Calls made for free and independent appeals process in Wales to ensure A-level results fairness
Students should be allowed to refer their awarded A-level grades to a free and independent appeals process Plaid Cymru has said.
Students across Wales are set to receive their A-level and AS results on Thursday, with GCSEs to follow a week after.
Exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic so grades will be based on how teachers believe a student would have performed, as well as a formula applied by the exam board.
Regulatory body Qualifications Wales has already indicated many estimated results are likely to be lowered after describing them as “generous” and highlighting inconsistencies.
Concerns have been voiced that it will result in a repeat of what happened in Scotland, where many pupils were unhappy that they had been awarded lower grades than they had been predicted.
In England, A-level and GCSE students are being promised their final results will be no lower than their mock exams.
It means pupils getting A-level results this week can accept that estimated grade, or change it for a mark gained in a mock exam or they can instead choose to take a written exam in the autumn.
Shadow Education Minister, Siân Gwenllian MS wants to see a “robust, national and independent system of appeal” amidst concerns that some students are set to see a down-grade in the A-level results predicted for them by their teachers.
While teachers were asked to assess grades for each student based on coursework, mock exams and homework, the grades were put through a ‘standardisation’ process which considers past performance of the school or college.
As a result, it has been reported that thousands of students are set to get lower grades than expected for reasons beyond their control.
A Children’s Commissioner report published in May showed that 52% of children aged 12 – 18 said they were worried about how coronavirus would affect their exam results, and 58% were worried about falling behind.
Ms Gwenllian praised teachers and students alike for showing “incredible resilience” during a time of “unimaginable uncertainty” and has called for every A-level student to have access to careers advice, counselling and a “robust, national and independent” appeals process.
Most importantly, says Ms Gwenllian, is that these services should be free.
Ms Gwenllian has also called for Welsh universities to be flexible and keep places open for students who may have to appeal their results, she said:
Teachers and pupils have shown incredible resilience during this time of unimaginable uncertainty.
First coronavirus, and now a flawed standardisation system that scores thousands of learners according to their schools’ past record rather than their performance as individuals. It is so unfair that this cohort of young people has had to deal with much that is out of their control.
I’m calling on the Welsh Government to acknowledge the anxiety all this uncertainty is causing, and to step in with a package of support for them during this time – this needs to include careers advice, counselling and – crucially – a robust, national and independent system of appeal.
All of this must be free for our learners, furthermore, it shouldn’t be merely up to pupils to refer themselves to the appeals process.
Schools must ensure rigorous oversight of this so that everyone who should have their grades appealed is able to do so.
There also needs to be an independent review of schools and colleges in deprived areas to ensure that students have not been unfairly disadvantaged by historic under-performance.
Too much emphasis has been on the system – now we must see focus on the individual, and ensure that no young person should suffer because of this flawed system.
National Union of Students Wales has called for the Welsh Government to follow Scotlands move, it’s President Becky Ricketts said:
The Welsh Government must follow Scotland by scrapping moderated grades if students face an A Level results postcode lottery on Thursday.
It is deeply unfair that thousands of students face being marked down because of where they live. The only available option is to scrap moderated results and award students their predicted grades.
This situation has exposed systemic failings within our exams system which should be looked at by Welsh Government and Qualifications Wales to ensure this does not happen again.
We must ensure that every student in Wales is assessed fairly, in an educational system that removes barriers rather than enforces them.
Leader of Flintshire Council Ian Roberts, said learners did not deserve to have their prospects damaged because of the virus and has called for fairness from Qualifications Wales, He said:
My genuine hope is that Qualifications Wales manage to achieve the balance between student and parent expectations, school graded levels and to achieve what others couldn’t achieve.
These are key examinations for students and places in university can depend on an A and not a B.
The most important thing is how students deserve not to have life chances missed because of what’s happened this year and despite the difficulties of the COVID crisis.
Ahead of A-level results day, a Welsh Government minister has said she is confident students in the country will get the results they deserve.
Speaking at a press conference held on Tuesday, housing and local government minister Julie James said:
I’m really happy to reassure every learner in Wales that the model here is very different.
It takes into account work that’s been completed by the students. For example, in Wales we’ve never let go of AS-levels.
If you took A-levels this year then you would have had your AS-level results last year. They contribute 40 per cent to A-level grades.
The model for standardising those grades are developed by the GCSE and proofed by Qualifications Wales to ensure that learners are treated fairly and will be able to progress with confidence.
We’re obviously very keen that our learners are given the accolades they need for the work they’ve done, but also that they get the result they deserve and that those grades are robust and will take them forward into their lives with confidence.
A spokesman for Qualifications Wales said the approach to awarding this year’s grades has been “carefully thought through” to deliver fairness
However, they said there was a clear difference between estimated grades put forward by teachers, known as CAGs, and exam results achieved in previous years. They said:
Teachers played an important part in the approach by providing each of their learners with estimated grades (CAGs) and a position within a rank order for each subject.
This information was submitted to WJEC in June. Since then it has been standardised to ensure consistency in grades for learners across Wales.
On the whole CAGs were generous and there was also evidence of inconsistency between exam centres.
This is in no way a criticism of teachers as there was no opportunity amid the pandemic to train them.
Wales is no different to many other nations where this year has required a shift from externally assessed exams to calculating grades.
Arrangements for collecting exam results in Flintshire will be very different this year because of Covid-19.
Schools and higher education colleges would have their own arrangements in place for youngsters to collect results.
Some institutions have given staggered times for learners who want to pick them up in person.
Meanwhile, others have said they will either e-mail results out directly to students or post them on web portals to avoid the spread of the virus.
Wrexham Glyndwr University experts on hand to help make results day a success
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