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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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Huw Lewis: 'No pupil will be let down' over GCSE grades

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."

Minister: 'Issues in some schools' over new GCSE English Language exam

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.

Mr Lewis admitted "it seems as if there were issues in some schools" over not understanding the new specification for the exam.

WJEC reviews marking and offers more school support

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 says it "understands the frustration and disappointment for many pupils." Credit: WJEC

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.

I'll look at evidence, not speculation says minister

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.

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.

– Education Minister Huw Lewis AM
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