Students and parents were warned to have a “plan B” to go to school for exams during the rail strikes.
The big industrial action, which will see tens of thousands of rail workers leaving for most of this week, will clash with some A-level and GCSE exams scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday.
The Department of Education said exams should not be rescheduled.
The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) and the Joint Council for Qualifications (JQC) – an association of the UK’s leading examination boards – said some contingency measures are in place for late arrivals.
Pepe Diiasio, principal at Wales High School in Rotherham, said people should have a “plan B in their back pocket” to get to school.
Diiasio said that only a “limited number” of students are likely to be affected by the strikes in general, but that it will be “severe” for those who do.
“If you have exams this week, just have a plan A and a plan B in your pocket because … it’s already been a tough year for people taking exams,” he said.
“The last thing they want to worry about right now is whether or not they’ll make it on time.”
Diiasio said one of his school buses broke down last week on math exam day.
“Our Plan B was to send a series of minibuses to make sure we picked up the students and got them on time,” he said.
“So these things happen from time to time. You just need to be prepared for any eventuality.”
Geoff Barton, secretary general of the Association of School & College Leaders (ASCL), said schools, parents and students should not panic about strikes because of contingency plans in place for late arrivals.
The JCQ, which issued contingency plans for summer exams in April, said schools can start the exam up to 30 minutes after the set start time.
It added that centers that cannot start an exam within 30 minutes of the published start time can start the exam later, as long as it takes place on that day and candidates are supervised by a staff member until the start.
Meanwhile, candidates can still take the exam if they arrive up to an hour late and still get the full exam time.
Those arriving after an hour will still be able to take the exam, but it needs to be “properly administered by the center,” the JCQ added.
Barton said: “I think this was just done to take some of the pressure off the system and just calm down young people who might otherwise be worried that if they were 10 minutes late they wouldn’t be able to take the exam. , which is simply not the case, so we are trying to reassure young people.”
Barton also advised people to “be aware that traveling by road, whether on a bus or in a car, may take longer.”
“So if you have an exam, you probably want to try to leave early, but there are also arrangements so that schools a) can start their exams a little later and b) that if someone does, because they are stuck in traffic, arrive late, so they won’t be penalized for that, they’ll still have full time for the exam,” he said.
A Devon student described the stress and anxiety caused by the possibility of missing a crucial exam ahead of this week’s strikes.
Finn Dixon, 18, is due to take a T-level exam on Tuesday and lives more than 100 kilometers from his college in Devon, normally only accessible by train.
This week’s strikes mean Dixon’s parents won’t work to get him there, which causes “even more damage”.
“It caused me a lot of anxiety… and now that I’m also relying on heavy highway traffic, I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it in time (for) my exam,” Dixon told the PA news agency.
“Those who live in a similar area are definitely as affected as I am, we’ve all been talking over the past week wondering how we’re all going to make it and worrying.”
A JCQ spokesperson said: “We appreciate that this may cause disruptions for some candidates and we already have measures in place to help in these circumstances.
“The individual centers’ contingency planning will provide specific guidance to candidates and parents advising them on what to do if a candidate is late for an exam,” they added.
“We encourage all applicants to plan any necessary alternative travel arrangements as soon as possible and contact their center if they have specific questions.”
A Department of Education spokesperson said: “We recognize how troubling these strikes will be for students – particularly GCSE and A-Levels students.
“We know that schools and colleges will leverage their existing contingency arrangements to manage any potential disruption,” they added.