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Coronavirus: Education Minister Peter Weir to outline phased return for schools beginning in September

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Announcement: Peter Weir

Announcement: Peter Weir

Announcement: Peter Weir

The Education Minister is expected to announce a phased return for schools in Northern Ireland on Wednesday.

It's understood Peter Weir will outline the Executive's plans for a return to the classroom, which is "extremely likely' to begin after the summer holidays in September.

The news comes after the head of the CCEA exams body moved to reassure parents of pupils awaiting results that everything possible is being done to make sure the grades awarded this summer are fair.

CCEA oversees the curriculum, examinations and assessment here and chief executive Justin Edwards said staff had been working tirelessly through an "unsettling and challenging" time.

"'Unprecedented' has become the accepted definition of the period we are living through. It is also a very apt description of the situation regarding GCSE, AS and A-level examinations this summer which, for the first time in living memory, have been cancelled," he said.

"I fully understand how unsettling and challenging it has been for the many thousands of students and their families who are directly affected by this unavoidable decision.

"I want to reassure students that at the centre of our thinking is making sure that the grades awarded are fair. Our goal is to give students the grades that best reflect what they would have achieved had they sat the exams in normal circumstances and completed all of their coursework."

It has undoubtedly been an anxious time for students and their families, and I am grateful for their patience as we have developed a robust and deliverable solution Justin Edwards, CCEA

The grades for AS and A-levels will be issued on Thursday, August 13, with the GCSE grades a week later on Thursday, August 20.

"Students can have confidence that these grades will have equal status to any other year and should be treated as such by universities, colleges and employers," said Mr Edwards.

"For every GCSE, AS and A-level subject, CCEA has asked each school, college or other exam centres to submit a centre assessment grade for each student and the rank order of students within each grade.

"We will then use this data and other information to calculate the grades. CCEA will also apply statistical standardisation to align the judgments across and within centres so that, as far as possible, no student is unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged in comparison to previous years."

He said an appropriate appeals process is currently being developed for any student who feels that the grades received do not reflect performance.

"We firmly believe that teachers have an excellent understanding and knowledge of their students' performance and are best placed to provide the holistic and objective information that we need to calculate the final grades," he said.

"There may be some who feel that grades do not reflect performance. They may choose to sit the examinations at another time or they may wish to appeal. An appropriate appeals process is currently being developed. Public consultation on this work has been launched recently to inform the development process. Interested groups or individuals are encouraged to contribute views online by Thursday May 21.

"It has undoubtedly been an anxious time for students and their families, and I am grateful for their patience as we have developed a robust and deliverable solution. Students can be assured that the grades they receive in August 2020 will reflect their hard work, and it is our fervent aim that they will be able to progress as planned to the next stage of their journey."

Belfast Telegraph