It was announced today (October 9) by Education Minister Peter Weir that Year 14 pupils of schools in Northern Ireland will not have to take AS examinations.

This was one of the decisions made by the Executive on the proposals for changes to the awarding of qualifications during the 2020/21 academic year, with the focus to protect and support pupils in their progress towards future study and employment.

These changes include a reduction in the number of exams that pupils will be required to take, as well as making a number of adaptations to qualifications to ensure they can be delivered safely and meet public health requirements by incorporating a range of appropriate adjustments and necessary mitigations.

Alongside the decision that Year 14 pupils will not have to take AS examinations, it was also announced that in the majority of GCSE qualifications a specified module will be omitted from assessment. All assessments in GCSE Maths will be retained but the speaking and listening component of GCSE English Language is to be omitted. This ensures these key qualifications are comparable across the UK.

Minister Weir said: “Today, I am announcing changes to exams and assessments this academic year which I have instructed CCEA to implement. They take account of the disruption for pupils to date due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the potential for further impacts over the coming months.

“My key priority is to ensure that all Northern Ireland students will have the opportunity to obtain portable qualifications, comparable to those of other jurisdictions that will enable them to succeed in future study and employment.

“These changes are also designed to free up teaching time, reduce pressure on students and allow assessments to be undertaken within current public health restrictions.”

The timetable for the summer exam series will be delayed by one week with exams starting no earlier than May 12, 2021, but concluding by June 30. Results will be issued at the end of August.

Continuing, the Minister said: “Following the cancellation of exams last summer, it is important that students have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills through the exam process.

“It is my priority to ensure that public examinations go ahead, if at all possible. Sitting examinations is a proven way to generate fair and reliable outcomes for pupils.”

Concluding, the Minister said that he has asked CCEA to consider back-up arrangements in case they should be needed.

He said: “I hope today’s announcement will relieve some of the uncertainty and help students focus on the important task of preparing for their exams. The public health crisis has not gone away and we must balance the difficult task of providing a degree of certainty for young people and teachers whilst recognising the need to be flexible and able to respond quickly to changing circumstances.

“Contingency plans are being drawn up to be available should we need to respond quickly to changing circumstances,” said Mr. Weir.