Wales' education minister rejects idea of scrapping exams - but are they still needed?

  • Reporter Ian Lang meets GCSE pupils as they eagerly accept their results.

Since coronavirus hit, students across Wales have had to adapt to a new way of studying, and education bodies have had to change the way they mark students' work.

In March 2020, the majority of pupils were forced to stay at home study remotely.

For those of exam age, it meant they missed vital months of learning time.

Therefore, it was decided last year, that all GCSE and A-level students would not sit exams, and instead be graded by teachers on their classroom-based work.

And this year followed a similar format to that in 2020 where teachers would again assess and determine all GCSE and A-level results.

On Tuesday, thousands of 16 to 18-year-olds picked up their A-level results, which were more of a confirmation of what teachers had already predicted.

Nearly half of this year's A-level results in Wales were A or A* grades with the proportion of A-level entries awarded an A grade or higher in Wales having risen to 48.3%.

This is compared with 41.8% in 2020, and 27.0% in 2019.

Now on GCSE results day, grades broke an all-time high, after almost a third received A or A* grades.

The proportion of students awarded A* or A increased from 25.5% in 2020 to 28.7% this year.

That number has risen by more than 10% in two years, with 18.4% receiving top grades in 2019 - when exams were last sat.

Now, there is a discussion about whether exams should be scrapped for good.

Speaking to ITV Wales on GCSE results day, the Education Minister Jeremy Miles said there is a role for exams in the future but it is important to strike a balance.

After being asked if exams should be scrapped he said: "Well it's important to strike a balance isn't it, I absolutely think there is a role for exams in the future, but I think we've also learnt there's a role for assessments of different types.

"I want to make sure we are ambitious and creative in the way we look at that as we reform GCSEs in the future."

But what is the future of exams?

Grades from the past two years have been drastically higher than those prior to 2020, so there are concerns that making students do exams again could be seen as unfair.

Jeremy Miles said the Welsh Government is going to inject money into the education system to support those students who need additional support to help them adjust to exams next year.

Eirian Williams, Assistant Head Teacher of Ysgol Glan Clwyd said she believes finding a balance between exams and coursework-based assessments would be the ideal situation.

But what do students think?

Many have told ITV Wales the past 17 months have been extremely difficult but shut down any claims that they had it easier to previous students who have sat exams.

With bedroom learning, parent teaching and self-motivation to get them through the tough months of education, they say the hard work was worth it in the end.

16-year-old Elin Chan who received 12 A* in her GCSEs says "it's time to change" the way students are graded.

When asked if there is a place for traditional exams she said: "I don't know, I feel like they might change it, I think it's time to change, I think there's a better way of doing it."