Northern Ireland’s main examinations body, the CCEA, has said it will be business as usual despite claims from interim chief executive Margaret Farragher she has quit the post citing allegations of bullying.
Ms Farragher has been in the position for just over a year, taking on the role on an interim basis in April 2021 after the resignation of former chief executive Justin Edwards.
The outgoing head of the exams board has claimed she was “treated less favourably and faced ongoing harassment and bullying” at the organisation and on resigning said her position had become “untenable”, according to the BBC.
Ms Farragher is reported to have notified two senior officials in CCEA by letter that she was resigning on June 10, having made officials “aware of the difficulties I have encountered since taking up the role”.
“These are well communicated within my grievance, written concerns and discussions we have had during our various meetings, including council meetings,” her letter continued.
“Matters have come to a head and my position is untenable.
“I have been treated less favourably and faced ongoing harassment and bullying.
“As you are both aware I have found this extremely difficult and my health and family life have suffered.
“I can no longer tolerate such treatment and have had no choice but to resign from my employment.”
Ms Farragher’s resignation comes after she had led CCEA through the first summer exam period in two years, the previous grades assessed by teachers due to the Covid pandemic but she also said she had made CCEA aware of other “organisational concerns”.
“As per the terms of my employment contract, I am subject to a three-month notice period,” her letter said.
“I am willing to support CCEA and the minister during my notice period subject to an agreement being put in place on working arrangements that protect my health.”
CCEA’s council operates as the organisation’s board and consists of a chairperson and 13 other members appointed by the Department of Education (DE).
A CCEA spokesperson said that it “takes any allegations very seriously and has appropriate policies and procedures in place to investigate the concerns of our staff.”
“We do not comment on individual cases.
“We wish to reassure students, parents and the education community that it is business as usual as we conclude this year’s examinations timetable and prepare for the issue of results,” CCEA continued.
“We thank our students and teachers who have worked hard to complete this year’s full suite of examinations.
“This is a major achievement for all of us after the disruption to public examinations brought about by the pandemic.”
Ms Farragher who has legal representation, has declined to make any further comment.
Employing over 300 people, CCEA operates as a non-departmental body of the Department of Education with its main function to oversee the examination process at GCSE, AS and A Levels for thousands of Northern Ireland students.
The Department of Education said it “is aware of Ms Farragher’s resignation as interim chief executive at CCEA.
“Department officials have been liaising closely with CCEA to ensure that the necessary contingency arrangements are in place.”
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) which represents many school leaders in Northern Ireland, added it was “sorry” Ms Farragher was leaving CCEA.
ASCL’s Northern Ireland regional officer Robert Wilson said: “We thank Margaret and her team for their excellent work in communicating with and supporting schools through the challenges created by the Covid pandemic.
“It is of the utmost importance that CCEA ensures that the vital process of marking exam papers and producing results proceeds smoothly in the final stages of this exam season and that the Department of Education and CCEA Council move quickly to put in place a new chief executive in time to make preparations for the 2022/23 academic year.”
CCEA was widely criticised in 2020 for the way A-levels were graded using a controversial algorithm after exams were cancelled, leaving thousands of pupils with lower grades than expected and concerned about university places, causing a U-turn from the then Education Minister Peter Weir a few days later.
This year has seen a return to normal procedure for examinations, though pupils have been tested on a reduced curriculum in some subjects to mitigate against Covid absences.