Michael Gove proposes split in exams systems of England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Michael Gove Michael Gove met the NI and Welsh education ministers for talks last week

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The secretary of state for education has said it is time for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to go their separate ways on GCSEs and A-levels.

Michael Gove has written to both the NI and Welsh education ministers saying he believes the differences are becoming so great, there must be a split.

In his letter, he described the proposed move as "a natural and legitimate consequence of devolution".

NI's education minister said the quality of exams was the priority.

John O'Dowd said that he and Mr Gove should be working together "despite our differences".

"In my opinion we can have a common A-level name, we can have a common GCSE name," he said.

"It can be delivered in slightly different ways. It's the robustness of that exam that is the important thing and that universities and employers want to be reassured of. And I'm confident we can reassure them of."

Mr O'Dowd had talks with the education secretary last week to discuss their different views.

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Education minister John O'Dowd said Northern Ireland has a "robust education and exam system"

Straight talking at that meeting in London appears to have spurred Mr Gove into declaring that his radical reforms will create exams so different from those bearing the same name across the three countries, they would be better off as separate exams with different titles.

Scottish students currently sit a completely different set of exams that can gain them entry to university in other regions.

On Monday, Mr O'Dowd revealed interim changes to A-levels in Northern Ireland but he is still considering revision of A levels and GCSEs in the long term.

Last year, the Sinn Fein minister and his Welsh counterpart expressed their displeasure after Mr Gove made an announcement about A-level changes in England without consulting either of them.

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