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No A-level exams in Wales next year, government says

Image: Liberal Democrats [CC BY-ND 2.0] via Flickr

Education minister confirms the cancellation of formal examinations for Welsh students

Wales will have no A-level or GCSE examinations next year, the country’s education minister has confirmed.

Kirsty Williams said the Welsh government had consulted universities across the UK and that they had “confirmed that they are used to accepting many different types of qualifications”. The move comes after university admissions processes were thrown into confusion by this summer’s abandonment of A-level exams across the UK due to Covid-19.

In a statement on 10 November, Williams (pictured) said the Welsh government would instead work with schools and colleges to facilitate a “teacher-managed” assessment process. This will include assessments that will be “externally set and marked but delivered within a classroom environment under teacher supervision”, the Welsh government confirmed—adding that the decision was taken based on advice published by Qualifications Wales

“The wellbeing of learners and ensuring fairness across the system is central in our decision-making process,” Williams said.

“We remain optimistic that the public health 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.”

She added that universities “expect a transparent and robust approach which provides evidence of a learner’s knowledge and ability…Our intended approach does just that, as it is designed to maximise the time for teaching and learning.”

Eithne Hughes, director of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru, said the Welsh government’s approach would ensure “the maximum fairness for students amidst the disruption of the Covid pandemic”.

“This is the right decision for our young people,” she said. “It recognises the fact that they will have been affected to differing extents by the impact of the pandemic and it allows for as much teaching time as possible to catch-up with lost learning.

“We are confident that the planned approach is robust and that it will avoid the pitfalls that occurred in the grading of this summer’s qualifications.”

A-level examinations are still scheduled to go ahead in England, although they have been postponed by around three weeks and will commence on 7 June. In Scotland, Higher and Advanced Higher exams—the equivalent to A-levels—will be delayed by two weeks with exams in Northern Ireland also expected to go ahead.