It Is Vital That We Correct GCSE Injustice and Ensure Fairness for Our Students; Education Minister Leighton Andrews Last Night Took the Radical Step of Asking the WJEC to Regrade English Language GCSE Papers over Fears of an 'Injustice' in How They Were Marked. in His Own Words, Mr Andrews Describes Why He Took the Dramatic Decision

Article excerpt

I HAVE asked the Welsh-based examining board, the WJEC, to regrade this year's English language GCSE results after a report by my regulatory officials found that a serious distortion to the outcomes of candidates in Wales had taken place.

The report by my officials states that this year's outcome "is unjustifiable and almost certainly unfair to candidates". When faced with an injustice, it is necessary to take decisive action and to do so swiftly.

On the day the GCSE results became public, I announced a review of why grades were so significantly down in English language in Wales.

1

My responsibility is to ensure fairness to GCSE candidates in Wales.

Regulatory officials have identified the problems, and recommended actions, and I am implementing their recommendations.

Ofqual's report into the situation in England was published on August 31.

It found that there were changes in grade boundaries between January and June.

We agree with that finding, but additionally there are more significant issues in Wales.

My officials have concluded that candidates for Wales, as a cohort, were awarded lower grades than would have been expected under agreed regulatory principles of working to maintain comparable outcomes when new specifications are introduced.

When new qualifications are introduced, regulators and exam boards work on establishing a methodology for ensuring that comparable outcomes are obtained.

In the case of A-levels, GCSE outcomes are used as the benchmark for assessing likely attainment.

These are common across Wales, England and Northern Ireland, and this methodology is broadly acceptable.

In the case of new GCSEs, there are clear differences between Wales and England.

In England, learners take externally set and marked tests at the end of Key Stage 2. In Wales, they do not. Instead, teacher assessments take place.

The examining bodies have access to KS2 data in England, but not in Wales.

Prior to the announcement of the new GCSE results there were therefore extensive conversations between regulatory officials in Wales, Ofqual, and the examination boards in relation to the methodology for setting grade boundaries, based on judgements of prior attainment at Key Stage 2. Welsh Government regulatory officials have consistently made clear that they had issues with this approach, which means judging likely attainment by Welsh GCSE candidates on the basis of Key Stage 2 results in England. …