Teacher grades to replace GCSEs and A level exams in Wales, Education Minister announces

  • ITV Wales reporter Ellie Pitt explains what the new system means for students

Students sitting their GCSEs, AS levels or A levels will now have grades awarded to them by their teachers.

The "Centre Determined Grades" will be based on a range of work including mock exams.

Students had previously been told they would sit a series of internally and externally set assessments this year instead of summer exams because of disruption from the pandemic.

However the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, said Welsh Government had now "revisited" that approach because of the "worsening situation" with Covid-19.

Ms Williams said the new arrangements "put trust in teachers’ and lecturers’ knowledge" of their pupils' work.

In November, Welsh Government announced that summer 2021 exams would be cancelled for all learners sitting their GCSEs, AS levels or A levels. These were set to be replaced with non-examination assessments, internal assessments and assessments that are externally set and marked.

The Education Minister has announced a further change to the system as teachers will now determine the grades awarded to their pupils.

These grades will be based on "evidence of learning" from work completed over the course, including things like mock exams.

While not mandatory, schools and colleges are still being encouraged to use non-exam assessments as part of their evidence but there will be no deadlines for these and they will not be moderated by WJEC - Wales' largest qualifications awarding body.

Grades given to AS level students can be used for UCAS applications but will not contribute to the final A level award in 2022.

This new system will allow pupils to be "assessed on the content covered by [their] school or college".

Most students in Wales are currently remote learning and this looks set to continue until at least the February half term unless coronavirus transmission rates drop significantly by the end of January.

Credit: ITV

Qualifications Wales and WJEC will provide an "assessment framework" to schools and colleges, which they should use to develop their own assessment plan. These plans will be "quality assured" by WJEC.

WJEC will also publish guidance to help schools and colleges to develop internal quality assurance processes.

The Education Minister explained: "Once quality assurance has been completed at the centre, the grade will be submitted to WJEC. There will be no intervening action on the grades.

"Learners will appeal to their school or college if they are unhappy with their grade, and to WJEC if they are unhappy with the process."  

While schools are still open to some children, most are learning remotely from home.

Kirsty Williams said that the "worsening situation with the pandemic" meant continued disruption to learning.

"We have no choice but to revisit our approach to ensure learner wellbeing, progression and public confidence in our qualifications system, " she said.

"Receiving a Centre Determined Grade will be simple and clear for each student.

"These arrangements put trust in teachers’ and lecturers’ knowledge of your work, as well as their commitment to prioritise teaching and learning which supports student progression.

"Diolch yn fawr to each and every learner, and to each and every education professional, for your adaptability and commitment to each other and to learning in this incredibly difficult situation."

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) welcomed the announcement and said it "shows faith in teachers in Wales".

Eithne Hughes, Director of ASCL Cymru, said: "In particular the decision to remove any element of compulsory external testing and to instead offer it as an optional resource is a pragmatic solution and offers schools the opportunity to further evidence the progress their students have made.

"There are still elements to be fleshed out in terms of quality control and assurance but these proposals give a framework that both students and school leaders can work within and put their trust in.” 

NASUWT agreed that "the devil will be in the detail".

Neil Butler from NASUWT National Official Wales, said: "Learners expect and deserve a system that will provide fair and accurate assessments of their abilities in awarding them qualifications.

“How is this going to be achieved and what are the workload implications going to be on already hard pressed teachers?

“The Welsh Government will not be able to resolve these issues without consulting fully with the profession. Teachers need to be a part of the professional dialogue going forward that will decide how this is going to work.”