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Third of students 'seriously consider' leaving course

NUS Wales's 'Pound in Your Pocket' report found:

  • one third of all students have seriously considered leaving their course due to financial difficulties
  • over half of student regularly worry about meeting basic living expenses
  • 70 per cent of further education students are worried about future debt levels
  • students from low participation neighbourhoods are more likely to be carrying debt of more than £5,000.

The Welsh Government says that the 'continuing squeeze' on budgets by the UK government has meant ministers have had to take 'difficult decisions' on the budgets for higher education and further education budgets for the 2014/15 academic year.

We fully recognise that the delayed announcement of the cuts to the Financial Contingency Fund (FCF) may cause difficulties for the higher education sector but we're pleased to be able to continue to support further education sector.

Higher education institutions' income has increased substantially through the increased fees charged to home students and recruitment of more international students.

– Welsh Government spokesperson
Many students have considered leaving their course due to financial pressures. Credit: PA

Students struggling to balance cost of living and studies

Credit: Jan Woitas/DPA/Press Association

The cost of living is a 'major barrier' to students' ability to stay in education and concentrate on their studies, according to the National Union of Students Wales.

It says that living costs - not only tuition fees - are a barrier to education.

The 'Pound in your Pocket Wales' report, found that:

When we talk about the cost of education, we talk about tuition fees. But being a student is more than sitting in a classroom. No longer can Wales afford to ignore the impact that the cost of living has on students' ability to complete their studies. Our research shows this.

Student poverty is having huge effects on our nation. No student should have to choose between heating or eating.

– Beth Button, NUS Wales president


Pupils celebrate rise in A* to C grades at GCSE

Thousands of students across Wales got their GCSE results today, with some interesting results.

The number of pupils achieving the top grades of A*-C has risen by nearly one per cent from last year. The overall pass rate of A*-E fell in the same period.

One of the results being scrutinised was the new English Language qualification, which caused much controversy when the January exam gave unexpectedly low results.

Nicola Hendy reports.

Union praises pupils and teachers after difficult year

The National Union of Teachers has praised teachers for 'ensuring such high standards' despite changes to GCSEs this year.

NUT Wales policy officer Owen Hathway said the past year has not been 'the easiest' for teachers or pupils but they have still delivered the highest A*-C pass rate ever achieved in Wales.

Students, teachers and parents should all be rightly commended for these impressive results.

That the percentage of A*-A and A*-C grades have both gone up this year in comparison to 2013's results is fantastic news and is a testament to the hard work, often well above and beyond the remits of a teacher, that goes on in schools right across Wales.

– Owen Hathway, NUT Wales policy officer

Welsh Baccalaureate pass rates reach record high

Record numbers of pupils have received the intermediate diploma in the Welsh Baccalaureate.

11,784 pupils passed, more than 1,000 more than last year, as the pass rate also increased from 79 per cent to 85.7 per cent.

At foundation level, 1,757 pupils passed, a fall from last year, but the pass rate rose to 83.3 per cent.

The Welsh Baccalaureate has been rolled out across Wales in recent years. Credit: PA

The Welsh Bac. will play an increasing important role from September 2015, becoming the overarching framework for 14 to 19-year-olds' qualifications in Wales, under Welsh Government changes.

Education Minister: English results 'comparable' to 2013

The Welsh Government says today's GCSE English language results show pupils have "achieved comparable outcomes to those in summer 2013", which is "especially pleasing" following unexpectedly low marks in January units.

Education Minister Huw Lewis also said overall results "signal a historic high point", with 66.6 per cent of pupils receiving A* - C grades the highest proportion ever in Wales.

He said the Welsh Government would be looking careful at maths results, after a fall in the proportion of pupils getting A* or A grades from 12 per cent to 10.3 per cent - and a fall in the proportion getting A* - C grades from 52.8 per cent to 50.6 per cent.

I’d like to offer my congratulations to all students in Wales who are collecting their GCSE results today.

English Language outcomes are especially pleasing following the January unit outcomes. I said in March, when those outcomes were published, that it was important to see what the full qualification outcomes would bring.

Today’s qualification results show that, for GCSE English Language, learners in Wales, with the support of their teachers, have achieved comparable outcomes to those in summer 2013. Indeed for the stable cohort of learners – that is candidates aged 16, A*-C outcomes at 62.6% are higher, by 0.6 percentage points than they were in summer 2013.

We are looking carefully at the headline outcomes for Mathematics as changes in entry patterns have had a negative impact on summer outcomes. If we compare outcomes for 16 year-old candidates this summer with those from last summer it reveals that the results A*-C were only down by 0.2 percentage points for this group, which is the stable group for whom comparisons are realistic. We will have a better picture of overall performance when the full set of performance data is available in the autumn.

