Northern Ireland

GCSEs: Fewer A* GCSEs grades to be given due to change

Education board
Image caption A change in grading will likely result in fewer A* grades as well as fewer GCSEs being awarded B and C grades

Fewer GCSE entries in Northern Ireland will be awarded the top A* grade in 2019 due to changes in exam grading.

A new C* grade is also being introduced by exams body the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).

That is likely to result in fewer A* grades as well as fewer GCSEs being awarded B and C grades.

Students in Northern Ireland began their 2019 GCSE exams on Wednesday 8 May.

GCSEs set by English exam boards are graded by numbers, where nine is the top grade and one the lowest.

Changes to grading in England were part of a wider overhaul of GCSEs ordered by the former education minister Michael Gove.

CCEA are however maintaining the A* to G marks scale - with the addition of the new C* grade.

Around five per cent of GCSE entries in Northern Ireland are through English exam boards.

That means some of Northern Ireland's 30,000 students taking their GCSEs in 2019 will receive results in the form of letters and numbers.

That is due to decisions taken by two previous education ministers in Northern Ireland.

In 2015, John O'Dowd of Sinn Fein decided that Northern Ireland would maintain an alphabetical rather than a numerical system of GCSE results.

The following year the DUP's Peter Weir ordered the introduction of a new C* grade to increase alignment with the English system.

Image caption The grading system in Northern Ireland differs from other parts of the UK

2019 is the first year in which that new grade will be introduced here.

An A* in Northern Ireland will be equivalent to the top 9 grade in England and will be regarded as an "exceptional" result.

According to CCEA, around 9.5% of entries attracted the A* grade in 2018 but that is likely to fall in 2019.

The A grade in Northern Ireland will align with the 7 and 8 grades in England, while B will equal grade 6.

The C* will equal grade 5 while C will equal grade 4.

D,E,F and G in Northern Ireland will equate to grades 3, 2 and 1 in England.

Students will receive their GCSE results in Northern Ireland on Thursday 22 August 2019.

A-Levels are not affected by the changes.

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