Belfast Telegraph

GCSE results land on mat for thousands of Northern Ireland students

By Rebecca Black

Almost 30,000 people in Northern Ireland aged from 10 to 71 will find out their GCSE results this morning.

Following a nervous wait this summer, the 29,170 students who sat GCSE examinations set by local board CCEA at 264 testing centres will find out what grades they got. Those who sat CCEA exams in May range from a 10-year-old pupil of primary school age right up to a pensioner aged 71.

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Those who sat exams set by English examining boards will also receive their results this morning. Some of this year's GCSE results will come via numerical grades instead of the traditional letters.

CCEA chief Justin Edwards said the vast majority of learners in Northern Ireland will receive the traditional A* to G grades, and just three per cent will receive a numerical grade for some subjects.

The new 9-1 grade - where nine is the best score - will only apply to GCSE mathematics and English literature exams set by English and Welsh boards AQA, OCR, Pearson and Eduqas.

Next year more exam subjects offered by these boards will use the numerical system.

CCEA will not change to the numerical 9-1 grading.  In 2019 the new CCEA letter grading will be introduced, with the Grade A* aligned to the Grade 9. In addition, a Grade C* will be introduced and aligned with the Grade 5.

The new numerical grading system is part of the biggest GCSE shake-up for a generation.

Former Education Secretary Michael Gove set about an overhaul of GCSEs, starting in 2013, with the aim of new, tougher courses designed to "set higher expectations" and "demand more from all students and specifically provide further challenge to those aiming to achieve top grades".

The new courses feature less coursework than the old GCSE qualifications, and modular courses - which saw pupils sit papers throughout their studies - have been scrapped in favour of 'linear' GCSEs, in which pupils take all of their exams at the end of the two-year course.

The new GCSEs are being introduced gradually, with English literature and mathematics this year.

The next wave, with grades awarded for the first time next summer, include the sciences, history, geography and some modern languages, with others such as art, music and drama being given grades for the first time in 2018.

A few other languages, taken by small numbers of students, will be first examined in 2020.

Comparing the new number grades with the letter system, a grade seven is broadly equivalent to an A under the old system, while a four is broadly equivalent to a C.

Fewer students will receive a grade nine than would have received an A* under the old grading system.

The grade five will be considered a strong pass by Government.

The Department of Education said pupils who achieve a four in English and maths will not have to continue studying these subjects after age 16, similar to how scoring at least a C under the old system meant moving on.

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