Views sought in Northern Ireland exams review


A review of whether GCSEs and A levels remain the best exams for Northern Ireland's secondary school children is now underway.

An online survey is seeking views on how the existing system is viewed and how it might be improved for the future.

The North’s education minister John O’Dowd says there is a pressing need to consider an alternative system.

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) is carrying out the review, which Mr O’Dowd says will be one of most important pieces of work undertaken in the past quarter century.

The CCEA is working to ensure A levels and GCSEs are capable of “testing and rewarding the learning and attainment of pupils at the end of compulsory schooling and at the end of 6th form”.

Its review will look at the benefits of retaining the existing system, options for improving it, and the possibility of replacing it. 

The review will gather views from across the country and will also be looking at other exam systems, including Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

The council is encouraging anyone with an interest in the issue to fill in a questionnaire online.

CCEA interim chief executive Richard Hanna says the existing exams are excellent qualifications and there is significant evidence to show employers and universities value them. 

He added: “It is essential that we keep our qualifications under constant review to ensure they continue to meet the needs of our young people, the economy and reflect international best practice. 

“In particular, it is vitally important to ensure that our qualifications at both GCSE and GCE continue to have currency and transportability in these islands and beyond.”

The deadline for contributing to the first stage of the review is January 21. The questionnaire is at


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