GCSE and A-level exams could be taken earlier because Ramadan falls in June

The Muslim fasting season has been gradually moving into the summer exams season in England in recent years

The GCSE and A-level exam timetable could be altered this summer to offset the impact of Ramadan - the fasting season for Muslim pupils.

Subjects taken by large numbers of children - such as maths and English - could be brought forward to the beginning of the exam period in May or moved to a time of day when there would be the least impact on fasting pupils.

However, the Joint Council for Qualifications - the umbrella body which supervises the exams season, said it would not be possible to extend the exam period or bring it forward.

Pupils take their exams between the end of May and the end of June. This year Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight hours, starts on June 6 and lasts until July 5.

In a statement, the JCQ said: “The small window in which examinations can be taken, the large number of candidates taking examinations and the diverse range of subjects available to candidates, places significant limitations on the changes that can be accommodated for anyone group.

“However, JCQ meets the needs of various groups as far as possible...  Where possible, large entry GCSE and GCE (A-level) subjects are timetabled prior to the commencement of Ramadan and consideration given to whether they are timetabled in the morning or afternoon.”

It is felt that the impact of fasting would be lessened if exams were taken in the morning.

The statement emerged after the new Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, had told a meeting the Commons education select committee, that she understood that discussions were going on to see if the exam timetable could be altered to limit the effect of Ramadan on pupils.

She hinted that exams could be delayed to take into account the impact of Ramadan - but this has been denied by exam boards.

Malcom Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said his association - which represents secondary school heads - was meeting with Muslim faith leaders to discuss Ramadan and planned to issue advice to schools and colleges ahead of the exams.

“The guidance will be non-prescriptive and will not advise families or students on how they should approach the question of fasting during Ramadan which we agree is a matter for the individuals concerned along with parents, carers and faith leaders,” he added.

“School and college leaders are very keen to work with communities to ensure young people are able to observe Ramadan without any detrimental impact on their examinations.”