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Editor's Viewpoint

No exams, but a real lesson for students

Editor's Viewpoint


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Stormont education minister Peter Weir

Stormont education minister Peter Weir

Stormont education minister Peter Weir

As was widely anticipated, teachers in Northern Ireland will predict the grades they think pupils would have achieved in the cancelled GCSE, AS and A-level examinations. As Education Minister Peter Weir said, this is a complex task and one that not many teachers will envy.

There will be a mixed reaction from pupils. Some will feel that their performance in mock exams, course work and previous tests will see them achieve what to them would be an acceptable mark. Others, who would have been cramming madly at this stage of the year for their exams, may feel that their previous efforts in the classroom was not a true reflection of their ability and could lead to a lower mark than they would have anticipated.

We know from past results that pupils here are consistently among the best performing in the UK, and there will be keen interest taken in the predicted marks when they are revealed to see if that status is maintained.

Thankfully, there are checks and balances built into the system and pupils will be able to sit traditional papers next year if they are dissatisfied with their marks or simply just want to test themselves again.

Whatever happens, this will have been a very strange year for pupils in A-level classes. With school now effectively over for this year, they will not have the opportunity to say goodbye to friends in person - almost a rite of passage for 18-year-olds - and share their future hopes of employment or further education.

However, they will have learned a valuable life lesson: always be prepared for the unexpected. In their case, that would have meant working steadily throughout the academic year in order to furnish teachers with the information on which to base grades. They therefore would have less reason to question the marks they may receive because the evidence of their ability was not complete.

Of course, pupils might point out that their elders in government should have learned the same lesson. If they had responded more quickly to the pandemic, the subsequent panic to obtain vital supplies like personal protection equipment or ventilators or sufficient NHS staff would not have occurred.

But whatever the outcome of the teachers' deliberations, the pupils will have a great story to tell their children and grandchildren in future of the year when school fell victim to a virus.

Belfast Telegraph