The big changes being considered for summer 2021 GCSE, AS and A level exams in Wales

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Next summer’s exams in Wales may be held later than normal to help students whose work has been disrupted by school closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Content covered and the way course work is assessed may also be changed.

These are some of the options being considered for GCSE, AS and A levels by the Welsh Government, independent regulator Qualifications Wales and exam board the WJEC.

An announcement is expected in the next few weeks.

England and Scotland have both already announced they are looking at pushing summer, 2021, exams forwards to give students and teachers time to cover the work needed.

Kerry Davies, head of standards at Qualifications Wales, said: “We have been considering some options involving possible reductions in content of qualifications and/or adjustments to assessments.”

But she warned: “There is a fine balance between making adjustments to support learners who have lost some face to face teaching time and changing a qualification so much that it is no longer reliable, valid and credible.

“We need to take into account the fact some assessments will have to be adjusted, because of social distancing. We must factor in that disruption to teaching and learning may continue in the autumn term.”

Ms Davies said the possibility of further school disruption and its effect on exams next year must also be considered.

“We are working on options for scenarios that could involve even greater changes to the exam series in summer, 2021, as the consequence of further increases in Covid-19 infection rates in the autumn or spring, leading to further school and college closures.”

This includes producing centre assessment grades and rank orders to grade exams once again in 2021 if necessary.

For every GCSE, AS, A level and Skills Challenge Certificate qualification, each school/exam centre has submitted:

* A centre assessment grade for each learner. This is the professional judgement of the subject teachers, including the head of department, about the grade that each learner is most likely to have achieved if they had sat their exams this summer.

* The rank order of learners within each grade, for each qualification.

* Once centre assessment grades and the rank order have been submitted, the WJEC will standardise grades between centres. The regulator, Qualifications Wales, said: “For this to be fair, it is important that the rank order of learners is as accurate as possible. This process is required for all learners entered for each qualification.”

At the same time Qualifications Wales has now published grade calculation aims and appeals requirements for this summer.

“Although these are extraordinary times, it’s important to remember that the qualifications awarded this year will be just as robust and of equal value to those awarded in any other year,” Qualifications Wales Chief Executive Philip Blaker pledged.

National outcomes this year would be broadly similar to those in previous years to reduce the risk of unfairness for learners over time and to maintain public confidence, the regulator added.

“As far as possible the process for awarding grades will not systematically disadvantage learners.”

The standardisation model for awarding grades will use a range of evidence to calculate the likely grades that learners would have achieved, had they been able to complete their assessments and sit exams.

Individual students dissatisfied with their grade will not be able to appeal to exam board the WJEC but the WJEC can consider appeals made by exam centres on certain grounds.



Welsh Education Minister Kirsty Williams

Answering questions from students at the Welsh Government daily briefing on June 24, Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “We may have to make some changes to exam arrangements next year to make sure everybody is treated fairly.

“This is being considered on a subject by subject basis. It may include changes to the content of courses, it may include changes to how we assess the course work element of courses.

“But we are also looking at whether we need to change the exam time table so we can maximise the time available for you and your teachers for learning time.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Qualifications Wales are working at pace and closely with WJEC. They are considering a range of possible options for changes that might be made to the exam arrangements for next year to ensure learners are not disadvantaged.

“The Minister is awaiting detailed advice and will be carefully discussing with Qualifications Wales and WJEC, and intends to announce the approach before the end of the summer term to allow learners and practitioners time to prepare for the autumn term.”



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