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Ballymoney
Thursday, November 26, 2020

Education Minister provides update on GCSE & A level qualifications
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The Education Minister Peter Weir has provided an update to the Assembly, outlined the process for students completing GCSE and A level qualifications in 2020.

This is for students taking examinations set by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) which provides the majority of examinations in Northern Ireland – 87% of A levels and 98% of GCSEs.

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Key points include:

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– Calculated grades will be issued for those completing their A level, A/S level and GCSE qualifications based on a combination of information provided by schools and colleges and statistical information.
– A/S level grades will count as a stand-alone qualification; they will not contribute to a final A level grade in 2021.
– Grades will be awarded for GCSEs due to complete in 2020 (mostly year 12s), but not for GCSE units where GCSEs are due to complete in 2021 (mostly year 11s). In the latter case, pupils will have the option to take any outstanding units in 2021 and have missing components calculated using statistical modelling and/or to sit all units in 2021 and be awarded the higher grade from either option.

Speaking in the Assembly today, Peter Weir said:

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“In March, I announced that, in line with other jurisdictions of the UK, GCSE, AS and A level exams would not proceed in Northern Ireland in summer 2020.

“My priority is to ensure that pupils receive fair results that reflect their hard work and enable judgements to be made about their future progression to study or employment or other avenues.

“CCEA, the local examinations body, together with officials from my departments and others in the education sector have been working tirelessly to develop an alternative process.

“This is a very complex process and there is still more work to be completed, however, it is vital that pupils and their families receive some clarity on this issue.”

Consultation on the preferred options has been carried out with key education stakeholders, including head teachers’ representatives and teaching unions.

The Minister said:

“Today, I have set out how qualifications will be awarded for GCSE and A level pupils. This will involve teachers using their professional judgement together with an extensive range of evidence held by schools, and statistical modelling. There will also be a process for standardising outcomes across school and other examination centres.

“The development of an appropriate appeals mechanism is also under consideration, as well as arrangements for private candidates. Whilst there will not be an opportunity for pupils to take re-sits in the autumn, they can, of course, choose to re-sit in the summer of 2021. I will also seek to align the issuing of results with England and Wales (i.e. A level results on 13 August and GCSEs on 20 August), thus ensuring that local candidates are not put at a disadvantage.”

Continuing, the Minister said that officials were also working closely with colleagues in the Department for the Economy on arrangements for vocational qualifications. Details will be announced by the Economy Minister as soon as that work has been completed.

“I have instructed CCEA to take forward work to implement these decisions, and they will issue more detailed guidance to schools, pupils and parents as a matter of urgency.

“My officials have consulted with key education stakeholders, including head teachers’ representatives and teaching unions, on the preferred options presented by CCEA. In reaching my decisions I have taken account of the views expressed through these consultations. I am reassured that all parties recognise that there is no perfect solution, but agree that we have identified the most appropriate available solutions given the unprecedented circumstances.”

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