Exams regulator Ofqual says it is going ahead with plans to stop speaking and listening from counting towards final grades.
It says the change is being made to protect standards, as there is no workable way to ensure the skills are being assessed consistently and fairly across all schools. See our main story here.
While the shake-up will only apply to papers set by examinations boards in England, it will have an impact on a significant number of pupils from the North.
Thousands of pupils take papers set by bodies other than the North’s exams board – the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) – every year.
The CCEA is already moving quickly to clarify the situation in the North, saying it has no plans to replicate the change in England.
The announcement made 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,” a spokesman said.
Education minister John O’Dowd is considering the future of GCSEs in the North. A major review looked at the benefits of retaining the existing exams system, options for improving it, and the possibility of replacing it.
It is expected that any changes will be put out to consultation next month.
The minister says he is unhappy at the latest changes in England, which will have a knock-on affect.
“I believe this decision has been taken in haste without any great educational thought being given to the implications,” he said.
“It is particularly disconcerting for young people who began their GCSE English in September 2012 and who will be affected. Such fundamental changes to GCSEs should not be taken mid-course.”
Mr O’Dowd’s department will be working with the CCEA regulator and the other awarding organisations to determine what scope for flexibility there is for learners here and what is in their best interest.
”We will also want to take the views of heads of English on this important issue before determining the appropriate way forward for learners in the North.”