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London vows to consult Education Minister John O’Dowd over any future exam changes


The Cabinet minister responsible for education in England has vowed to fully consult with Northern Ireland’s Education Minister in future after a public row between the pair over the future of GCSE and A-Level exams.

Earlier this month it emerged that Department of Education (DENI) officials here had recommended to Stormont minister John O'Dowd that he should scrap the current January AS and A-Level re-sits. The June re-sits would be retained.

If adopted, it would mean Northern Ireland students would have just one chance each year to re-sit AS and A-Level exams from this September.

After Education Secretary Michael Gove wrote to Mr O'Dowd in March 2012 informing him of his plans to reform A-Levels in England, DENI was forced to launch a consultation last September. Mr O'Dowd said he had no objection in principle to changing A-Levels or GCSEs, but believed changes in England should take into account the repercussions for pupils here.

Mr O’Dowd described yesterday’s meeting with Mr Gove in London, also attended by Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews, as “very useful”.

“Secretary of State Gove has previously made announcements about the future of examinations

in England without any form of consultation with the administrations in Wales or the North of Ireland,” he said.

“I had previously expressed my disappointment about the lack of consultation and today’s meeting provided an opportunity to reiterate this message and outline the importance of keeping both myself and Minister Andrews informed of any major policy decisions and respecting the concordats that are in place.

“I therefore welcome the commitment from Secretary of State Gove that in future there will be a process of engagement before any further decisions or announcements about the future of examinations are taken.”

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