A-levels: The system wasn't ready to cope with this, neither were the politicians

Protests took place at the Senedd over the grades

How on earth did it come to this? Did nobody see it happening? The answer seems to be, no.

Not in any of the UK's four governments and not in any political party.

Before the Scottish Government's well-publicised problems and even after its u-turn, there were few calls for change to the system here in Wales. 

In the Welsh Government and amongst education officials, there was a feeling that it had not only anticipated problems but had solved them in advance, putting in place an algorithm to ensure that any over-generous teacher predictions would be dealt with while ensuring fairness to pupils, relying on AS levels to provide a sound basis to the eventual results.

So when the concerns started being raised after Scotland's fiasco, confidence in the system chosen remained. 

That confidence is no longer there even though the Education Minister still speaks of "the strengths of the system in Wales."

A total of 42.2% of pupils are thought to have been downgraded during the process

The scale of downgrading produced by the algorithm and the perceived unfairness to individual students has left officials and ministers stunned. 

One rough and very unofficial estimate puts the possible number of appeals in the tens of thousands - a huge workload for an education system that's supposed to be focused on enabling students to return to school safely in pandemic conditions. 

Many are saying that the system used - a computer algorithm applied to teacher assessments to weed out any over-generous marking - may never have worked. But in previous years, students sat exams to provide evidence. This year because of the pandemic, they did not. 

Whether or not it was working before this, the system certainly wasn't ready to cope with the unprecedented situation of this year. 

Neither it seems were the politicians.

"We didn't have a Plan B" said one Labour backbencher. Those Labour backbenchers have made their feelings clear in private and in public, joining the chorus of calls from the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru for immediate action.

Hefin David said that "It is clear that an appeal process would be complex, time consuming and over subscribed. Students must not be faced with weeks of uncertainty. The Welsh Government must use Centre Assessed Grades. In the longer term we need to look at a standardised system of moderation across Wales and use that to trust schools locally to moderate grades." 

The Children's Commissioner for Wales led calls for the government to switch to teacher assessments, and a delay to the publication of GCSE results, which are due out this week.

Vikki Howells, who chairs the Labour group in the Senedd tweeted the same. She's arranged for a meeting of the group at 4pm to put those concerns to the First Minister.

In the end there wasn't much choice facing the Education Minister Kirsty Williams.

With the UK Government about to regrade A-Levels using teachers' assessments and do the same for GCSEs, she could no leave Welsh students disadvantaged. 

She will also have heard loud and clear the concerns about the huge pressure that a complicated appeals process is going to cause. If this had been an exam question, it would have been one that would make the difference between pass and fail.