GCSE students in Northern Ireland will have their results decided based on teachers’ predictions, after the controversial moderating system was scrapped.
Just days before the grades were due to be published, the devolved government announced it wanted to “ease anxieties” among pupils and their families.
The move piles pressure on the government in England to follow suit, with several senior Tory MPs already saying results day this Thursday should be pushed back while a better system is worked up.
Politicians are scrambling to avoid another week’s fallout, following complaints last week that the algorithm meant to standardise grades benefited private schools and “baked in inequality”.
Northern Ireland’s Stormont Assembly is due to be recalled from summer recess to debate the furore.
Peter Weir, the education minister, promised the decision would not delay GCSE results and will also not affect A-Level students.
“Standardisation is normally a key feature of awarding qualifications in Northern Ireland and across the UK,” he said.
“However, these are exceptional circumstances and in exceptional times truly difficult decisions are made.
“I am conscious that for GCSEs, unlike at A-level, we do not have system level prior performance data for this group of young people.
“I want to encourage as many young people as possible to remain in education or training post-16 and to know they have another opportunity to engage with education.
“I am also mindful that unlike A-level, many GCSE pupils will not have access to previous public examination outcomes to inform any appeals process.
“I have, therefore, acted now in advance of the publication of GCSE results to ease anxieties, reassure young people and their families and ensure that every individual candidate receives a grade that recognises the work they have done.”
Labour is calling for A-Level students in England to also have their moderated results reverted back to their teachers’ original predictions.
But shadow education secretary Kate Green said there was still time for the algorithm to be “tweaked” to be made fairer for GCSE students.
She told Sky News there had been a “completely chaotic response to this crisis”, urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “get off his holiday” because students “absolutely don’t deserve the shameful treatment they’re receiving”.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who is in charge of the issue only in England given it is a devolved matter, is facing calls to quit over the debacle.
In Scotland, the government withdrew moderated grades and used teachers’ predictions instead after pupils in the most deprived areas had pass rates downgraded by more than twice that of those from the wealthiest parts of the country.