GCSE grades increase after decision to base results on teacher estimates
Teacher-assessed GCSE results have seen an improvement across all grades.
Some 29,000 pupils in Northern Ireland received results on Thursday morning from the locally-based examinations body CCEA.
These grades were based on teacher estimates after Stormont education minister Peter Weir abandoned plans to use centralised standardisation following an outcry over last week’s A-level results.
Outcomes increased across all grades, with 37.1% of pupils achieving grade A* to A – up by 5.7 percentage points on last year.
The proportion of pupils receiving A* to C grades also increased, up 7.6 percentage points to 89.4%.
The numbers receiving A*-G grades increased by 0.9 percentage points to 99.7%.
At the A* grade, there was a 2.9 percentage points increase among boys and a 5.5 percentage points rise for girls.
This year also saw an increase in GCSE English language and mathematics grades.
In English there was an increase of 6.3 percentage points across A*-C grades, with 87.2% of pupils achieving that level.
Maths saw a 6.9 percentage point increase in A*-C grades, from 72.3% in 2019 to 79.2% in 2020.
Some pupils in Northern Ireland undertook GCSEs with other examination boards, however the majority in the region (98%) opted for CCEA.
BTec results were also due to be issued on Thursday but they have been delayed. Examination body Pearson said it will be regrading all its BTecs to bring them in line with school-based assessments.
Ken Webb, Chairperson of the Further Education College Principals’ Group said that the late notification by Pearson was “extremely disappointing”.
“We feel desperately sorry for the students affected in a year when they have already undergone far too much disruption and hope that Pearson will act to issue revised grades within days,” he said.
“We encourage all students to contact their local college for further advice.”
Exams were cancelled earlier this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The algorithm used in lieu of exams saw more than a third of A-level grades issued last Thursday reduced from teacher estimates, sparking criticism and protests by students.
Mr Weir said his department had set out to provide a system that was “fair and credible”, adding “any system that was going to be put in will have problems with fairness”.
The minister congratulated pupils on their results on Thursday morning.
“These outcomes reflect the assessments made by the people who know you best, your teachers,” he said.
“I appreciate the past few months have been particularly challenging but our young people have demonstrated a determination not to let this pandemic put their lives on hold.
“Today, they have been awarded qualifications which reflect their hard work and will enable them to move forward confidently with their future plans.
“Teachers and school leaders had a very difficult job to do and I want to express my appreciation for their hard work and commitment to their students in challenging circumstances.”
Fiona Kane, principal of St Ronan’s College in Lurgan, described the last week-and-a-half as a “complete roller-coaster” for teachers, parents and pupils.
She told the BBC: “I welcome very much the ministers’ announcement that the GCSE results were going to revert to centre-assessed grades, there is certainly a much better air of calm this morning in school.
“Nobody knows these young people better than their subject teachers who have worked closely with them and know all about their progress, their ability and their potential.”
Ms Kane said her school’s performance had improved, as had been expected before the pandemic struck.
“That’s not to say that all of our grades are A*-C, whilst many of them are, we have been engaged in a very rigorous internal scrutinising process which went through several cycles before I, as head of centre, signed off on all of these centre-assessed grades,” she said.
“They (the grades) compare very favourably with last year’s results, as a new college over the last four years we have been on a very intensive improvement journey so all of our data indicated that we were expecting our grades to go up in any case, before lockdown, and we were working extremely hard towards that.
“Our grades have gone up on last year but that is what we expected in any case.”