Belfast Telegraph

GCSEs and A-levels 'to stay'

A review of GCSEs and A-levels has ruled out replacing the exams in the near future.

Limited support exists for changes being introduced in England because A-levels are so highly valued, a report for education minister John O'Dowd said.

The minister is to consult on the Fundamental Review of GCSe and A-levels.

"I do not believe there is anything fundamentally wrong with the GCSEs and A-levels we currently have and CCEA's report confirms this," the Sinn Fein MLA said.

The review was conducted by the Northern Ireland examinations board, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).

One recommendation said GCSE and A-levels should be retained with amendments to reflect the needs of Northern Ireland. Others included:

:: Changes in England and Wales should be kept under review and discussions about the use of the GCSE and A-levels names should take place.

:: The course should have modular or linear (testing at the end) assessment. Modular GCSEs and A-levels should have only one resit opportunity per unit.

:: The internal assessment process should be reviewed to improve quality assurance.

:: GCSEs should have tiered examination papers.

The CCEA report said: "Changes made in similar qualifications in other jurisdictions should be kept under review, in particular the risk of damage to the perception of Northern Ireland qualifications as a consequence of changes elsewhere or unsubstantiated claims that explicitly undermine confidence in GCSEs and A-levels."

It added creating a system which is independent from but comparable with neighbouring jurisdictions should be considered.

"The portability and currency of qualifications taken by learners in Northern Ireland must be assured. Qualifications in Northern Ireland need to be comparable in standard to similar qualifications taken by learners in other jurisdictions," the document said.

"Work should be undertaken to ensure young people in Northern Ireland have qualifications that will take them wherever they wish to go."

Education Secretary Michael Gove has said it is time for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to go their separate ways on GCSEs and A-levels.

He has written to the Northern Ireland and Welsh education ministers saying he believes the differences are becoming so great, there must be a split.

Last year, Mr Gove announced the GCSE exam in England would be replaced by a qualification called the English Baccalaureate Certificate.

The proposals to change the exam system in England also include plans for a single end-of-course exam and one exam board for core subjects.

Pupils will take the first new exams - in English, maths and sciences - in 2017.

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