Northern Ireland

GCSE exam changes for pupils using English exam boards

Exam room
Image caption Thousands of pupils will face changes to their GCSE exams.

Thousands of GCSE pupils in Northern Ireland are to face changes to their English exams, although they are half way through their courses.

The changes are being rushed through, in spite of strong opposition.

Pupils who use exam boards in England for GCSE English and English Language, are assessed on their 'speaking and listening skills'.

The marks from these assessments will no longer count towards their final grades.

The change will affect about 6,000 pupils in Northern Ireland.

It is being brought in halfway through current courses because of concerns about the reliability of the results which are assessed by pupils' own teachers.

The exam regulator Ofqual admits the decision will be unpopular and was strongly opposed by 92% of people consulted.

However, Ofqual says the assessment of speaking and listening skills was not carried out consistently across schools and that only a third were monitored each year.

The local exams board, CCEA, is not making the change because it says it is satisfied its results are robust and that every school in Northern Ireland is checked each year.

A CCEA spokesperson said: "The announcement made this morning by Ofqual does not apply to CCEA's English examinations.

"We believe that speaking and listening, along with a robust process of moderation, is an integral part of the GCSE English qualification."

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