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Call for NI students to be given exam grades now to ease stress rejected

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Information: Peter Weir

Information: Peter Weir

Information: Peter Weir

The dates that A-level and GCSE exam grades will be awarded to students will not change despite concerns the long wait is creating anxiety, education officials said.

A counsellor believes the mental health problems being experienced by young people could be eased considerably if they learn their grades now rather than wait until mid-August.

Counselling supervisor Eugene Murphy said that an early decision on grades could also help universities and families plan for the start of the new term in September.

"Thousands of young people in Northern Ireland are anxiously waiting for GCSE and A-level results and for their mental health wellbeing something should be done to release these grades to them earlier," he said.

"I am in no doubt that the current uncertainty over GCSE and A-level grades is adding considerably to the problems young people are struggling with."

With exams cancelled, Education Minister Peter Weir has said the calculated grades will be issued for those completing their A-level, A/S level and GCSE qualifications "based on a combination of information provided by schools and colleges and statistical information".

A-level and AS-level results will be announced on August 13, with GCSEs a week later.

Mr Murphy, however, warned that is too far away.

"GCSE students could make early decisions on A-level choices or about going to FE colleges," he said.

"A-level students could be given their predicted grades, which would allow universities to start offering a places. Given that there is likely to be a considerable drop in the number of overseas students, surely this will result in more available university places for local students?

"This may mean that in order to have sufficient numbers of students available to enable the universities to run courses, those universities may have to lower entrance grade level requirements and consider offering students places on courses for which the students might not have initially applied for. We need to create the time for this to happen in.

"Students could also secure rental accommodation now rather than having to do so at the end of August or early September.

"A move to provide grades would massively help thousands of already anxious teenagers and their families by bringing some clarity and certainty to their very uncertain worlds and enable them, their parents, the schools and the universities to have a much more enjoyable summer break."

The Department of Education said: "The Minister of Education announced in March that, in line with other jurisdictions of the UK, GCSE, AS and A-level exams would be cancelled to help fight the spread of coronavirus.

"The main priority for the minister and the department is to ensure that pupils receive fair results that reflect their hard work and will enable progression to the next stage of their lives.

"They fully appreciate the legitimate concerns that our teachers and pupils have around the awarding arrangements and timing of results this year.

"However, we need to help secure the best possible educational future for all our children in what are extremely difficult circumstances."

The department said consultation on the preferred options for awarding grades has been carried out with key stakeholders, including head teachers' representatives and teaching unions. CCEA has also consulted on an appeals process.

It added: "All parties recognise that in the current very difficult circumstances there is no perfect solution, but agree that the most appropriate available solutions have been identified.

"AS and A-levels will be awarded on August 13 and GCSEs will be awarded on August 20 in line with England and Wales.

"These dates reflect the detailed guidance and associated timetable for awarding grades that have been widely published and align with what normally happens in any other year."

Belfast Telegraph