Welsh government makes U-turn on A-level and GCSE results | Exams

Wales has joined Scotland and Northern Ireland in saying students will be awarded their centre-assessed grades. Wales’s education minister, Kirsty Williams, said that given “decisions elsewhere”, she had decided to back teacher assessment of students.

The decision will apply to A-levels awarded last week and the GCSE results that are due to be published on Thursday. A-level students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep those higher grades.

Northern Ireland is using teacher assessment only for GCSEs; A-level awards will stand.

The Westminster government announced a similar U-turn for England later on Monday.

More than four in 10 A-level grades predicted by teachers were lowered when Welsh results were published last week, prompting criticism from students, opposition politicians and Welsh Labour backbenchers.

Williams announced there would be an independent review of decisions made since the cancellation of exams due to the Covid pandemic.

She said: “We have sought an approach which provides fairness and balances out differences in the standards applied to judgments in schools. Given decisions elsewhere, the balance of fairness now lies with awarding centre assessment grades to students, despite the strengths of the system in Wales.

“For grades issued last week, I have decided that all awards in Wales will also be made on the basis of teacher assessment. For those young people for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand.

“Maintaining standards is not new for 2020 – it is a feature of awarding qualifications every year in Wales, and across the UK. However, it is clear that maintaining confidence in our qualifications whilst being fair to students requires this difficult decision.

“These have been exceptional circumstances, and in due course I will be making a further statement on an independent review of events following the cancellation of this year’s exams.

“Other awarding bodies across the UK are involved in determining the approach to vocational qualifications. This continues to be the case, but it is important that I give assurance to GCSE, AS and A-level student at the earliest opportunity.”

The shadow education secretary, Kate Green, said: “Boris Johnson must now follow the lead of the Welsh government, which has acted to ensure young people in Wales get the qualifications they deserve. The PM must get a grip on the situation in England now and end the historic injustice that he is imposing on young people across the country.”

In response to Williams’s announcement, Qualifications Wales, the country’s exams regulator, said: “We know that this is an extraordinarily difficult and upsetting time for learners, parents and their teachers, and there are many questions that we do not currently have answers to. We are working through the details and impact of this announcement and will provide updates as soon as we possibly can.

“We can confirm that any learner who has been issued with an AS, A-level or advanced Welsh baccalaureate skills challenge certificate grade that is higher than their centre assessment grade will receive the higher grade. Additionally, the policy that we put in place for private candidates remains in place. We are working to update the appeals process and will publish further details shortly.”

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