GCE & GCSE

Background

The regulators in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have traditionally worded with five awarding organisations (AOs): AQA, CCEA, OCR, Pearson and WJEC, on the development, accreditation and monitoring of GCSE and GCE qualifications used in schools in the UK.

There has been increasing divergence in policy between England, Wales and Northern Ireland in recent years, which has meant that this tradition of three country working has had to change.

Legislation requires that A levels and GCSEs offered in Northern Ireland are comparable to those offered in England and Wales so the regulators will continue to work together to achieve this.

As there is an open qualifications market for GCSEs and A levels in Northern Ireland, it means that all awarding organisations that provide GCSEs and A levels are permitted to offer their qualifications here, as long as they are in line with educational policy.

Summary of what is happening in Northern Ireland, England and Wales

Northern Ireland

As there is an open market for qualifications here, all AOs currently operating in Wales and England may offer qualifications here. There are some restrictions:

GCSE

  • Schools here must offer GCSEs in English Language where marks for the assessment of speaking and listening contribute to the overall grade
  • From September 2017, schools here are not permitted to offer WJEC GCSEs, although WJEC (Eduqas) GCSEs are permitted

GCE

  • Schools here must offer science A levels where marks for the assessment of practical skills contribute to the overall grade.

CCEA Awarding Organisation

CCEA is the awarding organisation based in Northern Ireland. It offers a range of GCSEs and A levels to schools here. CCEA revised its A levels for first teaching in 2016 and its GCSEs for first teaching in 2017.

GCSEs

  • Are linear or unitised qualifications
  • Are graded (from 2019) A*-G with a realigned A* and new C* grade

GCEs

  • Are unitised qualifications
  • The AS contributes 40% to the overall A level grade

Information on qualifications available in NI ccea.org.uk

Information on the new GCSE grading ccea.org.uk

England

Four awarding organisations (AOs) operate in England – AQA, OCR, Pearson and WJEC (Eduqas). Reformed qualifications were introduced for first teaching over a three year period from 2015-2017.

GCSEs

  • Are linear qualifications, meaning all exams are taken at the end of the course
  • Are graded 9-1 (with 9 being the highest grade)

GCEs

  • Are linear qualifications meaning all exams are taken at the end of the course
  • The AS is a stand-alone qualification and does not contribute to the overall A level grade

Wales

One awarding organisation operates in Wales – WJEC. There will be some instances when WJEC does not offer a subject, the regulator in Wales (Qualifications Wales) will “designate” a subject to be offered there by AOs other than WJEC.

Reformed qualifications were introduced over a three year period from 2015-2017.

GCSEs

  • Are linear or unitised qualifications
  • Are graded A*-G

GCEs

  • Are unitised qualifications
  • The AS contributes 40% to the overall A level grade

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