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Northern Ireland teachers fear a flood of appeals over grading of exams, union tells Weir

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Education Minister Peter Weir announced the new system for awarding GCSE, AS and A-level grades

Education Minister Peter Weir announced the new system for awarding GCSE, AS and A-level grades

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Education Minister Peter Weir announced the new system for awarding GCSE, AS and A-level grades

Teachers in Northern Ireland have been left "anxious" that new exam arrangements during the Covid-19 pandemic will see multiple pupils challenge their decisions, a union official has said.

Justin McCamphill from the NASUWT made the comments as Education Minister Peter Weir announced the new system for awarding GCSE, AS and A-level grades on Thursday.

This will involve teachers using their "professional judgment" to predict the grades pupils would have achieved.

Mr Weir added that an appeals mechanism was currently being considered.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr McCamphill said he welcomed that a decision had been made, but said more assurances were needed.

"The minister did consult with unions and we do appreciate that.

"However, we do have questions around the appeal process and what it's going to consist of," he said.

"Teachers are going to be anxious that pupils will potentially be challenging their professional decisions. So, they want to know how that's going to be managed.

"We want assurances around appeal mechanisms. We also want the department and CCEA to look at the actual specifications and to review if as much content needs to be taught next year, given the loss of teaching time this year."

By contrast, the Ulster Teachers' Union (UTU) said the decision was a "vindication" for its members.

Incoming president Stephen McCord, head of science at Larne High School, said: "The fact that our members' expertise will play a pivotal role in how students transition from GCSE to AS and A-level is vindication of what we have long maintained," he said.

"For too long education has been blighted by endless, overly bureaucratic assessment and box-ticking, leaving teachers' professionalism increasingly undermined.

"For years now we have pleaded for a return to a system where our expertise and professionalism is recognised when it comes to pupil assessment."

Mr McCord said it was "ironic" that it had taken a crisis to show that teachers were more than up to the task without "overblown bureaucracy and the endless testing which in fact robs young people of other invaluable educational activities and for many sucks the joy from the classroom".

He said he was sure any appeals process would be "robust", noting that requests to re-mark exams have already been increasing in recent years.

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Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

The predicted A-level results will still be issued as normal this summer on August 13 with GCSE results released on August 20.

Another major change is that AS-level results will no longer count towards final A-level results.

This usually accounts for around 40% of the overall mark, and will instead be awarded as a separate qualification this summer.

Speaking to the Stormont Assembly on Thursday, Mr Weir said it was not a perfect solution to the dilemma, but it was the best available in "unprecedented circumstances".

"My priority is to ensure that pupils receive fair results that reflect their hard work and enable judgments to be made about their future progression to study or employment or other avenues."

He acknowledged more work was needed, but that it was vital that pupils and their families were given clarity.

Mr Weir said that his officials were also working with the Department for the Economy on arrangements for vocational qualifications.

Further information for GCSE, AS and A-level grades awarded in summer 2020 can be found on the CCEA website at ccea.org.uk/summerawarding

Belfast Telegraph