Published Monday, 08 October 2012
Minister John O'Dowd revealed pupils can re-sit their GCSE English exam. (© UTV)
The awarding body came under question in England and Wales after head teachers alleged it raised grade boundaries during the academic year.
Mr O'Dowd ordered a review into this year's AQA GCSE results. But local qualifications regulator CCEA found the NI results were in line with previous years and AQA did not deviate from the Code of Practice.
"While the overall picture may not raise general concerns, analysis at school level indicates issues with results in a significant number of schools," said Minister O'Dowd.
"For many pupils studying AQA GCSE English, grade outcomes have not been in line with schools' predictions or in line with last year's outcomes.
"It is clear that the complexity of the system, and the fact that grade boundaries are set on a three jurisdiction basis, have combined to impact on teachers' expectations of pupil performance."
CCEA made six recommendations in their review of the grades, which included an early re-sit opportunity for NI candidates.
The Minister said those who chose to re-sit their English exam will be given the chance to do so before January, but added "this is just an option for pupils and those affected should speak to their teachers, parents and guardians to decide what is most appropriate for them".
Any extra resources for schools where pupils will re-sit the exam will be revealed in the coming weeks.
The regulator also found that the use and effectiveness of grade predictors should be reviewed, and the availability of the GCSE English specification should also be looked into.
"I am accepting each of the recommendations made by the regulator. I have now tasked CCEA to work in conjunction with the regulators in England and Wales to ensure that the recommendations are implemented across all Awarding Organisations operating here," commented Minister O'Dowd.
"I expect that the review of GCSE and A levels that I have commissioned will address the complexity and transparency of the awarding process and will identify ways in which such instances can be avoided in future."
UUP MLA Danny Kinahan has welcomed the announcement.
The Education Committee vice-chair said: "The situation many students found themselves in following this year's GCSE results was a mess and they should not have found themselves in such a predicament.
"I hope having the chance to do an early re-sit of the English GCSE exam will improve the prospects for those who found themselves disappointed with their results."
Mr Kinahan is urging the department "to push ahead" regarding making a decision on resources.
"When it is clear that schools are already struggling to cope on their current limited resources it would be lunacy to even attempt to make them stretch those resources further.
"I hope that the current reviews which are ongoing at the Department of Education will lead to more management powers being handed over to the schools themselves. For schools here to thrive it is vital the Department stops trying to micro-manage them."