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Relief: Gruelling wait for exam clarity had negative impact on mental health... but better late than never

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Year 14 pupil James Kane is one of many who will be relying on teacher-assessed grades to help map out his future

Year 14 pupil James Kane is one of many who will be relying on teacher-assessed grades to help map out his future

Year 14 pupil James Kane is one of many who will be relying on teacher-assessed grades to help map out his future

James Kane is a Year 14 pupil at St Patrick's Grammar in Downpatrick.

This summer he was due to sit four A-level exams in French, Politics, Maths and Religion.

He's known since the start of this year that there would be no final exam in any of his subjects, and four weeks later the picture has become a little clearer.

Like every other student preparing for exams at Al level, AS and GCSE, he will now be relying on teacher assessed grades to map out what the immediate future holds.

Serving as education officer with the Northern Ireland Secondary Schools' Students Union (SSUNI) he's well aware of the difficulties faced by last year's A-level candidates.

And now that the process for exam grading has been confirmed by the Education Minister, there was one word on his lips. Relief.

"This is a huge relief!" he said.

"The Minister has recognised and mitigated against the disruption and uncertainty which posed an impossible challenge to the fairness of exams in 2021.

"SSUNI has been campaigning for a fair alternative to exams, after calling for their cancellation along with the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, in November 2020.

"It has been a long and gruelling wait for clarity, after multiple U-turns by the Minister.

"The mental health impact of this wait must not be ignored.

"In a recent survey, 85% of students told SSUNI that the lack of clarity about exams was having a negative impact on their mental health.

"Whilst the Minister should have acted sooner, we welcome this announcement. It is better late than never!"

And there's a second word he's delighted will no longer be on his lips. Algorithm.

Delighted too that faith has been placed in teachers.

"The Minister has also chosen to do away with the algorithm which caused such turmoil and controversy with awarding grades in 2020," he said.

"In the face of last year's algorithm, SSUNI called for the Minister to put his faith in the teaching professionals who were most able to judge the performance of students, during our #TrustOurTeachers campaign.

"We are glad that the Minister has chosen to do just that.

"Students and teachers alike now have the atmosphere of certainty that is required for effective learning and can continue their hard work to minimise the effects of this pandemic on education in Northern Ireland."

Belfast Telegraph


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