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There will be no end of year exams for GCSE, A-level and AS-level students in Wales next summer, the Welsh government has said.
The education minister, Kirsty Williams, said that in place of exams the government would work with schools and colleges to carry out teacher-managed assessments.
Williams said some of the assessments would be set and marked externally but delivered within classrooms under teacher supervision. There would be an “agreed national approach” to provide consistency across Wales.
The minister said: “The wellbeing of learners and ensuring fairness across the system is central in our decision making process. 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.
“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. Our intended approach does just that, as it is designed to maximise the time for teaching and learning.
“Cancelling exams provides time for teaching and learning to continue throughout the summer term, to build the knowledge, skills and confidence in our learners to progress in whatever they decide to do next.”
Williams said detailed advice published by Qualifications Wales as well as the interim findings of an independent review had been taken into account. She said she had also discussed options with a range of people including learners and their families, headteachers, college leaders, the Welsh children’s commissioner and universities across the UK.
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The first assessment activities will not begin until the latter half of the spring term. Courses have already been modified because of the learning time lost over the summer term.
Since schools returned full-time in September, many pupils have had to self-isolate because of possible contact with people who had Covid-19. Public Health Wales figures show 82% of secondary schools have registered at least one Covid case since September.
In Scotland, National 5 exams – the equivalent to GCSEs – have been replaced by coursework and teacher assessments but Highers will go ahead.
Exams are still scheduled in England and Northern Ireland but they will be held later in the summer.
In its advice to Williams, the regulator Qualifications Wales said there should be no GCSE exams next summer, with grades for both GCSE and AS-levels based on coursework and assessments set and marked by the exam board, WJEC.
For A-levels, it recommended one timetabled exam for each subject, with a second opportunity for pupils to sit if they were ill or self-isolating.
The National Education Union Cymru welcomed the news. David Evans, the Wales secretary of the union, said: “We must ensure young people have a consistent assessment process in place, which means their abilities are recognised for their next steps. But this must not mean extra work for everyone involved – both staff and students alike. The education system is already struggling.
“We only have a term and a half for young people before next summer’s grades are awarded. So we need as much flexibility in the system as possible now, as we know this is not a normal year, and young people will likely have times when they are at home learning.”
But Ruth Davies, the president of the schools leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said she was concerned that GCSEs, AS-levels and A-levels were being cancelled in Wales “in name only”.
She said: “We welcome the acknowledgement that things need to be different in 2021, but there is a real concern that we will end up with exams by stealth. There is an awful lot of detail still to be determined, and we await further clarification, but we are worried we will end up with exams in all but name.
“The same problems still exist that pupils may not be able to attend school that day, and that the exams will be testing areas that haven’t been able to be taught.”
The National Union of Students Wales president, Becky Ricketts, said the decision to scrap end-of-year school exams for 2021 gave certainty to students. She said: “This also reinforces that teachers in Wales are valued and are best-placed to inform students’ grades ahead of an algorithm.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Wales government says there will be no GCSEs or A-levels next summer | Wales