Northern Ireland news

Analysis: Results without papers prompting thoughts of GCSE reform

School leaders argue that GCSEs should be reformed or scrapped

EVEN before the north entered its first `three week' lockdown, schools were shut and public exams cancelled.

Experts, observers and commentators alike saw an opportunity to think about a reform of GCSEs.

School leaders have argued that the exams leave too many pupils demoralised and increase anxiety.

There are also concerns that they are not fully accessible to lower attaining pupils, including those with special educational needs.

A major poll found most principals wanted them reformed or done away with.

It was said they are now so content-laden and deliberately harder that they disenfranchise many children for whom the exams are too daunting.

It is unlikely any major change will happen soon but the drama of the last few days will get folk pondering again.

This is the first time GCSE results have been issued widely without pupils putting pen to paper.

The north's schools typically do very well. Last year, there was a slight increase at grade C and above. The proportion awarded A*-C rose from 81.1 to 82.2 per cent.

If we rewind to 2015, the A*-C was hovering around the 79 per cent mark. This has crept up modestly every year since - 0.2 per cent here, 0.4 per cent there - to bring us to the 82.2 per cent from 2019.

It is worth taking a note of these increases, just in case there are any further accusations of teachers being lenient when the unstandardised results are made public today.

There should be no surprise if the percentages achieving `good' grades goes up again - depending on how large the spike, of course.

However, any widespread inflation will cause additional problems, especially in grammar schools that typically have a post-GCSE cull of pupils who do not meet the quota for returning for A-levels.

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