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  1. ITV Report

Education Secretary announces changes to 'unsustainable' early GCSE entries in Wales

The Education Secretary has announced changes to reduce the number of pupils in Wales taking their GCSE exams early.

It comes after concerns were raised in the summer when Kirsty Williams said the current system is 'unsustainable' and was putting 'unnecessary pressure' on pupils, teachers and school budgets.

Credit: PA Images

An independent review by Qualifications Wales found concerns about the growing use of early and multiple entry which posed 'risks to students' which are 'not easily justified'.

In response, the Education Secretary said from summer 2019, only a pupil's first entry to a GCSE examination will count in their school's performance measures.

The current policy allows schools to count the best grade from multiple sittings.

The Education Secretary said the number of pupils being entered early for GCSE exams is 'unsustainable' Credit: PA Images

The changes...will ensure that the interests of pupils are always put first.

I am concerned that pupils who had the potential to get an A*, A or a B at the end of a two year course end up having to settle for a C. Too often this is because they take their exam early and are not re-entered again. I want every child to reach their full potential in school. Early entry must only be for the minority of pupils who will benefit.

GCSEs are designed to be sat after two years of teaching, not one.

These changes will ensure our young people access a broad and balanced curriculum, and focus in on what's best for our children and young people.

– Kirsty Williams, Education Secretary

Almost a fifth of entries for GCSE English Language, Welsh Language and Maths taking in the summer were from pupils in Year 10.

It is estimated more than £3.3million is spent on early entry.

Qualifications Wales said it is a matter which 'divides opinion'.

We are not advocating a total ban on early entry because for some students it can sometimes be the right decision.

For example, where an individual student has mastered their course and is ready to move on to a more challenging qualification.

This is a complex matter and is one which divides opinions. Some schools will welcome our view, while others will strongly oppose it.

We believe that widespread use of early entry poses a significant risk to learners and to the wider qualifications system that are not readily justified by the benefits claimed for it.

We therefore believe action is needed to lift some of the pressures on schools to enter large numbers of students early, and to free them up to make decisions that are squarely in the interests of their students.

– Philip Blaker, Chief Executive, Qualifications Wales