Covid: Exams will go ahead in schools in Wales this year, Education Minister confirms

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Exams will go ahead in schools in Wales this year, the Education Minister has confirmed.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Jeremy Miles gave the message to learners, schools and colleges that "exams and assessments will go ahead, unless the public health situation makes it impossible to physically run, which we do not envisage."

The Welsh Government will hold its next three-week review on February 10 - a week before schools' half term.

Mr Miles said: "On the 10th, if the evidence supports it, we will be able to confirm to schools that they should return to making local decisions in line with the Covid framework, so that all schools have completed the process by the beginning of the new half term.

"In the meantime, I am asking that schools work with their local authorities and public health advisors to determine the measures they may need to take, based on their local circumstances."

Credit: Public Health Wales

Latest Covid data, released by Public Health Wales, shows a sharp drop in cases in schools after the peak of the Omicron wave.

The Welsh Government has provided CO2 monitors to manage and improve ventilation in every classroom in Wales.

£95m has also been provided to support maintenance work such as such as repairing windows or replacing air filters in air handling units where schools face challenges.

Mr Miles added: "Our focus remains to maximise learning and minimise disruption.

"I wish to reiterate to learners, schools and colleges that exams and assessments this year will go ahead, unless the public health situation makes it impossible for them to physically run – which we do not envisage.

"The intention to adjust grade boundaries to reflect disruption has already been set out.

"Adaptations to exam content have been put in place as well as prior notification of areas of examination, so that assessments are as fair as possible, and which will enable teachers to focus their time on the key areas for learning.

"Working collaboratively with Qualifications Wales, we are working with colleges to ensure learners undertaking vocational qualifications are also able to access appropriate adaptations this year. I encourage all learners in exam years to talk to their schools and colleges about what additional support and flexibility might be available this year, to help them progress with confidence."

Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, welcomed the gradual reduction in Covid measures.

She said: "We welcome the endorsement of the slow but steady approach we have been advocating, allowing schools to work towards bringing measures into line with the Welsh government’s operational framework after the February half-term break.

"We still have reservations about the effectiveness of the woolly measures in the framework itself, but schools are at least familiar with them and have great experience to fall back on in dealing with high levels of absence among both learners and staff.

"The Education Minister’s financial support for our exam-age learners is particularly welcome but there also needs to be a recognition that money alone cannot teach young people.

"They need the specialist knowledge and understanding that comes from being taught by their own teachers at this crucial time in their education and cannot get that if those teachers are absent from school and have to be replaced by supply teachers who do not have the relevant subject specialism. This was a significant problem during the course of last term.

"Schools need to be reassured that Qualifications Wales have made all possible adjustments and adaptations necessary to ensure that the summer exams reflect the efforts and ability of learners rather than the effects of the pandemic."