Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment
29 Clarendon Road, Clarendon Dock
Belfast BT1 3BG
I am writing to formally protest the approach that you have taken in regard to the assignment of grades to the current cohort of A-level, AS-level and GCSE pupils. The adoption of an algorithm which seeks to rebase teachers’ assessments on the basis of historic school performances will simply reproduce social disadvantage experienced by young people from working-class backgrounds and communities.
Children from working-class households are disadvantaged throughout their educational lifetimes. The informal retention of academic selection at eleven and the subsequent segregation of pupils into academically selective and non-selective schools is a mechanism that reproduces social divisions e.g. through the ability of wealthier families to afford private tutors. The impact on the subsequent academic outcomes of those who attend non-selective schools has been widely acknowledged.
In light of this, the chronic underfunding of education in general and non-selective schools in particular, e.g. their funding does not reflect the significantly higher social disadvantage or the higher proportion of special education needs, any approach which seeks to rebase academic outcomes on historic performances is inherently flawed.
Many young people from working-class backgrounds have aspirations to careers as medics or teachers and will have their opportunities to pursue this cut-short by the approach taken by the CCEA and the Department for Education. Indeed, many apprenticeships are restricted to those who have demonstrated significant educational attainment. The impact on the lives of young people will be felt for years to come – the entire lives of individuals may be scarred by the approach you are taking.
I’m calling on the CCEA, the Department of Education and the Northern Ireland Executive to reconsider its approach and accept the professional opinion of teachers in regards to the educational attainment of their pupils. They have taken cognisance of prior academic performance and are best placed to ascertain likely outcomes. Reliance on the appeals system to correct the inherent flawed and class-discriminatory nature of the approach you have taken is clearly insufficient.
It is vital that you reconsider your approach quickly to allow the current cohort of students to avail of the educational and training opportunities that they deserve. It is also vital that we avoid the greater inequity that will follow from the adoption of this approach to GCSE scores – in which historic, class-based disadvantage will be even more profound.
Cllr Donal O’Cofaigh
Cross-community Labour, Enniskillen