Letter to Parents- GCSE, AS and A Level Awards

16 April 2020


Dear Parent/Guardian,

This afternoon the Minister of Education made a statement to the NI Assembly regarding arrangements for the awarding of A Level, AS and GCSE grades. The statement still leaves a number of questions unanswered; however, it is hoped that CCEA and the Department of Education will provide additional key information for schools in the coming days. CCEA have released a statement and some guidance for students and parents which can be found at www.ccea.org.uk/news.

For your convenience I will share the key aspects of the Minister’s and CCEA’s announcement in this letter. The statement includes:

For Summer 2020 awards, CCEA will use previous performance data in combination with school or college assessed grades and student rank order information to award grades. CCEA will ask schools and colleges to generate, for each subject, centre assessment grades for their students and then to rank order the students within each of those grades. Having examined a number of options, and in consultation with key stakeholders, it was decided that this approach, will assist CCEA in issuing the fairest possible results.

Clear and detailed guidance will be issued to all schools and colleges to ensure that the process is as straightforward as possible.

In the interest of fairness to students, judgements made by schools and colleges should be consistent. CCEA will put all centre assessment grades through a process of standardisation using a model being developed with technical and statistical experts.

To protect the integrity of the process schools and colleges have been told that under no circumstances should any data be shared externally. By following this confidentiality, it will help to avoid teachers feeling under pressure to submit a grade not supported by evidence and will also help to manage students’ expectations.

The aim of this awarding approach is to ensure that students are given grades that best reflect what they would have achieved had circumstances been normal. Where a student feels that the grade awarded does not reflect this CCEA is exploring arrangements to allow for appeal. There will also be the opportunity for students affected by this summer’s arrangements to take any exams again in the 2021 series and a small number of GCSE exams later in 2020.

In summary, the approach to awarding will be as follows:

A Level Awarding For A level, we anticipate that the calculated grade, which uses statistical predictions based on previous student performance combined with centre assessed grades and centre rank orders, will provide a reliable grade outcome. Students will not be required to take A level examinations through an additional sitting, such as an autumn series.

AS Awarding All AS students will receive an AS grade and there will be no AS exams until Summer 2021. The grade awarded will be based on previous student performance combined with centre assessed grades and centre rank orders. Awarding organisations are working towards the model on which grades will be awarded and in which centre assessed grades and centre rank orders will be used. The nature of the AS grade awarded in 2020 will not allow it to contribute to A level results in 2021.

In Summer 2021, students will have two options for their A level award. If a student chooses to only sit the required A2 units, then their AS outcomes will be calculated using statistical predictions based on their performance in the A2 units. If they choose to sit any AS units, alongside the A2 units, they will be awarded the highest grade at A level from either route.

GCSE Awarding Students who were due to sit GCSE exams that would have led to a whole GCSE qualification this summer will be issued a grade using a combination of average centre performance, centre assessed grades and rank ordering.

Students who were due to sit units that will lead to GCSE grades in 2021, will not receive a unit result this year. For those students, there will be two options. In 2021 they can sit the units they planned to take next year, and not the unit(s) they entered for in Summer 2020. These 2020 units will have a mark calculated using statistical predictions based on their performance in the 2021 units. As a result, an overall GCSE grade will be awarded in 2021. Alternatively, they can choose to sit all the units in Summer 2021. Whichever option a student chooses, they will be awarded the highest grade.

In common with other parts of the UK, Northern Ireland has a number of ‘private candidates, these are students who have not been taught in a school or college because they might have been home-schooled, be following distance learning programmes or studying independently. Where schools or colleges have accepted entries from private candidates, those students should be included in the centre assessed grading process where the principal or college head is confident that they and their staff have seen sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement to make such an informed judgement.

For those students taking other general or vocational qualifications, CCEA Regulation is working as quickly as possible to develop an approach and will provide further information when available.

Over the next number of weeks, teachers will work to provide the necessary data required by CCEA and other awarding bodies to ensure grades are awarded to pupils. Fairness and integrity will guide our work throughout the process to best ensure that pupils receive grades that accurately reflect progress made over the course of the last two academic years. I appreciate that this is a stressful time for many parents and students, and for this reason I will endeavour to communicate with you regularly as more information becomes available.

Please ensure that you take care, stay safe and stay at home to save lives.

Yours sincerely,

M Allen