GCSE grades increase as BTec grades pulled just hours before results day

Teacher-assessed GCSE results have seen an improvement across all grades.

Some 29,000 pupils in Northern Ireland received results on Thursday morning from the locally-based examinations body CCEA.

These grades were based on teacher estimates after Stormont Education Minister Peter Weir abandoned plans to use centralised standardisation following an outcry over last week's A-level results.

Outcomes increased across all grades, with 37.1% of pupils achieving grade A* to A - up by 5.7 percentage points on last year.

The proportion of pupils receiving A* to C grades also increased, up 7.6 percentage points to 89.4%.

The numbers receiving A*-G grades increased by 0.9 percentage points to 99.7%.

At the A* grade, there was a 2.9 percentage points increase among boys and a 5.5 percentage points rise for girls.

This year also saw an increase in GCSE English language and mathematics grades.

In English, there was an increase of 6.3 percentage points across A*-C grades, with 87.2% of pupils achieving that level.

Maths saw a 6.9 percentage point increase in A*-C grades, from 72.3% in 2019 to 79.2% in 2020.

Some pupils in Northern Ireland undertook GCSEs with other examination boards, however the majority in the region (98%) opted for CCEA.

BTec results were also due to be issued on Thursday, but they have been delayed.

Exams body Pearson told schools and colleges not to publish level 1 and 2 results in the vocational qualifications to give them more time to recalculate grades to "address concerns about fairness".

They said it will be regrading all its BTecs to bring them in line with school-based assessments.

Exams were cancelled earlier this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The algorithm used in lieu of exams saw more than a third of A-level grades issued last Thursday reduced from teacher estimates, sparking criticism and protests by students.

Mr Weir said his department had set out to provide a system that was "fair and credible", adding "any system that was going to be put in will have problems with fairness".

Students protest in Belfast amid controversy over the awarding of A-level and GCSE results without exams. Credit: Pacemaker