Welsh education minister Leighton Andrews has requested the Wales-based WJEC exam board re-grade all GCSE English Language papers taken over the summer following ongoing concerns about how fairly candidates were treated.
Following the publication of this year’s marks, teachers across the country expressed deep concerns many students who had sat GCSEs in English had been harshly marked down as the UK government’s exams regulator, OFQUAL, sought to curb grade inflation.
Despite education secretary Michael Gove’s admission many students had been treated unfairly, he refused to intervene.
In Wales, however, having ordered a review by officials of how the English Language papers had been graded, education minister Leighton Andrews has accepted the report’s recommendation the WJEC should be requested to re-grade this year’s English Language GCSEs.
The report agrees with Ofqual’s findings there were issues related to grade boundary changes made to some units between January and June. However, more significantly for Welsh learners, the report also identifies significant problems with the methodology used to award grades, with candidates from Wales being awarded lower grades than would normally be expected when introducing new grading specifications.
Across Wales, the percentage of pupils gaining an A* to C in GCSE English Language fell from 61.3% in 2011 to 57.4%.
Announcing his decision in a written statement to Assembly Members, the minister said:
“After careful consideration, the report leads me to believe that the apparent injustice which has been served to hundreds of Welsh learners needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
“Therefore, whilst recognising that the WJEC made its initial awards in compliance with regulatory requirements, I have today asked the WJEC to re-award its GCSE English Language in line with the report’s recommendations.”
Explaining that Ofqual still had the option of taking similar action in respect of WJEC’s candidates in England, the minister continued:
“My officials have suggested to Ofqual that the results of WJEC English Language candidates in England should be similarly re-awarded and those discussions will continue. This is a matter for Ofqual.
“My responsibility is to ensure fairness to the GCSE candidates in Wales. Regulatory officials have identified the problems, and recommended actions. I have implemented their recommendations.”