Northern Ireland news

Pupils facing potential further disruption to exams in next school year

PUPILS are facing potential further disruption to crucial exams in the next school year.

A-levels and GCSEs are not taking place this summer as schools have been affected significantly by the coronavirus crisis.

There are already calls to cut some exams in 2021 due to inconsistencies in remote education and learning time lost during lockdown.

Department of Education officials have confirmed that the CCEA exams board will look at the issue in greater detail.

Principals have warned that schools face a massive catch-up challenge when they begin their phased return in August.

It is Year 11 and 13 pupils that are expected to be among the first to return - and not those in their final A-level and GCSE years.

There are fears that teachers and pupils will find themselves overstretched, adding more stress to an already difficult situation.

Unions have suggested streamlining the curriculum and even dropping some exams in 2021.

In a paper presented to members of the assembly education committee and minister Peter Weir, the National Education Union said GCSE and A-level courses should be slimmed down next year as schools face adapting to a `new normal'.

Department officials were yesterday quizzed by the committee on its plans for 2020/21.

Officials said there had been some initial thinking on how to approach 2021, adding that CCEA was to be commissioned to look at the issue, and develop contingencies, in a formal way.

Members heard that there were some doubts over public exams due to take place in November.

Committee deputy chair, Karen Mullan, of Sinn Féin said it was not feasible to expect students to be examined in the usual way.

"I pressed officials to possibly review the delivery of the curriculum next year and how exam officials will take into account the major disruption which young people have experienced this year," Ms Mullan said.

"Although teachers and parents have been involved in fantastic work in delivering remote learning it is no substitute for the classroom experience."

Ulster University, meanwhile, has confirmed it will deliver teaching and lectures online in its first semester, which will begin on September 21.

Some on-campus activities will take place and priority given to practice-based learning including lab work.

"The next academic year will be different, and whilst initially we may not all be together on campus as we once were,?I am confident that together we will deliver?a safe, vibrant,?inspiring and productive time for our new and returning students and our staff," interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Bartholomew said.

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