Belfast Telegraph

CCEA exam board under fire as hundreds of Northern Ireland students appeal results

676 pupils across the province have asked for their AS Level English Literature papers to be re-assessed

By Claire McNeilly

Pupils and parents have said they have little confidence in Northern Ireland examination board CCEA after it issued the wrong results to AS level and GCSE candidates.

Hundreds of students at various schools - including Kilkeel High School, Belfast Royal Academy and St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena - have had their grades raised upon appeal after their exams were under-marked.

The news comes after the BBC Stephen Nolan show yesterday revealed that 676 pupils across the province have asked for their AS Level English Literature papers to be re-assessed.

But the debacle has also raised concerns over the potentially prohibitive cost of re-marks - ranging from £18.45 at GCSE to £24.30 at AS Level - for children from less well-off families.

Last night, Children's Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma called for clarity around exam marking "so that young people and their families can have confidence in the assessment system".

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Kilkeel High School pupil Emma Hanna (17) revealed her grades increased in two subjects - from a B to an A; and from a C to a B - after she appealed her original results.

"When I got an E in English Lit Unit 1 (drama and poetry) at AS level I was disappointed but mostly confused because I'd worked hard for it," she said.

But after her paper was re-marked it went up 18 marks from an E to a C, which - combined with a B in Unit 2 (prose) - gave Emma an overall B, a grade better than the original C.

She added: "I also got a B in Religious Studies but it went up to an A when they re-marked it. I paid £48.60 but I received a refund when they realised they had given me the wrong grade."

Emma's mother Julie-Anne said she has lost faith in the system, which she now believes is "unacceptable".

"It's a disgrace that pupils have been put through this, when exams are so stressful anyway," Mrs Hanna said.

"Emma missed out on the euphoria of getting the results she'd worked so hard for; then she was left feeling down about her grades until she realised that it was the CCEA that had made the mistake."

Kilkeel High School told this newspaper that it sent back 15 English Literature papers to be re-marked - and nine were returned with higher scores.

Principal Victor Coert said that in three cases student grades went up, while in the other six, higher marks were awarded.

"Our August 2017 CCEA AS English Literature results revealed a disparity between pupils' performances in Unit 1 and Unit 2," he said.

"As a school, we felt it prudent not only to submit these scripts for re-mark, but also to enquire of CCEA as to the reasoning behind this disparity. We have a meeting arranged with CCEA to discuss this disparity further."

Similarly, the mother of a Belfast Royal Academy student revealed that her son's grade in English Literature went up from a B to an A after an appeal. "He got three Bs. We only appealed one of them; I'm wondering if we should've had all three re-marked," said Gabrielle.

"There's obviously something amiss with the system.

"This is extremely difficult for the children. It's totally unacceptable that they cannot rely on the grades they've been given. Something needs to be done to ensure that this never happens again."

The principal of St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena also revealed that a number of pupils were given grades lower than they should have been in exams this year.

Referring to these "issues with exam results", Sean Rafferty said he "would echo the concerns of other principals" and he vowed to "discuss them with CCEA directly".

Mr Rafferty added: "A number of pupils have been upgraded on appeal and there are cases ongoing at the minute."

Meanwhile, a mother also told how her devastated daughter went from a grade D to A after she paid £18.45 to get her GCSE English Literature exam re-marked.

Ms Yiasouma said families who cannot afford re-marking are "at risk of being disadvantaged".

She added: "School examinations are already a very challenging time for young people, so it is concerning to hear recent reports around discrepancies in the marking of papers, and the potential this has to further add to the stress and worry faced by pupils."

Former teacher and UUP MLA Rosemary Barton said the "shocking revelation" meant that the "CCEA marking and scoring process" must be urgently reviewed.

pupils across the province have asked for their AS Level English Literature papers to be re-assessed

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