Minister announces arrangements for summer examinations

Date published: 16 April 2020

Education Minister Peter Weir has outlined the process for students completing GCSE and A level qualifications in 2020.

Covid-19 Update on Examinations

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 98% of GCSEs.

Key points include:

  • 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:  “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 (ie A level results on 13 August and GCSEs on 20 August), this 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.

He said: “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.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. 'A Level Awarding' For A level, we anticipate that the calculated grade, which uses statistical predictions  based on previous student performance combined with teacher/centre assessed grades and teacher/centre rank orders, will provide a reliable grade outcome. Students will not be required to take A level examinations through an additional sitting, such as an autumn series.
  2. 'AS Awarding' All AS students will receive an AS grade and there will be no AS exams until summer 2021. The grade awarded will be based on previous student performance combined with teacher/centre assessed grades and teacher/centre rank orders. Awarding organisations are working towards the model on which grades will be awarded and in which teacher/centre assessed grades and teacher/centre rank orders will be used. The nature of the AS grade awarded in 2020 will not allow it to contribute to A level results in 2021. In summer 2021, students will have two options for their A level award. If a student chooses to only sit the required A2 units, then their AS outcomes will be calculated using statistical predictions based on their performance in the A2 units. If they choose to sit any AS units, alongside the A2 units, they will be awarded the highest grade at A level from either route.
  3. 'GCSE Awarding' Students who were due to sit GCSE exams that would have led to a whole GCSE qualification this summer will be issued a grade using a combination of average centre performance, centre assessed grades and rank ordering. Students who were due to sit units that will lead to GCSE grades in 2021, will not receive a unit result this year. For those students, there will be two options. In 2021 they can sit the units they planned to take next year, and not the unit(s) they entered for in summer 2020. These 2020 units will have a mark calculated using statistical predictions based on their performance in the 2021 units. As a result, an overall GCSE grade will be awarded in 2021. Alternatively, they can choose to sit all the units in summer 2021. Whichever option a student chooses, they will be awarded the highest grade.
  4. The Minister’ statement to the Assembly
  5. Further information will be available on the CCEA website
  6. Media queries to the Education press office at: Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.
  7. Follow us on Twitter @education_ni

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