Minister confirms future of GCSE grading

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) has welcomed the clarity brought about by the Minister’s decision regarding GCSE Grading in Northern Ireland. CCEA will proceed to implement the Minister’s decision through the current revision of GCSE qualifications, introduced for first teaching in September 2017.

CCEA Chief Executive Justin Edwards commented

“The Minister's decision means we can continue with a grading system that is well understood by parents, teachers, pupils and employers. It provides continuity at GCSE and cohesion with A-level. The decision by the Minister to apply the A* - G grading approach at GCSE to all awarding organisations will provide clarity and consistency in regards to qualifications here and removes any potential for confusion.

The choice between letters or numeric grades was never a choice about standards in our qualifications. Grades or numbers are an indicator of the learner’s ability as measured by the qualification. The demand and standard of any qualification is defined by its content and the nature of its assessment arrangements. Northern Ireland GCSEs will continue to be highly valued by universities and employers, and comparable to GCSEs offered in England and Wales.

We appreciate that there may be some anxiety about entry into ‘high demand courses’, such as medicine or veterinary studies,  where the universities consider GCSE grades along with A-Level grades. We understand that universities, such as Queen’s University, will consider the A* as equivalent to the English 8 and 9 grades in these situations. We will continue to work with universities and employers across these islands to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the differences between the regions and jurisdictions in regards to qualifications outcomes.

In moving to the number grade scale in England  Ofqual will anchor the new Grade 4 to Grade C and the new Grade 7 to Grade A.  There will, therefore, be equivalence across the 2 scales at the important grades of C (4) and A (7).   

Confidence should also be taken from the fact that many other jurisdictions have their own approach to grading of qualifications. Wales, for example, has already chosen to stay with A*- G and Scotland has a quite different methodology to here. In all cases, confidence in the education system and qualifications remains. CCEA will work alongside all the relevant partners to retain confidence in our approach to grading.

We note that, in his statement, the Minister wishes to retain the principle of an ‘open market’ here for GCSE qualifications. My regulatory team at CCEA will actively encourage other awarding organisations to continue to offer their GCSEs here and will be exploring with them how they might best be accommodated through this change.”

You can download the Ministers statement below:


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