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Teacher prediction grading process has pros and cons, say principals and pupils


Omagh High School principal Christos Gaitatzis

Omagh High School principal Christos Gaitatzis

Lucy Greaves

Lucy Greaves

Annie Heavern

Annie Heavern

Omagh High School principal Christos Gaitatzis

Principals and pupils in Northern Ireland have given mixed responses to the news that teachers will predict grades in cancelled GCSE, AS and A-level exams.

Grades for those completing these exams will be based on a combination of information provided by schools and colleges and statistical information.

The news came two weeks after authorities in England and Wales had announced exam grades would be based on predicted results.

Martine Mulhern, principal of St Cecilia's College in Derry, said the awarding of grades was always going to be problematic.

"There was never going to be a perfect process and the Department of Education and CCEA have proposed as robust a process as is probably possible in the current circumstances," she said.

"There is, however, a deep-rooted concern as to the level of accountability apportioned to teachers and heads of departments in assigning a grade and rank order reflective of a student's most probable achieved grade under normal circumstances.

"The use of trend data may also prove advantageous to some cohorts in schools while disadvantaging others as no two year groups in any school is exactly the same and some can be significantly different.

"There is still a lack of clarity over a possible appeal process and I would predict that this could be a likely course of action for a number of pupils who do not get the grade they believe they should have," she added.

Principal of Newtownhamilton High School Neil Megaw said there will be a lot of hard work for teachers in the months ahead as they use their previous knowledge of having taught a GCSE pupil for almost five years and existing data to award outcomes which are fair for each individual.

He added: "Obviously the ideal solution for awarding Year 12 GCSE outcomes is through the completion of controlled assessment and written, practical or oral exams, but that is not possible this year.

"However, having reflected on Minister Peter Weir's statement, I feel that the combination of using teacher professional judgement to rank pupils and predict grades along with comparison of average centre performance over recent years is the best possible alternative during this unprecedented situation.

"These final outcomes will hopefully take each pupil to the next stage of their chosen career path."

Christos Gaitatzis, principal of Omagh High School, said the awarding of grades would not be as fair as an exam situation and further clarification is needed on what elements teachers should take into account before awarding them.

"We really need to look at the detail in terms of how teachers should effectively get to those predicted grades in order to give a fair representation of how students would have performed in their summer exams," he said.

"My biggest problem is that I hope this won't be an exercise that will benefit pupils from grammar school backgrounds more than those in high schools." The news came while millions of pupils continue to self-isolate as coronavirus spreads across the UK and after weeks of GCSE and A-level pupils being left in limbo about their next steps.

Lucy Greaves (18) is a student at Victoria College in south Belfast.

She is in her A-level year and hopes to study economics in Liverpool.

"I feel like this has been a long time to wait for a decision given that other parts of the UK had known what would happen there already," she said.

"I'm appreciative that we have got some confirmation but students still don't know if they're safe or not in terms of whether they'll meet their requirements for university.

"I think it's fair that Peter Weir has taken into consideration the repeat exams that students have applied for as statistics show that they normally do better on these."

Annie Heavern (16) attends Strathearn School in east Belfast and was due to sit her GCSEs.

She believes the decision is a fair one: "Your teachers know probably better than anyone what you're capable of achieving and they'll be able to base a fair score on that.

"I'm happy with the conclusion that has been reached in terms of predicted grades and it has all been out of our hands anyway in what is a very unique situation."

Belfast Telegraph