Most A-level and GCSE exams in England will be delayed by three weeks next year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said.

The 2021 exams will go ahead, but the majority of tests will be pushed back to give pupils more time to catch up on their learning following school closures.

The exams, which usually begin in May, will be delayed to June and July – apart from the English and maths GCSEs which will take place before the half-term.

GCSE and A-level results will be given out to students in the same week in August following the change, University of Bradford alumnus Mr Williamson announced.

Mr Williamson said: “We know that exams are the fairest way of measuring a student’s abilities and accomplishments, including the most disadvantaged.

“We want to give our young people the opportunity next summer to demonstrate what they know and can do.”

The move follows warnings from teaching unions that moving back exam dates is unlikely to have any impact on students' achievement, and some fear that it may have a detrimental impact on students.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, warned that a “compression” of the exam series may impact student wellbeing.

He said: “Announcing a delay is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the planning that now needs to be done.

“This step does not address the disparity between different student’s different levels of disruption to learning; much more needs to be done to ensure that the qualification system takes account of this so that students can have confidence that the grades they are awarded in 2021 are fair.”

Mr Williamson has said the 2021 exam series for the majority of A-levels and GCSEs will start on June 7 and end on July 2.

Students will receive their AS and A-level results on Tuesday August 24 and GCSE students will receive their grades on Friday August 27.

One maths and one English GCSE exam will take place before the May half-term to give pupils who may need to self-isolate during the exam period the “best chance” of sitting a paper in these subjects, Mr Williamson said.

Some AS-levels and A-levels with very small numbers of students will also be scheduled before half-term.