Parallel universe watch: Bid to bring forward UK GCSEs so Muslim pupils aren’t fasting for Ramadan

Muslim students pray outside City University, London

GCSE and A-level examinations could be brought forward for hundreds of thousands of pupils to avoid a clash with Ramadan under controversial proposals.

Teachers and lecturers in England and Wales are pushing for the summer exam timetable to be altered to help Muslim students who will be fasting when they sit papers.

School exam boards and universities are considering the radical shake-up from 2016, when the religious period of Ramadan clashes with the exam season.

One option is to hold some exams earlier within the usual May-June exam season. Another is for fasting Muslim students to be eligible for extra marks under “special consideration” rules if they believe their performance has been affected.

The holy period in the Islamic calendar, which requires Muslims to fast during daylight hours, starts to fall earlier and earlier in the summer from next year, progressively clashing with the exam season in June.

The clash also coincides with Michael Gove’s return to O-level style exams, which are taken at the end of the two-year course rather than at intervals throughout it – making the summer exams the only chance to do well.

This month, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Union (ATL) conference will debate how to “minimise the impact” on Muslim pupils.

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Wiki definitions of terms:

GCSE: The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification awarded in a specified subject, generally taken in a number of subjects by students aged 14-16 in secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was introduced in 1986 (with the first examinations taking place in 1988) replacing the former O Level / CSE qualifications.

A-Levels: The General Certificate of Education Advanced Level—generally termed the GCE Advanced Level or, more commonly, the A Level—is an academic qualification offered by educational bodies in the United Kingdom and the British Crown dependencies to students completing secondary or pre-university education.

O-Levels: The O Level (Ordinary Level) is a subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education (GCE). It was introduced as part of British educational reform in the 1950s alongside the more in-depth and academically rigorous A-level (Advanced Level) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. England, Wales and Northern Ireland replaced O Levels with GCSE and IGCSE exams in 1988.