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Northern Ireland cancels GCSE and A-level exams due to Covid-19

It comes amid stricter lockdown measures to stop a rise in transmission of coronavirus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by new cases.

First Minister Arlene Foster speaking at a media briefing on coronavirus.
First Minister Arlene Foster speaking at a media briefing on coronavirus.
Image: Liam McBurney/PA

Updated Jan 6th 2021, 2:45 PM

GCSE, AS AND A-level schools examinations in Northern Ireland will not to go ahead this year because of Covid-19.

Education Minister Peter Weir announced the decision in the Stormont assembly today.

It comes amid stricter lockdown measures to stop a rise in transmission of coronavirus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by new cases.

An additional 13 deaths with Covid-19 were reported in Northern Ireland today, while another 1,985 people have tested positive. 

Hospitality occupancy across Northern Ireland was put at 102%.

There are a total of 592 Covid-confirmed inpatients, 44 of whom are being treated in intensive care.

Following the public health advice has never mattered so much, Stormont’s First Minister Arlene Foster said.

“We will be asking everyone to help us get through the next period of time by complying with the public health messaging and by adhering to the full range of restrictions because it has never mattered so much.”

Schools will close in most cases, with youngsters to be taught via remote learning.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said children had been under pressure over the last year and denied the opportunity to mix with their peers.

She claimed many had been “left hanging” and not knowing if they will have to sit transfer tests for grammar schools.

O’Neill confirmed the new measures would include remote learning for schools, limited contact in domestic settings and statutory measures to support the stay-at-home message.

“Our priorities remain unchanged, we are committing to saving lives, protecting our health service from being overwhelmed and doing all that we can to reduce the spread of this deadly virus,” she said. 

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There is still little clarity on transfer tests for entry into grammar schools, which were initially cancelled only for the Association for Quality Education to announce they will hold a single exam in February.

Stay-at-home advice is to be put into legislation from midnight on Thursday, with additional powers being given to the PSNI to enforce the measures.

Household mixing will be reduced to just one other household or social bubble.

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