Emails released by Welsh Government show that the exam board warned that a regrade of GCSE English papers would affect integrity
Education Minister Leighton Andrews has told AMs he stands by his decision to order a regrade for this year's English Language GCSEs
Following the decision by Westminister to replace the GCSEs in England, the Welsh Government says it won't rush into a decision here.
The WJEC says the number of papers due to be re-marked amounts to less than 1% of the total number marked overall.
WJEC says 318 papers have been remarked due to one inconsistent examiner, which is less than 1% of total papers marked
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."
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.
– WJEC spokesperson
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.
The board said the review had found most examiners marked "correctly and accurately in line with the mark scheme" approved in November 2012.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Wales Education Minister' has pledged "I will ensure that there is no child in Wales who is disadvantaged through no fault of their own" on their GCSE English language results.
Interviewed for the first time since schools revealed thousands of pupils had received shock low grades in exams sat in January, Huw Lewis did not rule out ordering a regrade of the papers, or asking thousands of pupils to re-sit the exams this summer.
He told our reporter Tom Sheldrick "the first thing to get right is to make sure the teaching and learning is done properly", acknowledging "it seems as if there are issues in some schools" around how they understood changes to the WJEC exams to make them more rigorous, and how they prepared pupils.
He said an urgent review initiated by the Welsh Government will report back within a few weeks, "then we'll be able to act accordingly."
Education Minister Huw Lewis tells ITV News he will ensure "no child is disadvantaged" following the row over grading of the new GCSE English Language exam.
... I asked how, Huw Lewis said '1st thing to get right is teaching & learning in the classroom', also 'every1 needs to raise their game'...
... Huw Lewis stresses 'not just 1 chance to get unit scores', I asked if thousands would have to re-sit, he said 'let's see how it goes'...
...Education Minster Huw Lewis also told me it is 'premature' for him to consider ordering a regrade of GCSE English language papers...
Mr Lewis admitted "it seems as if there were issues in some schools" over not understanding the new specification for the exam.
Welsh exam board the WJEC has written an open letter to secondary schools here, over the shock low results many schools reported for pupils who sat GCSE English Language exams in January.
The letter says "in order to reassure centres, we have initiated an internal review of marking."
It outlines a range of extra support it is offering schools preparing schools for the next set of GCSE English language exams at the start of June.
They include a series of debrief meetings, with every school's Head of English invited.
Mark schemes, assessment material, and feedback on the January exams will be distributed.
The WJEC acknowledges how many schools have questioned the availability of information from the exam board, and says "we shall take steps to review our communications policy to ensure that our information and resources are more easily available to teachers and pupils."
The Welsh Government has also launched an 'urgent' investigation into the shock low grades, but says only around a third of schools saw a serious drop in performance.
Education Minister Huw Lewis has defended his "rapid review" of the GCSE English results in January, when some schools' pupils perform significantly worse than expected. He said it will focus specifically on learners and will be based on evidence not reckless speculation. The review will focus on:
- The teaching of the revised specification for GCSE English Language - the performance of the pupils and how well prepared they were.
- The support and guidance given to teachers and schools about the changes to the specification.
- The WJEC’s role in setting the exam, marking it and awarding it.
There is no denying that there are issues which need to be addressed, but the impact is not severe across all schools. It certainly would be premature and reckless to suggest that this is an all Wales problem. The WJEC have compared data from 102 schools that had 20 or more entries for equivalent units in both January 2013 and 2014. There is of course more data to be analysed. However, based on that data we know there is an identifiable issue on some of the units entered by students in 36 of those schools.
16.4% of entries for units at these centres saw an average drop in outcomes of at least one grade. Set against this we have identified 29 schools where on some of the units entered by students there has been an increase of at least half a grade in unit outcomes. 12% of entries for units at these centres saw an average increase in outcomes of at least half a grade. It is important to remember that almost half (48%) of all centre entries were within what would be regarded as the normal variation – on average up or down half a grade.
– Education Minister Huw Lewis AM
It is also important to note that these are unit level results not final qualification results – we’ll know those in the summer. I won’t jump to any conclusions. The rapid fact-finding exercise I have ordered will get to the bottom of just how this has happened and what we and the WJEC can do to support learners and centres both for this summer and beyond. What must not happen is reckless speculation and point scoring when the future of young people is at stake.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats say the Welsh Government must provide more information about why some schools had unexpectedly poor results in the new GCSE exam. They say more should have been done to prepare schools for a greater emphasis on basic English skills when the exam was marked.
– Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM
The WJEC have said some schools might have struggled to cope with the changes to the exam and have not prepared well enough. Yet the First Minister seemed unwilling to accept this to be the case. Whilst poor GCSE results might only be a political hiccup and yet another bad headline for the Welsh Labour government, for the pupils these are results that will stay with them for life.