Coronavirus: GCSEs and A level exams cancelled as Britain closes schools

British schools across the UAE will be affected by the decision

epa08303653 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to 10 Downing Street after attending Prime Minister Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons (lower house of Parliament), in London, Britain, 18 March 2020. The British government is set to hold a press conference later in the day to update the media on the situation in the country regarding the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.  EPA/WILL OLIVER

GCSE and A-Level exams have been cancelled as Britain announces schools will close until further notice to stem the spread of coronavirus.

British schools across the UAE will be affected by the decision.

It comes just hours after Scotland and Wales told schools to prepare to close from Friday and warned they may stay shut for months until after the summer holidays.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has held off closing institutions until now.

"Closing schools is of limited value in stemming the spread of the virus. Hitherto the advice has been to keep them open," he said.

"But after schools shut their gates on Friday they will remain closed until further notice. It means exams will not take place but we will ensure children get the qualifications they need. It will be done fairly and to protect their interests."

The government is asking schools to make provision for the children of key frontline workers, such as medics and police officers.

He said the duration will be kept to an "absolute minimum" and the government will "get things going as fast as they can".

Mr Johnson said the closures were vital to try and stop the rise in coronavirus cases.

Officials had met on Wednesday to discuss school closures as the UK death toll rose to 104.

GCSEs and A-level exams were due to start on May 11 and finish in mid-June.

Exam board Ofqual said: "We welcome the certainty that the Secretary of State’s decision not to hold exams this summer provides in these challenging circumstances.

"We will now work urgently with the Department for Education to work through the detail of this decision and to provide more information as soon as possible."

Exams need to be completed by August 31 for eligibility into the British higher educational system.

But the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service body told The National exceptional circumstances could be introduced.

Universities across the UK began closing their doors on Monday and moving lessons online.

The UN cultural organisation, UNESCO, has said more than 850 million youngsters – roughly half of the world’s student population – has to stay away from schools and universities because of the pandemic.

In the UK, further measures intended to stop the virus spreading quickly across the country could include restricting the movement of people in London, though such steps are not likely before Friday at the earliest, one official said.

The outbreak is at a more advanced stage in the capital and Mr Johnson has already urged London residents to pay particular attention to the need to work from home and avoid social contact.

Mr Johnson has been under fire for not moving more quickly to close schools, while other countries have stepped in sooner with tougher action to halt the spread of the virus.

Mr Johnson said: "We've always said we're going to do the right measures at the right time.

"A lot of people are making a real heroic effort to comply with the advice we've given, but as I've said ... we keep everything under continuous review."

To the suggestion of instigating legal restrictions on people's travel movements in London or elsewhere, he said: "It's one of the great features of our lives that we don't tend to impose those sorts of restrictions on people in this country, but I have to tell you we will rule nothing out."

He added: "We will certainly wish to consider bringing forward further and faster measures where that is necessary to suppress the peak of the epidemic, to protect our NHS (National Health Service), to minimise casualties and to minimise suffering."