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Coronavirus Northern Ireland: R number rises to 1.6 as A Level results controversy rumbles on

  • Death toll remains at 557, with eight more cases reported
  • 11 Covid clusters involving five or more people identified in NI, as R number rises
  • Students receive A-level results amid row over standardisation of grades
  • Education Minister publishes guidance on reopening of NI schools
  • PM Boris Johnson meets Stormont leaders and Taoiseach in Belfast
  • Scroll down to read updates as they happened

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Pupils wearing masks, receiving their A Level results. Photo By Justin Kernoghan

Pupils wearing masks, receiving their A Level results. Photo By Justin Kernoghan

Photopress

Pupils wearing masks, receiving their A Level results. Photo By Justin Kernoghan

There have been no further Covid-related deaths in Northern Ireland's hospitals in the past 24 hours, however eight more cases of the virus have been diagnosed.

The death toll in the region remains at 557. An additional 2,179 tests have been carried out on 1,280 people since Wednesday morning.

Some 179 new cases have been confirmed in the last seven days.

There are currently eight Covid patients in hospital, with three in intensive care.

The news comes after it emerged that more than a third of grades given by teachers to A-level and AS level students in Northern Ireland have been lowered.

Around 25,000 pupils across Northern Ireland are receiving their grades this morning - despite all exams being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Grades have instead been calculated through teacher assessments and a computer-generated 'standardisation' model used by Northern Ireland's exams board CCEA, however the body has recognised that there will be "anomalies" in the results.

In an email to principals on Wednesday, CCEA said it would "work through the anomalies as quickly as possible so that you can reassure students tomorrow that any queries regarding their results will be resolved as quickly as possible", the BBC reported.

Overall, some 37% of estimated grades were lowered and 5.3% were raised.

A-level and AS students achieved higher outcomes across all grades this year when compared to 2019.

CCEA has said 9.8% of students achieved an A* grade, an increase of one percentage point from last year, while 33.2% received an A grade, a year-on-year increase of 2.3 percentage points.

Provisional outcomes at AS-level also increased across all grades. Controversially, prior school and college achievement has been used in the standardisation model for AS-level results, alongside students' prior GCSE performance.

CCEA chief executive Justin Edwards said: “All of us at CCEA, working closely with the education community, have strived to ensure that students are able to progress this year. As a result of this collaborative work, we have delivered grades to students which we predict they would have achieved had they sat the examinations and which carry the same value as in previous years."

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Belfast Telegraph