Northern Ireland scraps GCSE algorithm in favour of teachers' predicted grades
Boris Johnson's government is under pressure to do the same
Northern Ireland has taken the decision to scrap the controversial algorithm used to predict students' A-levels results ahead of the release of GCSE results later this week.
The devolved Stormont government made the move to "ease anxieties" among students, after a week in which Boris Johnson's Conservative government were inundated with complaints over the algorithm and its application to A-levels results.
Many critics of the algorithm, which was intended to standardise grades, believe that it has instead been used to benefit private schools and those with traditionally high test results.
In many instances this has resulted in students with exceptional predicted grades based on their prior testing being awarded significantly downgraded results due to their school's overall past performance.
The government has been urged to reverse the results predicted by the algorithm and instead use teachers' predicted grades, as Northern Ireland will do for GCSE results.
Education minister Peter Weir announced the decision on Twitter on Monday morning, saying:
"After consulting the CCEA (Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment) & having listened to the concerns of principals, teachers, parents & young people, I have decided that all GCSE students on Thursday will now receive the grades submitted by their school."
After consulting @CCEA_info & having listened to the concerns of principals, teachers, parents & young people, I have decided that all GCSE students on Thursday will now receive the grades submitted by their school.
— Peter Weir (@peterweirmla) August 17, 2020
In a further statement, he added:
"Standardisation is normally a key feature of awarding qualifications in Northern Ireland and across the UK. However, these are exceptional circumstances and in exceptional times truly difficult decisions are made.
"I am conscious that for GCSEs, unlike at A-level, we do not have system level prior performance data for this group of young people.
"I want to encourage as many young people as possible to remain in education or training post-16 and to know they have another opportunity to engage with education. I am also mindful that unlike A-Level, many GCSE pupils will not have access to previous public examination outcomes to inform any appeals process.
"I have, therefore, acted now in advance of the publication of GCSE results to ease anxieties, reassure young people and their families and ensure that every individual candidate receives a grade that recognises the work they have done.
"All of our young people have shown incredible resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope that our GCSE pupils will now move forward confidently to their next step in education, employment or training with the qualifications that teachers or lecturers have judged were deserved.
"I want to send my very best wishes to everyone who receives their GCSE results on Thursday."