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Be prepared: GCSE and A level exam contingency day 2019

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A levels and GCSEs, Exams

At Ofqual, and regardless of the weather, our minds are always on the summer. We’re either thinking about the summer exam series just gone or the one to come. Sometimes we’re thinking about the series after that.

We’re not alone. The exam boards, through the JCQ, have already published the key dates for the 2019/2020 academic year.

The exam boards will each publish their individual provisional June 2020 timetables on 28 February 2019 and will invite comments on them until the end of April. This is your chance to influence next year’s timetable, so do take the opportunity to comment. While the exam boards won’t be able to accommodate the preferences of every school and college for every subject, if there is a consistent pattern then the timetable may be amended.  Comments should be sent to

Back to this year. The 2019 timetable has a new feature – a contingency day on 26 June 2019.  This will be used if a significant, unexpected event arises nationally or locally during the exam period such that no students (or a large number of them) are able to take an exam when planned. Of course, we all hope there won’t be such disruption and that the contingency day won’t be needed. But students should be available throughout the exam period, including on that day, in case their planned timetable is disrupted.  You might want to add 26 June 2019 to your students’ exam timetables to make sure they all save the date and don’t make other commitments that could mean they are unavailable, just in case…..

Every school should have its own contingency arrangements in place so they are ready to deal with unexpected local disruption too. If you haven’t yet brushed off yours, updated it for this year, and made sure everyone is ready to deal with the unexpected, perhaps now is the time to do so. This information should also help you understand what to do in the event of disruption: 'What schools and colleges and other centres should do if exams or other assessments are seriously disrupted'

Also in the interests of making sure exams run smoothly for you and your students, you might check your arrangements for managing timetable clashes are up to date, fit for purpose and understood by those who need to know. In most cases schools and colleges manage timetable clashes without incident, but sometimes things go wrong; this can have upsetting consequences for those affected. Students must be supervised and without access to phone, computer etc if they are not taking an exam in the scheduled slot.

Finally, if you’re an exams officer, we’re currently preparing some additional resources for you to use with students and colleagues this year, which we’ll advertise in coming weeks.


If you would like to talk to Ofqual about any of the issues raised in this blog, please contact us at

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  1. Comment by Hannah Bradley posted on

    For clarity on student availability for the contingency day
    In the rare event that disruption to the exam period means exams must be rearranged, they will be held on the contingency day. If disrupted exams cannot all be held on one day, they will be held in the days leading up to the contingency day. Students should therefore be available, if necessary, until the contingency day on 26 June 2019. This is consistent with guidance issued by JCQ here.

    • Replies to Hannah Bradley>

      Comment by Marcia Woods posted on

      Hi Hannah

      Thanks for this clarification about the contingency day(s). The blog really gives the impression that there is only one day that candidates need to keep available apart from their timetabled exam dates. Your explanation is spot on. I know this idea of a contingency day is new to us all, but the message sent out by JCQ has morphed from 26 June 2019 only to 'days leading up to 26 June, and is bound to lead to confusion this summer.

  2. Comment by Julia Davies posted on

    So all students should be available up until and including 26 June? Even when exams could be completed 14 June?

    • Replies to Julia Davies>

      Comment by Hannah Bradley posted on

      Hi Julia, The contingency day provides for necessary, but unforeseen, changes to the timetable. Therefore students need to be available to sit any rescheduled examination on a day up to and including the 26 June. Students are unlikely to be entitled to special consideration if they miss an exam under contingency arrangements. Students are encouraged, therefore, not to make holiday plans for before the contingency day, until they have completed their exams. Once a student has completed all his/her exams there is no need to remain available. But any plans made prior to then are made at their own risk.

  3. Comment by Baidehi posted on

    I'm pretty worried at the minute because my parents have already booked a one week holiday that takes place on the week that the contingency day also takes place. It's impossible to cancel now because it would be ridiculously expensive and I don't even think we can post phone it. I really don't know what to do and my mum personally doubts any national emergency will even take place. Nevertheless, can you give any advice on what to do?

    • Replies to Baidehi>

      Comment by iandexter posted on

      The contingency day will only be used if a significant, unexpected event causes disruption to the planned exam timetable. Of course, we all hope that won’t happen, but students are advised to be available throughout the exam period (including on the contingency day) just in case. If you think you could have a problem with the planned contingency day, it’s worth having a conversation with your teachers and the exams officer at your school - they’re the best people to talk to first.

  4. Comment by Lkog posted on

    Ridiculous idea! Better not be needed cos of exam board incompetence.