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Wales scraps GCSE, AS and A-level exams for 2021 to ensure ‘fairness’

Written by on 10 November 2020

Students in Wales will not take exams for their GCSEs, AS-levels or A-levels next summer, Wales’s education minister has announced.

Kirsty Williams said the decision had been made for the “well-being of learners” and to “ensure fairness” as students will have spent different amounts of time in school or college during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said that instead of exams, the Welsh government will work with schools and colleges on teacher-managed assessments.

Students taking part in a march over the government’s handling of exam results

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The assessments will be externally set and marked but delivered in a classroom environment, under teacher supervision.

Teachers will also have flexibility when it is best to undertake the assessments.

Ms Williams said: “We remain optimistic that the public heath situation will improve, but the primary reason for my decision is down to fairness; the time learners will spend in schools and colleges will vary hugely and, in this situation, it is impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place.

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“We have consulted with universities across the UK and they have confirmed that they are used to accepting many different types of qualifications.

“They expect a transparent and robust approach which provides evidence of a learner’s knowledge and ability.”

The minister said a GBP50m support package has been put in place for 16 to 18 year olds in exam years.

The National Education Union (NEU) Cymru welcomed the news and said there must not be a repeat of the results fiasco in the summer.

All GCSE and A-levels results in England were based on teacher-assessed grades after a government U-turn which followed the same decision by the devolved Welsh and Northern Irish governments.

SWANSEA, WALES - AUGUST 20: Chloe Orrin hugs a friend after opening her GCSE results at Ffynone House school on August 20, 2020 in Swansea, Wales. GCSE students were unable to sit their exams this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. A government-backed algorithm used to award grades has been withdrawn after thousands of A level students were downgraded to the predicted grades given by teachers. This has caused many to lose out on university places. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Chloe Orrin hugs a friend after opening her GCSE results at Ffynone House school in Swansea, Wales

Speaking before the Education Select Committee, England’s Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said she has “not seen anything that suggests that pulling exams as we did last year is the sensible default route to go down this year”.

She warned: “It’s very important before making sudden drastic changes in how a system works, to think about how it will go down at the receiving end with children and parents…

“Taking away the opportunity of young people’s own agency demonstrating what they can do is something we should think about very carefully before doing.”