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Two further Covid-related deaths in NI as plans on how vocational qualifications awarded outlined

There have been two further Covid-related deaths reported by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland today (Friday).

According to the official dashboard, both deaths occurred in the past 24 hours.

The overall total number of deaths recorded by the Department now stands at 2,068

Of those overall deaths, the ABC Borough accounts for 279; Newry, Mourne and Down District at 162; and Mid-Ulster with 194.

There were a further 166 positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, with 20 in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon. There was a further eight in Newry, Mourne and Down and 18 in Mid-Ulster.

A total of 1,880 individuals were tested.

There are 242 – 15 less than yesterday – people now in hospital as a result of the virus, 29 of whom are in intensive care units.

There are currently 26 ICU beds available in Northern Ireland.

A total of 64 – that’s seven less than yesterday – Covid patients are currently in hospitals in the Southern Trust area – with 24 in Craigavon; six in Daisy Hill, 29 in Lurgan, five in St Luke’s, Armagh and none in South Tyrone.

Meanwhile, Economy Minister Diane Dodds today set out the arrangements for how vocational qualifications and Essential Skills will be awarded this academic year.

In January the Minister announced the cancellation of examinations for relevant qualifications and instructed CCEA Regulation to ensure that awarding organisations put in place suitable alternative awarding arrangements that are reflective of this year’s particular circumstances.

The Minister said: “I requested that the way in which vocational and technical qualifications are awarded this year be specifically developed to reflect the unique and challenging circumstances that learners have experienced. It is imperative that we recognise the ongoing and significant disruption to teaching and learning.

“For those vocational qualifications that are most like GCSEs, AS and A levels – such as BTecs and Cambridge Nationals and Technicals, teacher judgement will play a central role in determining the results, based upon a variety of evidence, including performance of tasks or assessments that have already been completed.

“For the large number of qualifications that require a demonstration of occupational or professional competence – such as plumbing, construction, accountancy or electrical installation – assessments to demonstrate practical skills will still need to go ahead this year and a range of adaptations will be put in place to facilitate these, where possible, such as remote assessment. Some assessments may however need to be delayed until they can be carried out safely in line with public health guidance.”

In relation to the cancellation of Essential Skills exams, the Minister confirmed that these have also been replaced with a teacher judgement approach, based upon suitable evidence and learners should engage directly with their college or training provider for further details on next steps.

The Minister also confirmed that results for those vocational qualifications which are directly comparable with GCSEs, AS and A levels, such as BTecs and Cambridge Nationals and Technicals, would issue on 10 and 12 August this year, in line with the GCSE, AS and A level results dates.

The Minister continued: “Awarding organisations are working closely with schools, colleges and training providers to set out the detailed requirements for different qualifications to enable award of results this year. Your school, college or training provider will be able to advise on what is happening with your specific course of study – whether there is still a requirement to take assessments, or if results will be awarded using teacher assessed grades.

“Learners should speak directly to their school, college or training provider about which options are offered by the awarding organisation that they are registered with and I would again stress the importance to learners of continuing to study in the meantime.”

The Minister concluded: “The pandemic has presented huge challenges to the delivery of education and all parts of the education system are collaborating to ensure that learners are still able to get their results and progress to the next stage, whether that is further study, training or the workplace.

“I appreciate that this continues to be an enormously stressful time for learners, their families and teaching staff – there has been a great deal of uncertainty, and many will have missed out, not just on teaching and learning, but on the support and friendship offered by social contact with others. I hope that today’s announcement helps alleviate some of this uncertainty and bring some clarity to the months ahead.”

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