GCSEs, A-level and AS-level exams will be replaced with teacher assessments, education secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed.
It comes after Boris Johnson placed England in a third national lockdown, with schools and colleges to close and exams cancelled.
Williamson told MPs the government had “learned the lessons” of using an algorithm to decide grades, after last summer’s exams fiasco, which threatened to downgrade the results of disadvantaged children before ministers U-turned.
Williamson also said that SATs will not be going ahead this year either.
He was unable to say whether BTEC exams were set to go ahead this month as planned, with Williamson saying colleges needed “flexibility”.
It was also unclear whether teachers would be vaccinated against the virus any sooner.
Williamson said: “Last year, all four nations of the United Kingdom found their arrangements for awarding grades did not deliver what they needed, with the impact felt painfully by students and their parents.
“Although exams are the fairest way we have of assessing what a student knows, the impact of this pandemic now means that it is not possible to have these exams this year.
“I can confirm that GCSEs, A-levels and AS-level exams will not go ahead this summer. This year, we’re going to put our trust in teachers, rather than algorithms.”
The minister told the Commons schools had been closed to “curb the escalating cases of Covid throughout the country”.
He said: “The last thing any education secretary wants to do is announce that schools will close, and this is not a decision that the government ever wanted to take.”
Williamson said that a form of teacher-assessed grades will be used, with training to ensure grades are awarded “fairly and consistently”.
He told the Commons: “I know students and staff have worked hard to prepare for the January exams and assessments of vocational and technical qualifications and we want to allow schools and colleges to continue with these assessments where they judge it is right to do so.
“No college should feel pressured to offer these and we will ensure all students are able to progress fairly.”
He also used the Commons statement to confirm a food voucher scheme would remain in place for children eligible for free school meals.
It was unclear, however, what cash was being made available and how wide-ranging the scheme would be.
He said: “Where schools cannot offer food parcels or use local solutions, we will ensure a national voucher scheme is in place so that every eligible child can access free school meals while their school remains closed.”
Shadow education secretary Kate Green hit out at Williamson over the failure to supply disadvantaged children with laptops.
She said: “At every stage of this pandemic young people have been an afterthought for this government, which has had no plan to safeguard their education, support their families, or protect the most vulnerable.
“Now we are back where we were nine months ago – schools closed, exams cancelled, and an education secretary without a grip on his brief or on the challenges facing pupils, parents, and staff.
“There is time to act. But he must act now, to ensure all pupils can learn remotely, that families are supported, and that the most vulnerable are safeguarded.”