Plaid Cymru says it would get rid of GCSE exams if it wins power in the Senedd next May and in future rely more on teachers to assess the work pupils do.
Plaid’s education spokesperson, Siân Gwenllian, is expected to tell the party’s virtual conference that Welsh Government moves to introduce a new curriculum and changes forced by the coronavirus pandemic make this the right time to consider a radical shake up.
But the Education Minister has said “it’s in the best interests of all learners to sit exams” although she left open the possibility of “contingency arrangements” for next summer’s exams if the virus continues to disrupt education.
Siân Gwenllian will tell her party’s conference that teachers “welcome the freedom” the new curriculum is expected to offer but that it should be “matched with a revolution in the qualification system.”
“When our teaching is based on the 'gradual development of every learner' but we grade using a 'one-sized fits all' exam at the end of five years; When we teach them the skills that will be most valued by employers, yet assess them against inflexible GCSE subjects and examinations – this creates a grossly mismatched learning experience.
"If properly grounded, the new curriculum has huge potential, but must be aligned with a fit-for-purpose qualification system. The pandemic has shown us that a grading system based on teacher assessments is possible.
The pandemic has shown us that a grading system based on teacher assessments is possible.
"With the exam fiasco of the summer still ringing in our ears, now is the time to review the work currently being undertaken by Qualifications Wales and be braver with where this takes us – even if this means scrapping the inflexible GCSE system.”
The Welsh Government dismissed the call to scrap GCSEs but said qualifications in Wales are being looked at to see if they should change.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “With regard to next summer, the Minister has been clear she believes it is in the best interests of all learners to sit exams.
"However given the current public health situation, we have to act responsibly and consider contingency arrangements. Qualifications Wales and WJEC are working through these matters, and the independent review into exam arrangements continues ahead of interim findings being presented next month.
“In 2019 Qualified for the Future was launched to consider future qualifications to support the new curriculum and ensure these qualifications are what learners, colleges and employers want. Qualifications Wales are intending to publish the next phase of the consultation in early 2021, to enable them to deliver this new approach in alignment with the new curriculum.”