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GCSE structure changes considered


More marks could be made available for good spelling and grammar during GCSE tests, the education minister has said.

Pupils may also be assessed at the end of the two-year course as opposed to the current system where they are examined on a rolling basis.

The changes could help reduce the bureaucracy caused by re-sitting, free teaching time and ensure those taking the tests are more mature and ready for the examination.

John O'Dowd announced the consultation on the proposed changes. It follows the adoption of similar methods in England.

He said: "I, and my department, remain committed to delivering an education system that meets the needs of all pupils in the north of Ireland. An important element of this is ensuring that public examinations are sufficiently robust and in the most suitable format.

"GCSEs, in particular, are a vital passport to further employment, educational and training opportunities in later life. I am keen, therefore, to gather as much information as possible on any proposed changes to how they are delivered before deciding on the best way forward."

In England, assessments taken from 2013 will have mark schemes that strengthen the emphasis on spelling, punctuation and grammar in subjects where there is a requirement for extended writing, including English literature, geography, history and religious studies.

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For those who will start two-year courses in 2012, receiving results in 2014, students would enter for all units in summer 2014. They would not be permitted to enter any units early and no re-sitting would be possible.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland have the same qualifications, with common standards across the jurisdictions, meaning pupils can easily study or work in different areas. Northern Ireland is considering following England's lead to maintain that harmonisation.

The consultation added: "It is unlikely that the minister's decision on this issue would stop the current position whereby English and Welsh awarding organisations offer GCSEs here."

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