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Coronavirus: Plans for Northern Ireland student grades to be finalised this week, says Education Minister


Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir has told Northern Ireland students who were due to sit A-Level and GCSE exams this summer that he hopes to provide answers on grades by the end of the week.

This year’s summer exams and all primary assessments have been cancelled as the government fights to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Weir, speaking on Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster, said that he understood this was an "immensely stressful situation" for students who were due to sit GCSEs and A Levels this summer.

"We have been working very hard with CCEA and a range of stakeholders to ensure that we have fit provision in terms of grades.

"That is also something where there is work ongoing with CCEA and organisations across the water.

"Particularly if we are looking at those important exams, they have to be compatible across the UK.

"That work is virtually at the point of completion. I can't give detail today, but I anticipate in the next two or three days I will be able to give clarity."

He added: "We are living in incredibly stressful and critical times. Adding to that there are tens of thousands of students who need that answer and we are working to be able to provide that and we hope to provide that in the next two or three days."

In England and Wales teachers are being asked to send exam boards a range of data on each pupil.

This will include the grade they believe a student would most likely get if teaching, learning and exams had happened as planned.

Schools are also being asked to consider classwork, homework, results in assignments, mock exams, any non-exam assessment or coursework and the student's general progress.

In England and Wales the guidance for teachers is not to submit this information earlier than May 29, giving exam boards time to adapt to receiving lots of information they don't normally deal with.

Ofqual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) is also working with exam boards to see if they can provide exams in the Autumn if pupils request this.

Mr Weir said a call has gone out to retired teachers and classroom assistants to help keep schools open amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He has previously said some schools would need to remain open over the Easter break to accommodate children of key workers and the vulnerable. He has now written to retired teachers and classroom assistants asking them to volunteers.

In his letter, the education minister said retired staff would work alongside existing staff to help supervise children.

Mr Weir said: "It is to provide a pool of volunteers so that we can cope in all situations. At the moment there are nearly 400 schools that are open over Easter.

"They are providing that service outside of normal term time. (It is) to provide the safety and to ensure the provision of those services as staff are rotating.

"This is to have a level of reserve pool so that if we reach in any eventuality a spike in terms of the number of teachers that are off, in a particular area that there are people that can be called upon to provide that service."

Belfast Telegraph