Platform: Changes to grading system will put north on par with best in world

Thousands of pupils will receive GCSE results this week
Justin Edwards

TODAY more than 30,000 learners across Northern Ireland will open their GCSE results. I am delighted for all those learners who are receiving their results and wish them every success in their future studies.

This year the vast majority of learners will receive A* - G grades, however a little over three per cent of learners here will receive a numerical grade for some subjects.

The 9-1 grade is, this year, limited to GCSE Mathematics and English Literature qualifications offered by AQA, OCR, Pearson and Eduqas.

Next year, more subjects will use the 9-1 grading system, however the majority of learners in Northern Ireland will continue to receive A*- G qualifications.

In 2019, CCEA will change the way it grades GCSE qualifications, to reflect the 9-1 grades.

This change is complex, so it is worth understanding why it is happening.

In 2013, the government in England announced reforms to GCSEs and a new grading system comprising of numbers rather than letters. As a result, the Northern Ireland and Welsh governments reviewed their policy on grading.

In 2016 Peter Weir MLA, (then Education Minister), announced changes to the grading of GCSEs offered by CCEA:

"…the A* grade will be realigned to reflect the level of achievement at the grade 9 on the English 9-1 scale, and; a new grade C* will be introduced to align with the level of achievement consistent with the grade 5 on the English 9-1 scale."

From this September, learners will start to study new CCEA GCSEs. They will be the first to receive the new A*- G grades in 2019.

This year work has been undertaken to align the A with the 7 and the C with the 4. This allows comparisons to be made across systems.

When the new CCEA A*- G grading is introduced, in 2019, the Grade A* will be aligned with the Grade 9. In addition, a Grade C* will be introduced and aligned with the Grade 5.

CCEA continues to work with higher education institutes, employers and UCAS to keep them updated on changes to grading and to ensure fairness for all learners here. Universities, for example, will manage these changes as they manage applications from Scotland and further afield, which all have different qualifications and grading systems.

Whilst the change is complicated, mainly due to different times in which the new grades and qualifications are being introduced, we are confident that all learners will be able to enjoy the benefits of a Northern Ireland examination system that is comparable to the best in the world.

For further information on the changes to GCSE grading visit

* Justin Edward is chief executive officer of the Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment in Northern Ireland

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