Larne principal says numbered grading will ‘open up marketplace’ for GCSE pupils

Larne Grammar School principal Jonathan Wylie. INLT 35-007-PSB
Larne Grammar School principal Jonathan Wylie. INLT 35-007-PSB

A Larne principal has welcomed a move which will see pupils in Northern Ireland receive numbered GCSE grades from 9-1.

Education Minister Peter Weir has overturned a decision made by his predecessor John O’Dowd, who had maintained all exam boards operating in Northern Ireland must give their results using the letters A* to G.

This led to the two largest English GCSE exam boards – AQA and OCR – to withdraw their GCSE courses in Northern Ireland last year.

But Mr Weir has announced his intention to lift the restriction on the accreditation of 9-1 GCSEs, meaning local pupils will receive results in both letter and number form.

Larne Grammar School principal, Jonathan Wylie said the Minister’s decision would “open up the marketplace” for pupils in Northern Ireland.

“The loss of two English boards had been detrimental to pupils, as they were no longer able to avail of certain subjects,” he added.

“But both AQA and OCR have now confirmed they will once again be offering GCSE courses in Northern Ireland as a result of this Mr Weir’s decision. This will benefit pupils by allowing access to courses such as Classical Civilisation and Media Studies, which have no equivalent in the local examining body.”

However, Mr Wylie said he still has some concerns surrounding the grading system in Northern Ireland, adding: “There are a number of questions which we are currently awaiting clarification on and which need to be answered sooner rather than later.

“For example, there is still uncertainty over whether universities in England will look less favourably on Northern Ireland grades, due to the letter-based grading system still being used here.

“Also, potential employers will likely find it more difficult to comprehend a grading system which has a mixture of letters and numbers.

“I personally believe that the grading system here should be in line with England, where it is entirely number-based.”

Under the numerical grading system 9 is the highest and 1 is the lowest.

CCEA, the examining body in NI, will continue to award GCSEs from A* to G only. However, they will also introduce a new C* grade.