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'No one single aspect' contributed to 'low' GCSE grades

An urgent review into claims thousands of GCSE pupils in Wales received unexpectedly low grades in their January English Language papers has concluded 'no one single aspect' contributed.

It appears that our sample schools were generally prepared for the new specification and the revised weighting for SSPS [sentence structure, punctuation and spelling]. Indications are that schemes of work were amended and predicted grades were modelled on the new specification. Generally the examination papers matched teachers’ expectations of the new specification and there were few surprises for teachers or pupils. There is no evidence to suggest that WJEC did not follow the correct procedures at all times.

– Welsh Government: January 2014 GCSE English Language unit results fact-finding exercise

The review did, however, identify a number of themes - including changes in entry patterns; late change to specification; increased weighting on accuracy, sentence structure, punctuation and spelling; insufficient quality and quantity of support materials; and a 'difficult to navigate' WJEC website.

It added: "The drop from 23.6% C grades for Unit 1 Foundation Tier in January 2013 to 4.6% in January 2014 should certainly have focused attention. The fact that lower outcomes were communicated to Welsh Government on the date of publication is a concern."

Welsh Govt review into shock low GCSE grades due

The Welsh Government is today due to publish the findings of its urgent inquiry into claims thousands of GCSE pupils in Wales got unexpectedly low grades in new English language papers they sat in January.

After dozens of headteachers complained of shock low results at the beginning of the month, Education Minister Huw Lewis launched a "rapid fact-finding exercise... to understand what are the key issues underlying the results."

The January papers were part of a new English language GCSE for Wales

22,516 pupils sat at least one unit of their English language GCSE in January.

The exams were the first to be sat under a new, more rigorous, English language qualification for Wales only, after a row over the regrade of papers in 2012.

Figures from exam board WJEC show 48 out of 292 centres (16.4 per cent) entering pupils in January saw an average fall of more than one grade compared to last year.

For Unit 1, at Foundation Tier, the proportion of pupils awarded a C grade fell from 23 per cent to 5 per cent.

WJEC held its own review of marking, but said that - aside from one inconsistent examiner - the vast majority of papers were marked "correctly and accurately in line with the mark scheme".

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WJEC offers to show schools 10% of marked GCSE English Language papers free of charge

WJEC has sent a letter to schools offering to show them papers from January's GCSE English Language exam for 10% of pupils free of charge.

A small number of papers are being re-marked, because of inconsistency by one examiner - but WJEC said the vast majority were marked correctly.

Thousands of pupils got lower grades than they had expected

The board said the move would be an opportunity to "illustrate" marks and grades awarded.

  1. Tom Sheldrick

WJEC defends marking of GCSE English exams

Welsh exam board the WJEC has defended its marking of January's new GCSE English language exams - after thousands of pupils got lower grades than they'd expected.

A small number of papers are being remarked, because of inconsistency by one examiner - but the WJEC said the vast majority were marked correctly.

Opposition parties in the Senedd have this afternoon argued that there are still no anwers for pupils, parents or teachers over what's behind the shock low grades.

We have been taking a closer look at January's exam papers, to try to find out.

Welsh Govt: WJEC findings 'just one part of the picture'

The Welsh Government says it will "consider" the findings of the WJEC internal report.

In broad terms WJEC consider that their examiners marked question papers correctly and accurately, however this is just one part of the picture and there are other, wider issues that we still need to investigate.

We are doing this through the Rapid Fact Finding Exercise that we are conducting. The review is now well underway and will be rigorous in its approach.

It will identify factors underlying the results and put in place appropriate actions to support schools as they prepare learners for the June assessments.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

318 English Language GCSE papers to be re-marked

The WJEC says the number of papers due to be re-marked amounts to less than 1% of the total number marked overall.

The Welsh Conservatives have hit out at the findings, saying they "fail to explain" low results received by pupils.

“Students, teachers and parents remain in the dark about how many exam papers will be remarked and how their overall grades will be affected" said Shadow Minister for Education Angela Burns AM.

“It remains extraordinary that so many pupils have ended up with results several grades below what they had been predicted and that WJEC and Welsh Government modelling didn’t foresee this fiasco and issue warnings accordingly."

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WJEC will re-mark some GCSE English Language papers

The WJEC exam board has confirmed it will re-mark some of the new GCSE English Language exam papers after carrying out a review.

It said a single examiner was responsible for marking the papers in question.

In that one case, there are indications that the examiner's marking was slightly inconsistent, and although there are no sizeable disparities identified WJEC is undertaking a full re-mark of this examiner's work. The centres whose candidates' work was marked by this examiner have already been informed.

The internal review also identified an error in adding up the total marks on two candidate’s papers, which WJEC has since corrected and communicated to the relevant centres.

– WJEC spokesperson

The board said the review had found most examiners marked "correctly and accurately in line with the mark scheme" approved in November 2012.

Review into GCSE grades to be released

Schools have said pupils received much lower grades than expected. Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

The WJEC internal review into GCSE English Language grades are to be released later today.

The review followed a big fall in grades at certain schools following a pioneering English Language GSCE. Thirty seven thousand pupils sat the exam in January.

Later this afternoon the Welsh Conservatives will hold a debate at the Senedd regarding the results.

Union presents GCSE grades evidence from 100 schools

Headteachers' union ASCL is today presenting evidence from 100 Welsh secondary schools into shock low GCSE English language grades to the Education Minister Huw Lewis.

Investigations are being held into what happened in the first exams sat as part of a new GCSE for Wales. Credit: PA

The Welsh Government and the exam board WJEC are both holding urgent investigations into what happened in the first exams sat as part of a new GCSE for Wales alone.

The Education Minister has accused headteachers in Rhondda Cynon Taf of 'reckless scaremongering', after they sent him a letter describing a loss of faith in the exam system and arguing pupils should be allowed to re-sit the January exams in the summer, free of charge.

Education Minister in row with RCT headteachers

Wales' Education Minister has responded to a letter from secondary school headteachers in Rhondda Cynon Taf over shock low GCSE exam grades, accusing them of "reckless scaremonging" and pointing the finger at them over the grades.

Huw Lewis has said teachers should ask themselves what they could do. Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

The letter, from all 19 secondary heads in Rhondda Cynon Taf, says parents and pupils are "gradually losing faith in a once-reliable examination system”, and argues pupils should be allowed to re-sit the exams they took in January free of charge.

In response, Huw Lewis said: "Rather than finger pointing they should be helping us get to the bottom of this or perhaps considering what they could have done better to raise the grades of their students."

"There is no denying that there have been some important issues across Wales which need to be addressed, but the impact is not severe across all schools. I have ordered a rapid review of GCSE English Language unit results.

The review will be swift and thorough. It will identify factors underlying the results and put in place appropriate actions to support schools as they prepare learners for the June assessments.

I refuse to jump to conclusions. What I am focussing on is hard evidence, not hearsay and rumour. The learner is our primary concern and that should be the concern of schools and local authorities." - HUW LEWIS AM, Education Minister

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