GCSE regrade row

The Welsh Government was warned that regrading GCSE exams in English would 'seriously damage' the integrity of the qualification. The comments were made by the WJEC exam board in emails released by the Welsh Government.

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No Welsh GCSE replacement decision until December at earliest

Now that the UK Government has unveiled its plans for a new qualification to replace GCSEs, the Welsh Government has released an updated statement. A spokesman said:

As always, our priority will be to ensure that the best interests of our learners are the focus of any decisions that we take. In Wales we are taking an evidence based approach through our Review of 14-19 Qualifications. This is a decision that cannot be rushed and Welsh Ministers are committed to avoiding significant changes to GCSEs until after the outcomes of the Review are known at the end of November.

MP urges Welsh Government to reconsider their stance on GCSEs

The GCSE exam for 16 year old children in England is to be replaced by an English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBacc), with the first courses to begin in September 2015, it was announced today.

The Welsh Government says it won't be rushed into changing the system here.

Alun Cairns, MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, is concerned that if the Welsh Government don't change their stance on GCSEs in Wales, Welsh students could be left behind.

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Watchdog says GCSE regrade is a 'unilateral change' that could harm Welsh students

While the focus is on today's announcement on the future of GCSEs in England it's important to remember that an earlier difference between UK and Welsh Governments remains unresolved. This is the row over a regrade of English Language GCSEs ordered by the Welsh Education Minister.

Last week the Welsh Government's top education official Chris Tweedale wrote to the exams regulator for England, Ofqual, demanding its chair withdraw comments made at a meeting of MPs. Details of that letter are here. Now Ofqual's Chief Executive Glenys Stacey has replied, criticising the regrade as

a unilateral change to the standard of a key qualification, which represents an unprecedented challenge to joint regulatory working.

And she adds that,

The Welsh Government decision to change the standard of GCSE English

language qualifications in Wales will lead to confusion amongst employers

and universities about the meaning of the GCSE title and the value they can

place on it. It risks, in particular, candidates from Wales having certificates

which are seen to be of less value than those from elsewhere, even though

they will have worked hard for them, and we regret to see that.

Welsh Government won't be rushed into GCSE changes

The Welsh Government says any decision on the future of GCSEs here in Wales 'cannot be rushed' and must be based on the findings of a review into the exam system. An announcement is due later on UK Government plans to replace GCSEs in England with an O-level style exam.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said:

As always, our priority will be to ensure that the best interests of our learners are the focus of any decisions that we take.

In Wales we will be taking an evidence based approach through our Review of 14-19 Qualifications. This is a decision that cannot be rushed and Welsh Ministers are committed to not making significant changes to GCSEs until after the outcomes of the Review are known.

The Review Board are due to publish their findings at the end of November.

We await a formal announcement from the UK Government and will respond in due course.

The two governments are already at odds over the exam system after the Welsh Government ordered this year's English Language to be regraded, a move described by the UK Education Secretary Michael Gove as 'irresponsible.'

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Top Welsh education official calls for watchdog to withdraw remarks

The Welsh Government's leading education official has written to the exam watchdog in England to call for controversial criticism of the GCSE re-grade to be withdrawn. Ofqual's chair Amanda Spielman told MPs that she believed the regrade was 'politically motivated.' You can see her remarks here.

In an unusual move, a letter has been published which was sent from the Welsh Government's Director of Schools and Young People, Chris Tweedale to Ofqual's Chief Executive. He defends the regrade and expresses surprise that no similar action is being taken in England before adding this:

I wish to take this opportunity to formally raise our concerns about the comments made by your Chair, which were widely reported, in which she implied that the decision taken in Wales was politically motivated. We believe these comments to be inappropriate, ill-judged and prejudicial, and we would ask that they be withdrawn.

– Chris Tweedale, Director of Schools and Young People group, Welsh Government

You can read the full letter on the Welsh Government website here.

Welsh Education Minister hits back at Gove criticism

Michael Gove’s continued unilateral statements over recent months have, potentially irrevocably, damaged the three-country consensus on GCSEs and A levels that had existed for decades. His outbursts devaluing these qualifications have already led the Northern Ireland Examinations body to decide it would no longer offer its qualifications in England. Michael Gove is the person undermining parental confidence in GCSEs.

– Leighton Andrews AM, Welsh Education Minister
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