We are striving to improve and already have measures in place to raise our game in Mathematics, such as the Literacy and Numeracy Framework which will improve performance in years to come. We are also introducing new Maths GCSEs from September 2015 and their implementation will be supported by regional consortia, funded by Welsh Government, as well as by WJEC.

The highest standards of literacy and numeracy are essential for ensuring progress and achievement in education; for the economic health of the nation; and for supporting the general well-being of the population as a whole as well as individuals.

– Huw Lewis, Education Minister


Overall GCSE results - Wales continues to close gap

Wales has continued to close the gap on the rest of the UK in overall GCSE results, with a higher proportion of pupils here achieving A* - C grades, and top grades.

The overall pass rate has fallen in Wales, but also across the UK, to reach the same level at 98.5 per cent.

Wales is closer - but still behind - the rest of the UK - on top GCSE grades. Credit: PA

Ofqual, the exam regulator in England, has warned that English pupils should expect 'variability' in results, due to changes to changes to the exam system - with a shift to final exams rather than modular units.

Those changes have not happened in Wales.

Overall GCSE results 2014:

  • In Wales, 19.4% received A* or A - up from 19.2% last year
  • Across UK, 21.3% received A* or A - the same as last year
  • In Wales, 66.6% received A* - C - up from 65.7% last year
  • Across UK, 68.8% received A* - C - up from 68.1% last year
  • In Wales, 98.5% received A* - E - down from 98.7% last year
  • Across UK, 98.5% received A* - E - down from 98.8% last year

GCSE English language results 'stable' with last year

Results in a new GCSE English language qualification for Welsh pupils are slightly down on grades from last year, after controversy surrounding shock low marks in January exams.

The exam board WJEC says English language results have "remained stable" between 2013 and 2014 for 16-year-olds, and attributed drops overall to lower results for pupils aged 15 and 17.

WJEC does acknowledge "some centres have experienced variability in their results" - with a number of schools seeing either significant rises - or falls - in the proportion of pupils achieving A*-C grades compared to last year.

GCSE English language results 2014:

  • A* - A: 11.6% (down from 11.9% last year)
  • A* - C: 58% (down from 59.6% last year)
  • A* - G: 98.9% (down from 99% last year)
  • 13.7% of centres saw decrease of over 10 percentage points in proportion of pupils aged 16 achieving A* - C, compared to 2013
  • 15.1% of centres saw increase of over 10 percentage points in proportion of pupils aged 16 achieving A* - C, compared to 2013

Pupils receiving their results today are the first to complete a new Wales-only GCSE in English language, introduced after a row between Welsh and UK governments over the regrading of exams in 2012 where pupils were claimed to have been unfairly disadvantaged.

More than 20,000 Welsh pupils took at least one unit of the new GCSE in January, with added emphasis on spelling, grammar and punctuation - but over 100 schools reported unexpectedly low grades.

The Welsh Government and WJEC initiated reviews which found no single factor caused the grades, and ITV News revealed 90% of pupils who sat exams in January were entered to re-sit in the summer.

The Welsh Government has continued to insist this year's pupils will not be disadvantaged compared to previous years when receiving final results.

Welsh Govt 'expects English results similar to last year'

The Welsh Government has again stated that it expects GCSE English language results released later to be comparable with last year's results, "unless there were compelling reasons for a different outcome."

Exam board WJEC has also confirmed that a statistical approach known as 'comparable outcomes' has been used, aiming to make sure pupils are given equivalent grades from one year to the next.

We have been clear all along that, whilst there were concerns about the January unit outcomes for GCSE English Language, we would continue to apply a comparable outcomes approach and would expect the full qualification outcomes in summer 2014 to be comparable to those in 2013, unless there were compelling reasons for a different outcome.

The Minister was clear when the January unit outcomes were announced in March that it would be important to see what the full qualification outcomes brought in August. All involved in the qualifications process have acted on the recommendations of the Rapid Review of the January outcomes that the Minister ordered in March. The outcomes of those endeavours and the preceding years of work by teachers and learners will be announced on Thursday.

It is a pity that ASCL’s spokesperson is seeking to increase tensions ahead of those results and at what is already a stressful time for learners.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

We can confirm that the comparable outcomes approach has been applied and that we are confident that our marking and awarding has been in line with regulatory requirements.

– WJEC spokesperson

ASCL 'looking very closely' at today's GCSE results

Thousands of students will pick up their GCSE results later this morning, with many paying close attention to their English Language marks. It comes after 90% of students had to re-sit units from their January exams.

There are warnings that some pupils will suffer, but both the Welsh Government and exam board WJEC have pledged this year's pupils will not be disadvantaged.

Our made-in-Wales and regulated-in-Wales GCSE English Language caused over a hundred schools to complain when the first results were issued earlier this year.

We have all been promised that the problems will be sorted for the final results this summer. For the sake of our young people, we hope so. But more than just hoping for it, we'll be looking very closely at the results that are delivered.

– Robin Hughes, Association of School and College Leaders
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