Welsh students' grades 'will not be lower than AS-Level results' in change to system

12 August 2020, 18:06

A level results will not be any lower than an AS level grade in Wales
A level results will not be any lower than an AS level grade in Wales. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Welsh students will not receive any A-level grades lower than the ones they achieved at AS-level, the Welsh Government has announced.

The change was announced less than 24 hours before students receive their final grade amid controversy over exam grades in Scotland.

Qualifications Wales - which regulates exams in the country - hinted this week that many estimated results are likely to be lowered after describing them as “generous” and highlighting inconsistencies, but the Welsh Government said it wanted to address issues with the system to avoid upset tomorrow.

Read more: A-Level students share their concerns after last minute change to exam grading

In a statement, Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams said: "I am confident that the system overseen by Qualifications Wales (QW) and WJEC, in response to the current emergency, is fair for students and robust in what it measures and signals to employers and universities.

"However, governments in other parts of the United Kingdom have introduced changes to their systems and we must make sure that these alterations do not disadvantage Welsh students.

"Students in Wales, and prospective employers and universities across the UK, can be assured that their A Level grades reflect their work and externally assessed exams.

"Almost half the final grade comes from AS Level exams – this is not the situation elsewhere. Therefore in building on that completed work, I am giving a guarantee that a learner’s final A Level grade cannot be lower than their AS grade.

"If a student receives a final grade tomorrow that is below that of their previous AS grade, then a revised grade will be issued automatically by WJEC."

Yesterday it was reported that students in England will be able to swap their final A-Level grade with their mock exam grades if they are unhappy with the result.

Regulator Ofqual is yet to set out the plans in detail, but Ms Williams said that Welsh regulators will be working closely with other nations to develop a system that does not disadvantage students.

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She added: "I have asked Qualifications Wales, working with the WJEC, to work closely with the qualifications bodies of the other UK nations as they develop their plans.

"I will be asking Qualifications Wales to move forward quickly on relevant adjustments to a Welsh appeals process as soon as these plans are clearer, in order to ensure Welsh students are not disadvantaged."

Ms Williams also confirmed that appeals will be free for all Welsh students to prevent those from low-income households from being unable to get a review.

It follows uproar after Scottish students received their grades last week, resulting in many high-achieving students being given much poorer than expected final grades.

Students were unable to take their final exams this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so a system was created to calculate average final grades by looking at each school's past performance.

Sir Keir Starmer condemns changes to how exams are decided as 'shambolic'

Critics said this has lead to high-achieving students in poor-performing schools being unfairly graded, and yesterday the Scottish government announced that grades marked down by the exams regulator would be reversed and returned to the original grade awarded by teachers.

On changes to the grading system in England, education secretary Gavin Williamson described the exams system as "fair" and "robust".

He told reporters: "The system, for the overwhelming majority of young people, is going to deliver, you know, credible, strong results for every single one of them.

"It's a robust system, it's a fair system, it's making sure that young people get the grades that they've worked so hard towards."

Universities and schools across England, however, have demand clarity from ministers over how pupils will be able to appeal over the grades they receive.