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Commenting on the Education Minister's announcement on arrangements for qualifications for the summer of 2021, Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:
 
“It has been a long and difficult wait for pupils, teachers and school leaders for further details of measures to help ensure those taking their GCSEs and AS and A2 Levels next summer are not disadvantaged by the major disruption they are continuing to experience to their education as a result of the pandemic.

“While addressing some of the uncertainty that has surrounded what will happen with qualifications next summer, today's announcement leaves key questions unanswered.
 
“The NASUWT has never underestimated the scale of this challenge or the problems that disruption to the normal operation of exams creates. Everyone who has sought to engage with these issues seriously and honestly recognises that there are difficult trade-offs and choices involved in any credible options for dealing with disruption to examinations. However, the Minister's delay in bringing forward plans for next summer’s examinations and qualifications has caused unnecessary anxiety, stress and workload pressures for both teachers and pupils.
 
“It is important that every possible step is taken to ensure that awards are fair to all students who have been impacted by the pandemic. However, the measures announced today do not go far enough.

“Reducing the content of examinations and enabling greater scope for students to answer optional questions would have helped reduce the pressures of next year’s examinations and give pupils a fairer chance to focus on what they have been taught and learned. It is, therefore, profoundly disappointing that greater use of optionality has been discarded as a strategy, especially since it has already been adopted in a limited range of subjects.
 
“The NASUWT's welcomes the announcement that students are to be provided with some additional support for their examinations to provide reassurance and greater confidence to them during a difficult time. The Union also welcomes the additional flexibility that will be offered over assessments for AS and A2 examinations. However, these measures will not be sufficient to ensure equity for those pupils in Northern Ireland who have suffered higher levels of disruption due to Covid-19.

“The Minister’s decision to benchmark exam standards for 2021 against those in 2020 is a difficult but entirely understandable decision. The cohort of pupils due to sit their examinations next summer have been particularly adversely impacted by the pandemic and recognition of this fact in the awarding process is important. It is now important that CCEA engages fully and urgently with the sector over the detailed arrangements for standard setting.”
 
Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official for Northern Ireland, said:

“Given the uncertainty surrounding qualifications for candidates and staff in schools, it is vital that the Minister sets out further detail on how the contingency plans for students unable to sit examinations will work in practice, particularly if circumstances at the time result in many candidates ending up in this position. It is vital that arrangements are as fair as possible for students, while recognising the unprecedented pressures under which schools are operating currently.
 
“The further work the Minister has signalled on addressing learning loss must be directly informed and shaped by practicing teachers and school leaders. Staff in schools have direct and valuable experience of the implications that Covid-19 related disruption has had on learners, particularly those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged and those living in localities and attending schools that have been especially badly affected.”

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