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Grade inflation of 'more than 10%' expected in NI as students to receive highest predicted grades

Stormont Education minister Peter Weir abandoned plans to use centralised standardisation following an outcry from teachers, parents and pupils.

Zara Meadows, an AS level student from Belfast Royal Academy.
Zara Meadows, an AS level student from Belfast Royal Academy.
Image: PA Images

THE HIGHEST PREDICTED grade is to be given to A-level students in Northern Ireland, Stormont’s education minister said.

Peter Weir abandoned plans to use centralised standardisation following an outcry from teachers, parents and pupils over last Thursday’s results.

A-level and AS-level candidates will be awarded grades expected by their teachers when they are higher, Weir confirmed, after exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

New grades awarded are expected to inflate by more than 10% as a result.

The minister said: “Concerns remain over the impact of changes to the qualifications system throughout the United Kingdom and any potential solution offered has its flaws.

However, my prime concern is to ensure that young people in Northern Ireland are in no way disadvantaged in comparison to their peers elsewhere. Portability and comparability of qualifications is critical for students, particularly in Northern Ireland.

“Whilst standardisation is normally an important feature of awarding qualifications, these are truly unique circumstances and this approach is now being adopted across the UK. This is why I have taken this decision today.”

More than a third of A-level grades issued last Thursday were lower than teacher estimates.

The major policy shift follows a raging controversy about the system used to allocate them.

The Stormont Assembly will be recalled from summer recess on Tuesday to debate the furore caused by a centralised formula designed to rule out anomalies caused by individual schools or teachers.

Weir said: “I have today instructed CCEA (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment) that all of their AS and A-level qualifications will now be awarded the higher of the grade submitted by their centre or the grade calculated by CCEA.”

He said the organisation was working to release the revised results to candidates as quickly as possible.

The minister added:

In the challenging situation in which we find ourselves, there are no perfect solutions. Students would have preferred to have taken their exams, but that was simply not possible in the circumstances.

“There is no substitute for exams themselves and recent events highlight the need for a full-time return to education, five days a week.”

He made the announcement hours after announcing GCSEs would be based solely on teacher predictions.

A-level and GCSE students in England and Wales will also be given grades estimated by their teachers.

The proportion of A* to A A-level grades awarded in Northern Ireland last Thursday rose by 2.3%.

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In total, 37% of estimated grades were lowered while 5.3% were raised.

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