GCSE and A-level exam content may need to be halved to make exams viable this academic year, the general secretary of the HMC has said.

Schools should also be testing students throughout the year so they have a water-tight record of their abilities in the event of exams not taking place for a second year, Simon Hyde told the i paper.

Following a consultation over the summer, exams regulator Ofqual said next year’s exams could be slightly delayed to allow for extra teaching time, but students will be expected to cover the vast majority of the course content.

But Dr Hyde said that the consultation had been mistimed, just as the virus “seemed to be going away.”

But as the number of infections has surged again, it may be necessary to go further than a few tweaks, he said.

Dr Hyde said it might be necessary to cut content to an “absolute core” of about half that normally covered.

He also said that exam boards should set all schools the same “end-of-unit assessments” to test students throughout the year.

Mr Hyde has also supported calls by a new campaign group -  Rethinking Assessments -  to review the role of GCSE exams.

In a letter to The Times newspaper, the group, which includes leading independent schools and some academy chains, said the “mutant exam system” was failing children, causing undue stress and failing to develop and assess a wide range of valuable skills.