Qualifications in Northern Ireland

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1 20 February 2015 Dear Colleague, Qualifications in Northern Ireland I write to you to make you aware of changes in regards to regulatory arrangements in Northern Ireland which will require you to consider your s offer over the next three years. From September 2015 not all A-levels and GCSEs across the UK will look the same in terms of content or assessment. This is due to a divergence in education policy between England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The purpose of this letter is to give you an overview of these changes. I recommend that you share the contents of this letter with the Examinations Officer and Heads of Department in your school. Minister O Dowd announced (March 2014) that there will continue to be an open s market in Northern Ireland. This decision was made in the light of feedback from two consultations; one carried out by CCEA on the review recommendations and the other by the Department of Education. Both of these indicated strong support for the continuation of an open s market. CCEA Regulation is the part of CCEA that acts as the regulator of academic and applied s in Northern Ireland. CCEA Regulation will continue to work with all Awarding Organisations and regulators in other jurisdictions to maintain the rigour and comparability of all GCSEs and A levels, thereby ensuring the portability of all s taken in Northern Ireland. Timescales for Change New GCSEs and A levels will be introduced over a three year period, beginning in September AQA, OCR, Pearson and will introduce new GCSEs in three subjects and new A levels in thirteen subjects for first teaching in September Further new GCSE and will be introduced by these Awarding Organisations for first teaching in 2016 and CCEA as an Awarding Organisation will introduce its new A levels for first teaching in 2016 and new GCSEs in Information about the subjects being introduced by each Awarding Organisation in 2015, 2016 and 2017 can be found on their individual websites. CCEA Regulation is currently developing a website which will give you all the information about the changes happening to s over the next three years. This website will be available from the end of February Information in relation to the changes to s will be detailed under Qualsni on the following website: accreditation.

2 A level Minister O Dowd announced (September 2014) that all science A levels offered in schools in Northern Ireland must have marks for the assessment of practical skills contributing to the overall grade. Not all science A levels will meet this requirement. Schools should check the website of the Awarding Organisation (AO) they intend to use prior to offering a to their pupils. Details of new science A level s can be found in Appendix A. There will be differences between new A levels offered by AOs to schools in Northern Ireland. The main differences in these A levels are: Some AOs will offer A levels that are linear, whereas other AOs will offer modular options. Some AOs will offer de-coupled A level s. These are s where students will still be able to take an AS but the marks for this will not count towards the A level grade. Some AOs will offer A level s where the AS will contribute 40% to the overall A level grade. The table below details the structure of the A levels that each AO will be offering. AO AQA CCEA OCR Pearson (Eduqas) Date when changes introduced All teaching 2016 Exam availability end of AS and A2 units will be available in the summer series. Students must complete the necessary units to gain an AS / A level. end of end of AS and A2 units will be available in the summer series. Students must complete the necessary units to gain an AS / A level. end of AS contribution to overall A level grade 40% 40%

3 GCSE Minister O Dowd announced (March 2014) that all English Language GCSEs offered in schools in Northern Ireland must have marks for speaking and listening contributing to the overall grade. Not all GCSE English Language s will meet this requirement. Schools should check the website of the Awarding Organisation (AO) they intend to use prior to offering a to their pupils. Details of new GCSE English Language s can be found in Appendix A. There will be differences between new GCSEs offered by AOs to schools in Northern Ireland. The main differences in these GCSEs are: Some AOs will offer GCSEs that are linear, whereas other AOs will offer modular options. Some AOs will offer GCSEs that will be graded using a new grading system (). The table below details the structure of the GCSEs that each AO will be offering. AO AQA CCEA OCR Pearson (Eduqas) Date when changes introduced All GCSE subjects teaching 2017 Exam availability GCSE units will be available in the summer series and some may be available in January. Students must complete all necessary units to gain a GCSE. Most GCSEs will be linear, however, some may have January assessments. Please consult the website. GCSE grading To be confirmed A*-G

4 Implications for schools: Schools will still be free to choose the s offered by the Awarding Organisation that best suits their students. However, in line with the Minister s announcements, GCSE English language must have marks for speaking and listening and science A levels must have marks for the practical assessments that contribute to the overall grade. Details of new GCSE English Language and science A level s can be found in Appendix A. Prior to choosing a, schools are advised to consult the website of the relevant AO. Further information/support: CCEA Regulation is currently developing a site which will give you all the information about the changes happening to s over the next three years. This website will be available from the end of February. The address is If you have any queries prior to this date, please them to Clare McNicholl at Yours faithfully, Justin Edwards, Chief Executive, CCEA

5 Appendix A Table A: New A level science s Awarding Organisation Subject Level Meets Minister s requirements AQA Biology AS and A level No AQA Chemistry AS and A level No AQA Physics AS and A level No CCEA Biology AS and A level Yes CCEA Chemistry AS and A level Yes CCEA Physics AS and A level Yes OCR Biology A and B AS and A level No (See note OCR Chemistry A and B AS and A level No (See note OCR Physics A and B AS and A level No (See note Pearson Biology A and B AS and A level No Pearson Chemistry AS and A level No Pearson Physics AS and A level No Biology AS and A level Yes Chemistry AS and A level Yes Physics AS and A level Yes (Eduqas) Biology AS and A level No (Eduqas) Chemistry AS and A level No (Eduqas) Physics AS and A level No Note: OCR is currently in discussions with DE and CCEA regulation about A level sciences. Table B: New GCSE English Language s Awarding Organisation Subject Meets Minister s requirements AQA GCSE English Language No CCEA GCSE English Language Yes OCR GCSE English Language No Pearson GCSE English Language No (Eduqas) GCSE English Language No

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