Weir outlines plans for exams and assessments in 2021

Date published: 15 December 2020

Education Minister, Peter Weir has announced a comprehensive package of measures to ensure fair and flexible public examinations in 2021.

This includes:

  • the opportunity for students to omit units of assessment at GCSE AS and A2;
  • more generous grading across all qualifications;
  • significant reductions in the content which will be assessed;
  • support materials for GCSE maths; and
  • a reserve examination series in early July for A2 candidates who miss exams through illness or self-isolating. 

Speaking in the Assembly, Peter Weir said: Let me first reiterate that I will not be cancelling examinations.   However, I know our students are facing unprecedented disruption to their learning. That’s why our qualifications will be different next year and I will be taking exceptional steps to ensure they are as fair as possible. In recognition of the challenges of studying in such disrupted times, I am taking unprecedented steps to reduce assessment across qualifications.

“Over the last few weeks, my officials have been working closely with CCEA to develop wide ranging measures, which will best support students in these unprecedented times.  In doing so they have engaged with the Education and Training Inspectorate, school leaders, teachers and, importantly, young people to seek their views on the way forward.

“I believe the changes I am announcing will provide young people with the clarity and confidence they need to achieve success. The changes include more generous grading across all qualifications and significant reductions in the content which will be assessed.”

Recognising that young people have experienced varying levels of disruption, the Minister has asked CCEA to explore the possibility of a COVID allowance for young people who have missed a significant number of days face-to-face teaching due to self-isolating. 

Concluding the Minister said: “I am very conscious that our young people have faced incredible challenges as a result of this pandemic. In making these adaptations to examinations, we will ensure that their lives are not defined or held back by the disruption they have experienced in 2020.

“I want to publicly thank each and every teacher, school leader, Governor and all the other vital support staff that work in and around our schools, for their incredible efforts.  They have dealt with a wide range of difficult and exceptional issues. Thanks to their efforts our children have been able to return to school and continue their education.”


Notes to editors: 


  1. A copy of the Minister’s statement is available on the DE website at:
  2. Follow us on Twitter @Education_NI and our Facebook page, Department of Education Northern Ireland.
  3. Media enquiries to the Department of Education Press Office Telephone: 028 9127 9772. Out of office hours, contact the Duty Press Officer number 028 9037 8110.

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