Northern Ireland news

Principals publish alternative exam plans

Public exams are expected to take place again next summer

SCHOOL principals have published alternative proposals for next summer's exams amid serious concerns about how changes will affect pupils.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is seeking a formal meeting with the education minister to discuss its document.

Young people are due to sit A-level, AS-level and GCSE exams next summer, although will take fewer papers.

Students, teachers and principals have all voiced objections.

For those taking GCSEs, the number of exams will be reduced significantly.

Pupils will be assessed in all written units of English and maths, but speaking and listening in English language will be scrapped.

There will also be no speaking components in Irish, French, German and Spanish.

AS-level grades awarded in the summer will not form part of the A-levels in 2021.

NAHT said the reduction of the burden of assessment for the speaking and listening components of English, whilst beneficial for teacher workload, "has huge potential to disadvantage those learners within the special educational needs and/or lower attainment brackets that can communicate more effectively through the spoken word".

It recommended that GCSE English should have an assessed grade awarded for the speaking and listening component.

Exams that currently have a 50/50 split in their assessment of units, the union said, should have half removed and a replacement 10 per cent controlled assessment task added.

This would ensure equality with other GCSE subjects.

In addition, it said all schools should maintain a record of ongoing assessments that may be used in the awarding of a future predicted grades.

It added that AS predicted grades awarded to Year 13 students should contribute in a meaningful way to their A-levels.

"We believe that many students feel that their Year 13 is otherwise a wasted year and it adds an unreasonable burden on students to perform in a high stakes final examination, in which their learning has already been significantly disrupted," the union added.

The union said it remained "highly concerned" that the minister appeared to prioritise the examinations system over the needs and wellbeing of students.

"We would like to reassure members that we are doing all we can to urge the minister to deliver a fair system that addresses the needs of all pupils," it said.

"Given the current climate, it is vital that mitigations and contingency plans are provided and schools, pupils and parents are reassured that the exam fiasco of 2020 will not be repeated. This proposal document aims to provide a clear and adaptable plan which would enable this, no matter what the coming months bring."

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