MPs: Exams should not split

The House of Commons Education Select Committee says Wales, England and Northern Ireland should not rush into separate exam systems. Education Secretary Michael Gove had urged 'the time is now right' to consider splitting off.

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MPs warn against separate exam systems

An overhaul of GCSEs in England is due to be unveiled later today. Credit: PA

MPs say rushing into separate exam systems in Wales, England and Northern Ireland would be "regrettable."

A new report from the House of Commons Education Select Committee urges all three nations to continue to run GCSEs and A-levels, and ministers should "do everything possible to bring this about."

Last month, the Education Secretary Michael Gove wrote to the Welsh and Northern Irish Education ministers saying that 'the time is right' for the exam systems in Wales, England and Northern Ireland to separate.

Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews has said there will continue to be GCSEs, A-levels and AS Levels in the exam system here.

Details of the most radical overhaul of GCSEs in England for a generation will be announced later today.


Education minister: three-country exam system is over

Education Minister Leighton Andrews says the Michael Gove letter means 'the days of three country regulation [of exams] are over.' He says the priority is now to ensure that a future Wales-only system has the confidence of students, schools, universities and employers.

Leighton Andrews also says that he's been in contact with his counterpart in Northern Ireland to look at the possibility of a joint regulatory system.

'Urgent steps' needed for exam confidence - Plaid

Plaid Cymru's Education spokesperson, Simon Thomas, says the Gove letter has highlighted the need for urgent action by the Welsh Government to ensure confidence in an increasingly distinct Welsh exam system.

I have tabled an emergency question in the Senedd to get a discussion on the next steps for Wales. The Welsh Government must take urgent steps to ensure confidence in the system. Plaid Cymru is calling for the creation of Examinations Wales as an independent regulator as soon as possible to ensure confidence in the system and ensure standards do not fall.

– Simon Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru Education spokesperson

Minister's twitter 'spat' was 'unbecoming' says Lib Dem leader

The Education Minister should 'stop having spats on Twitter' and concentrate on improving education standards, according to the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. But Kirsty Williams said she's 'relaxed' as a politician and as a mother, about the prospect of different exams in Wales and England.

Her comments follow a letter sent to Leighton Andrews by the Education Secretary Michael Gove suggesting that a separation of the exam system was now inevitable because of changes being looked at in the two countries. Kirsty Williams said it's 'perfectly possible' to have a credible Wales-only exam.

But she attacked as 'unbecoming of a government minister' the decision of Mr Andrews for taking to Twitter to respond to criticism from UK Government sources. She said 'sometimes it seems Leighton Andrews would rather spend his time having a row on twitter than concentrating on his job.'


Wales-only GCSEs could push standards up - Plaid

A senior Plaid Cymru politicians says different exam systems in Wales and England could lead to higher standards in Wales. Rhodri Glyn Thomas was responding to the news of Education Secretary Michael Gove's letter to his Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts suggesting a split is on the cards.

The Plaid AM said he 'would welcome the opportunity to separate the exam system in Wales' from that of England and he rejected claims that it could lead to reduced standards, saying

I don't think it necessarily would lead to a situation where standards drop. I would hope it would lead to a situation where standards would rise.

– Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM, Plaid Cymru

Education minister: 'Wales will continue to have GCSEs'

The Education Minister, Leighton Andrews AM, has taken to Twitter this morning over the future of exams in Wales.

Read more: Gove letter may herald exam split

  1. Adrian Masters

Welsh Education minister responds to Gove letter leak

Michael Gove's letter, which I understand the Welsh Government received this evening, marks acceptance by the UK Government of the of growing differences in the exam systems of the nations of the UK. Its tone is respectful and matches what sources described of the tone of last week's meeting.

But there's a more critical tone to remarks attributed to a 'Whitehall source' in the Guardian article who's quoted as saying:

The Welsh are determined to keep dumbing down their exams. Leighton Andrews interfered with exam boards last year. He opposes our attempts to toughen things up and made clear he will continue to interfere to make things easier. It's better that we all go our own way and defend our positions to our electorates.

Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews has taken to Twitter this evening to condemn those remarks.

So, @JohnODowdSF (Northern Ireland Education Minister) and I have a cordial meeting with Michael Gove in which he agrees to respect the different decisions in different countries

And a week later Whitehall sources, quoting directly from a comment in the meeting, start being offensive again.

So, for the record, I am happy to confirm that in that meeting Michael Gove apologised to me for his behaviour.

– Leighton Andrews AM, Education Minister (via Twitter)
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