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Reports up to half of A-level grades lowered in NI dismissed

UK News | Published:

Education Minister Peter Weir said teachers’ predictions played no part in arriving at them.

Peter Weir

Northern Ireland’s Education Minister has dismissed reports up to half of this year’s A-level grades anticipated by schools have been lowered.

Peter Weir said teachers’ predictions played no part in arriving at them.

Exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and calculated grades will be given to pupils on Thursday.

Mr Weir said: “Teacher predictions play no part in arriving at those grades so it would be inaccurate to say anything has been lowered.”

In Scotland, the government reversed the downgrading of almost 125,000 students’ calculated results based on teachers’ forecasts.

Mr Weir said such assessments tended to be higher than the actual result and added the system used in Northern Ireland produced the most accurate grades.

He told BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme they were faced with very unusual circumstances following the lockdown.

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“We have more robust set of data than would necessarily be the case in some other jurisdictions, which gives us a level of confidence in our results.”

Mr Weir distanced the system in Northern Ireland from others elsewhere.

He tweeted: “Unlike Scotland teacher assessment not the basis for A level results here.”

Mr Weir added: “It is fair, as opposed to the Scottish system which will see enormous increases in grades comparing 2020 with 2019, undermining the entire credibility of their qualifications.”

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School exam stock
Mr Weir said teacher assessments tended to be higher than the actual exam result (David Davies/PA)

Schools and colleges may hold strong evidence of students’ prior performance from mock examinations and, for GCSE examinations, some completed units, exams body CCEA (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment) acknowledged.

As part of the appeals process this year, CCEA will consider such evidence.

SDLP Stormont Assembly member Daniel McCrossan said: “Tomorrow will be a challenging day for education in Northern Ireland.

“As the hours get closer to Thursday I’m hearing of more and more concerns about what’s ahead.”

He said he had been raising serious concerns with the education authorities for four months.

“Young people, this mess isn’t your fault.”

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