Wales CANCELS all A-Level and GSCE exams in 2021 amid on-going coronavirus class disruption


A-Level and GCSE exams will be scrapped in Wales in 2021 to ensure ‘fairness’ in the system after the lockdown halted classes, the country’s education chief announced today.   

Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams said that next summer’s papers would be replaced by coursework and assessments amid ongoing disruption to schools caused by the coronavirus.

She said the ongoing pandemic made it ‘impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place’ and the decision ‘removes pressures from learners’.

Wales is latest UK country to halt its exams programme for next year, after the summer 2020 grading system in England and Scotland descended into farce over computer-calculated grades.

Scotland has said its National 5 exams – equivalent to GCSEs – will be replaced by assessments next year. 

But No10 this afternoon refused to follow Wales’s lead. So far exams in England have been delayed by three weeks to allow students to catch up. 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said today: ‘There is no change in our own position in relation to exams. I think we have set out that they will take place slightly later this year to give students more time to prepare.

‘We fully understand that they have experience considerable disruption and it is right that we give them and their teachers that extra time.’ 

Announcing the Welsh decision today Ms Williams said: ‘The well-being of learners and ensuring fairness across the system is central in our decision-making process.

Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams said that next summer’s papers would be replaced by coursework and assessments amid ongoing disruption to schools caused by the coronavirus.

Wales is the first UK country to halt its exams programme for next year, after the summer 2020 grading system in England and Scotland descended into farce over computer-calculated grades

Wales is the first UK country to halt its exams programme for next year, after the summer 2020 grading system in England and Scotland descended into farce over computer-calculated grades

‘In line with the recommendations of both Qualifications Wales and the Independent Review, there will be no exams for GCSE or AS level learners next year. A-level students will also not be required to sit exams.

‘We remain optimistic that the public heath situation will improve, but the primary reason for my decision is down to fairness; the time learners will spend in schools and colleges will vary hugely and, in this situation, it is impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place.’

Thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by an algorithm last summer, before England’s exams regulator Ofqual announced a U-turn allowing them to use teachers’ predictions. A similar situation also occurred in Scotland.  

The announcement came as Ofsted chief inspector of schools Amanda Spielman warned against cancelling exams, because of the impact on children and their families.

Appearing in front of MPs in Westminster today, she said: ‘It’s very important before making sudden drastic changes in how a system works, to think about how it will go down at the receiving end, with children and parents

‘One of the messages that came across really strongly from young people themselves last summer, in the face of the calculated grades model, was how much they resented not having the chance to show what they could do for themselves.

‘There were many many who believed that they could do better than their teachers had suggested they could. So taking away … young people’s own agency in demonstrating what they can do is something we should think very carefully before doing.’

Last month Gavin Williamson confirmed most A-level and GCSE exams in England will be delayed by three weeks in 2021 to allow pupils to catch up on time lost to pandemic closures.

The Education Secretary also outlined plans to streamline some subjects saying it would ‘support teachers and students by freeing up valuable teaching time’.

Most exams will take place between June 7 and July 2, but Mr Williamson also said that one maths and one English GCSE exam will take place before the May half-term, to allow pupils forced to self-isolate during the main exam period a chance to sit a paper in a core subject.

Mr Williamson confirmed that he had rejected calls for the exams next summer to be scrapped or postponed for longer, as had been called for by some teaching unions.   

The announcement came as Ofsted chief inspector of schools Amanda Spielman warned against cancelling exams, because of the impact on children and their families

The announcement came as Ofsted chief inspector of schools Amanda Spielman warned against cancelling exams, because of the impact on children and their families

Ms Williams said universities across the UK had been consulted and had confirmed ‘that they are used to accepting many different types of qualifications.’

‘They expect a transparent and robust approach which provides evidence of a learner’s knowledge and ability,’ she said.

‘Our intended approach does just that, as it is designed to maximise the time for teaching and learning.

‘Cancelling exams provides time for teaching and learning to continue throughout the summer term, to build the knowledge, skills and confidence in our learners to progress in whatever they decide to do next.’

Teacher-managed assessments will include assessments that are externally set and marked, but delivered within a classroom environment under teacher supervision.

Teachers will also have flexibility when it is best to undertake the assessments.

The National Education Union (NEU) Cymru welcomed the news that end-of-year exams would not take place in Wales in 2021.

David Evans, Wales secretary of the union, said: ‘We welcome that minister has made on an announcement on this – it is critical that we don’t have a repeat of what happened this summer, which was exceptionally difficult for those who should have been taking exams.

‘We must ensure that young people have a consistent assessment process in place which means their abilities are recognised for their next steps.

‘But this must not mean extra work for everyone involved – both staff and students alike. The education system is already struggling.

‘We only have a term and a half for young people before next summer’s grades are awarded. So, we need as much flexibility in the system as possible now, as we know this is not a normal year, and young people will likely have times when they are at home learning.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk