| 12.3°C Belfast

A-Level results: Scrap results or resign: Education Minister Peter Weir faces angry outcry over 'disastrous' grading

Education Minister is urged to scrap process or resign as backlash grows

Close

Education Minister Peter Weir is facing calls to scrap this year's controversial A-level results - or reconsider his position - following a backlash from principals and pupils

Education Minister Peter Weir is facing calls to scrap this year's controversial A-level results - or reconsider his position - following a backlash from principals and pupils

Education Minister Peter Weir is facing calls to scrap this year's controversial A-level results - or reconsider his position - following a backlash from principals and pupils

Education Minister Peter Weir is facing calls to scrap this year's controversial A-level results - or reconsider his position - following a backlash from principals and pupils.

With the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) failing to uphold over a third of teachers' estimated grades, political opponents are urging the DUP man to ditch the results.

Because pupils didn't sit exams due to the Covid-19 pandemic, teachers were asked by CCEA to give a predicted grade for their pupils and then rank them in order within their class.

The exams body then used other data to standardise the results.

For A-levels, the CCEA model used pupils' AS-level results, making adjustments for those who had applied to take resits.

For AS results, the pupils' GCSE results were used, as was the performance by their school over the previous three years.

Close

Justin Edwards defended process

Justin Edwards defended process

Photopress

Justin Edwards defended process

It meant many grades were lower than those predicted by teachers.

Alan Hutchinson, principal of Glastry College in Kircubbin, said students arrived to collect results "full of hope for their future", but instead were "graced with what, at best, can be described as a farce and at worst systemic discrimination".

"We have had teachers dealing with children who have had their dreams and aspirations taken away from them by an algorithm," he added.

In a blistering attack on Mr Weir and the CCEA, SDLP education spokesman Daniel McCrossan said they had "failed young people" and urged them to ditch the results and revert to the grades predicted by teachers instead.

The call came after hundreds of children - and some teachers - were reduced to tears by disappointing results, with doctors reporting that several "suicidal" young people had been in touch. Mr Weir, who defends CCEA's system in Friday's Belfast Telegraph, is expected to get a rough ride at Stormont education committee, with rival parties calling for a U-turn similar to that of Scotland's earlier this week.

Mr McCrossan told this newspaper he was calling for urgent action because schools "are crying out for leadership".

"Minister Weir needs to step up urgently. I am calling on him to scrap this disastrous process that has failed our young people and to revert to the approach taken in Scotland, when they realised that system was flawed as well," he said.

"And if the minister is unwilling to accept that this is wrong and that the system has been a disaster and is unwilling to step up in his position as Minister of Education and right the wrongs that are there, then his position needs to come under question.

"If he's not willing to budge on this then his position will become untenable."

Ulster Unionist education spokesman Robbie Butler called on Mr Weir and his department to sort the situation out as a matter of urgency.

"Regrettably, this A-levels results day has been a nightmare for some," he said.

"Whilst many students will be happy with their results, some have been left devastated.

"What we need now is for the Education Minister to provide a roadmap to a solution within 24 hours."

Opposition to Thursday's announced grades was unprecedented, with just over 5% of pupils getting better results than their teachers' recommendations, and thousands left with marks that won't get them access to their preferred universities.

The exams body is now bracing itself for an overwhelming number of challenges and appeals, with some parents even threatening legal action.

CCEA boss Justin Edwards argued that if it went by teacher assessments, the number of pupils achieving A or A* grades would have risen by nearly 12% - which would not have allowed for "confidence in the value of the qualification we were issuing".

Royal Belfast Academical Institution principal Janet Williamson said that a fifth of its grades were down, adding there had been "a steady stream of appeals" since 8am.

"About 20% of our grades have been lowered," she said, adding that she was, however, "very happy" that 95% of pupils got three A* to Cs.

"But some pupils haven't been given their university place. One boy who needed three Bs has been downgraded to a B and 2Cs and the university has already rejected him."

Ms Williamson said the 2020 results could have been based on teacher predictions.

"For one year, if the grades had been slightly higher than normal, it wouldn't be something to worry about," she said.

"People should have trusted the professional judgment of teachers, based on rigorous assessments."

Meanwhile Gary Kelly, principal of St Kevin's College in Lisnaskea told how his devastated pupils were saying: "You know me Sir or Miss, I am much better than these grades. Look at my exams in school, my coursework, my GCSE results."

Belfast Telegraph