Belfast Telegraph

'Unfair' decision not to count completed exam coursework slammed

By Rebecca Black

A move that has left hundreds of GCSE pupils in Northern Ireland completing coursework that will not be counted towards their final grade has been blasted as "unfair".

Only those who are studying for a GCSE in computer science now and next year through Great Britain-based exam boards AQA, OCR, Pearson and Eduqas are affected.

Exams regulator Ofqual announced yesterday that those sitting the course will not receive marks for coursework after details were leaked online.

It made the announcement following a consultation on the matter announced last November and said pupils will still complete the coursework, but receive no marks for it.

Some 630 pupils in Northern Ireland sat computing GCSEs with exam boards other than CCEA in 2016.

Writing to students, Ofqual said that the decision had been made "with reluctance", but stressed it did not want any candidates to have "an unfair advantage".

"Some of this year's tasks had been posted to online forums and collaborative programming sites, contrary to exam board rules," it said.

"It is not possible to identify which students have accessed or used this information.

"We know that not everyone will agree with our decision. However, if we do not act now, it would be impossible for us to correct any unfairness caused by rules being broken.

"Completing the task will ultimately benefit you in your exam performance, indeed several students who responded to our consultation who have already completed their task made this point.

"Your school will therefore set aside time in the timetable for you to do so," Ofqual added.

"Your teacher may mark your task and give you feedback on it, though the marks will not be submitted to the exam board."

Pupils sitting ICT or digital technology GCSEs through the Northern Ireland-based exams body the Council for Curriculum, Examinations or Assessment (CCEA) are not affected.

Sinn Fein education spokesperson Karen Mullan said the matter is "hugely unfortunate and unfair" on those pupils who "completed their work with integrity".

"Lessons need to be learned from this episode and every possible measure taken to ensure that flaws in the GCSE assessment process do not penalise students," she said.

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath voiced concerns that the incident will add further pressure to those students preparing for exams.

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