Ofqual says plans are in place to help students who cannot make it in, or are at schools that are still closed
Postponing exams is "not easy" to do and contingency plans are in place to help students who cannot make it in, or are at schools that are still closed, Isabel Nisbet, the acting chief executive of Ofqual insisted.
Hundreds of schools that closed during last week's snow chaos are reopening today as GCSE and A-level exams begin, but many more have been forced to remain shut as the chaos continues.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls has urged headteachers to do "everything they possibly can to stay open" amid stories of parents heading to schools to help in efforts to clear the snow.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Ms Nisbet said schools were making "enormous efforts" to open, with some laying on mini buses or special vehicles to bus pupils in.
"The best thing is for young people to do the exams when they planned to do it, because they've been working all over the holidays for them and you can see that's part of their learning plan," she said.
"The best thing is for them to do it, and the fairest thing for everybody is for as many as possible who can do it, to do it."
She added: "We have looked at all the other possible things that could be done, in fact there's a whole programme of exams going on, that go on right until the first week in February so they don't clash with each other, so postponing is not an easy thing. If you're going to sit a different exam, you'd have to make sure it was fair with the one that was on now, and most people feel that the best thing is to carry on with what we're doing."
Hundreds of thousands of students could potentially be disadvantaged if bad weather affects the exams, with pupils who fail to make it in, or see their school closed, missing a chance to take the paper.
Most of those due to take place over the next two weeks are modular exams for AS and A-levels, although some are GCSEs.
Ms Nisbet said there were plans in place for students who cannot sit exams - they can take it in the summer, or if it was their final chance to take the paper, apply for special consideration.
This means they ask their exam board to grade them based on the work they have already done.
Acknowledging that it is "not ideal" for pupils to take papers later, she said schools would try to help them "plan their learning so that they minimise the disadvantage of that."
These contingency plans have been used before, Ms Nisbet said, during the summer of 2007, when the Hull was flooded.
Acknowledging the recent arctic conditions have been "very very difficult", she said she had been told by headteachers that the thing that had been hard on them is the "doubt" about what the weather would be like today.
Councils in some of the worst-hit parts of the country last week - such as Salford, Hampshire and Hertfordshire - said today the vast majority of their schools were open.
There were also no closures reported in Essex and Buckinghamshire County Council said nearly all of its schools were open.
Speaking on Sky News, Mr Balls said: "This is the worst snow we have seen for decades and the decisions have got to be made locally by headteachers with their local authorities. I can't second-guess every decision in every part of the country.
"But my message is clear - schools should open if at all possible.
"Heads have got difficult judgments to make. I am sure no head wants to close their school if they can avoid it.
"But it is really important to take a balanced view and not to overstate risks like slipping in the playground, or having slightly less supervision."
The majority of schools in the West Midlands have opened their doors today.
But more than 30 schools in Birmingham were closed to all or some year groups, while nine schools in Walsall, five in Dudley and three in Sandwell also decided not to open.
All schools in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire were due to open today, with a small number opening later than usual.
All schools are open in Devon and the council is encouraging headteachers to open their doors. Some 19 schools in Cornwall remained closed today and others will open slightly later than normal.
Five schools in Wiltshire have been reported closed, while 13 are open. A number of schools in the county are unable to offer pupils school meals or transport, and others are only open to older students in year 11 and above.
In Gloucestershire, 23 schools are closed, with 50 schools offering limited services.
Some 17 schools are reported to be closed in the Somerset County Council district. Others are open with limitations, such as year restrictions and later opening times.
All schools are open in Dorset, but the University of Bournemouth has decided to postpone exams scheduled for today to January 16.
The vast majority of schools in the North West were open, with 27 across Greater Manchester confirmed as closed, while 21 in Lancashire stayed shut.
Ceredigion County Council, in Mid Wales, said most of its schools were reopening today after widespread closures last week.
On Friday, the council asked the Welsh Assembly Government to step in to help get exams postponed.
Exams for some secondary school pupils in Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, where 18 schools were closed today, were being held at a temporary exam centre in Merthyr Tydfil College.
Around 160 schools in Wales planned full or partial closures today, BBC Wales reported.Reuse content