Last chance for feedback on the future of our exams

A review examining the future of GCSE and A level qualifications in Northern Ireland is now moving into its final week. The online survey, outlining potential options for the future of these qualifications, closes on Friday 31 May 2013.

The review is being undertaken by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) and they are urging anyone with a view on the future of these important qualifications to visit the CCEA website and make a response via the online questionnaire.

CCEA Chief Executive Richard Hanna commented:

"This is one of the most important pieces of work to be undertaken in education the last 25 years. The online survey is the last chance to comment on the current CCEA review of GCSEs and A levels.

At GCE there are 3 options to consider: retain A levels in line with policy direction in England; retain A levels with amendments to reflect the needs of Northern Ireland's educational policies and the needs of our local economy; and new 16-18 qualifications that retain features of A levels.

At GCSE there are three similar options to consider, with a fourth option of removing the emphasis on high stakes examinations at age 16 or possibly having externally assessed qualifications in core subjects, and school-based assessment in other subjects.

I would urge everyone to visit and have their say by Friday 31 May."

Background to the review

  • GCSEs and GCEs are offered by five awarding organisations which are regulated in the three jurisdictions by the Qualifications Regulator for Northern Ireland (CCEA Accreditation), England (Ofqual) and Wales (Welsh Government).
  • In Northern Ireland external qualifications are taken by learners at 15/16 and at 18/19. In schools these qualifications are in the main GCSEs and GCEs. Whilst some differences in GCSE and GCE qualifications do exist across the three jurisdictions, the qualifications regulators work to ensure that there is a consistency of demand and standards therefore ensuring the portability of these qualifications for learners.
  • The last 12 months have seen great change to the nature and operation of the three jurisdiction qualifications system and the qualifications regulators no longer make joint decisions on qualification provision. They do however continue, where possible, to engage in parallel decision making in order to maintain a level of consistency in the demand and standards of qualifications offered.
  • The government in England is in the process of introducing changes to GCSEs and GCEs for use in England following recommendations from the 2010 Schools White paper – The Importance of Teaching. The Welsh Government has recently completed a review of 14-19 qualifications in Wales and findings from this will be released shortly. As a result differences are already emerging in the qualifications offered across the three jurisdictions most notably in GCSEs where England has already chosen to move to linear only GCSEs. In Wales and Northern Ireland there is still the option for both linear and unitised GCSE's to be available.
  • The Entitlement Framework (EF) here will become statutory from September 2013. The EF is designed to ensure that all 14-19 year olds in schools have access to a broad curriculum with a range of relevant and engaging courses available. Since its inception, a cornerstone of policy on the EF is that the choices and opportunities it offers must also be open to young people with Special Educational Needs (SEN). Development work is currently being undertaken to investigate how special schools and learningsupport centres could best be helped to engage fully in the EF and receive recognition for the achievements of their learners.

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