershire, where a fleet of 4x4 vehicles collected pupils from outlying villages to make sure they got to school in time.

Brighton College in East Sussex supplied sleeping bags and mattresses so A-level maths students could stay overnight on Sunday and take exams first thing yesterday. Northamptonshire council made particular efforts to clear paths to 18 exam centres.

Across the UK, about 850 schools were partially or fully closed because of bad weather and, despite the efforts of many schools, thousands of sixth-formers were unable to make it in. They will have to re-sit exams or have their grades decided with "special consideration" for their absences.

Jane Machell, the principal of Alton College in Hampshire, said many of its candidates had difficulties getting in yesterday. "Of the 320 sitting the maths A-level paper, 280 were in the exam hall by the time the exam started," she said. "We had another 30 turn up later and we were able to start the exam, but the rest haven't made it."

The college will ask exam boards to give special consideration to those who failed to arrive or arrived too late because of the weather. "Students are more stressed than usual," she added.

The examinations watchdog, Ofqual, reported that most schools opened for exams while some had arranged for pupils to sit the tests in more accessible venues.

Margaret Morrissey, of the education pressure group Parents Outloud, said the exams should have been postponed so that pupils did not have to struggle through the snow. But Isobel Nesbit, the acting chief executive of Ofqual, said: "There is a whole programme of exams going right into the first week in February so that they do not clash with each other. Postponing [them] is not an easy thing."

Meanwhile, Lord Adonis, the Transport Secretary, told the House of Lords that extra rationing would be required from councils to preserve salt stocks. He said the Highways Agency and local authorities had agreed to cut the amount of salt used for gritting roads by at least 25 per cent but that "given the prolongation of the very cold weather, further measures are likely to be required to keep networks open".

In the Commons, Theresa Villiers, the shadow Transport Secretary, accused the Government of making "inadequate preparations", telling MPs that the latest call for councils to reduce their salt use by 25 per cent was an "admission of guilt" by ministers.

In Lanarkshire, police named a woman who froze to death after being found in the snow outside a church. Elizabeth Hill, 33, was alive when she was discovered by the church organist on a path in the grounds of St John's Church in Carluke on Sunday morning, but died in hospital a a short time later.

Travellers faced further disruption yesterday. British Airways cancelled flights in and out of Heathrow Airport and easyJet scrapped six flights at Gatwick. Delays were still affecting nine rail operators including Eurostar. The Met Office in London said snow warnings remained in place for southern and central Wales, as well as South-west England, and up to 10cm more snow could fall across Yorkshire last night.

Philip Eden, vice-president of the Royal Meteorological Society, said: "This is the week things change. It won't be a dramatic sudden change but a long, slow, erratic climb out of the freeze."