The six education portfolio holders representing the 6 North Wales Local Authorities, their Chief Officers, the Regional School Improvement Consortium, GwE and secondary headteachers have no confidence in the standardisation process adopted by WJEC and agreed by QW following the announcement of AS and A Level results.  We do not feel that the process has been fair and robust especially to vulnerable learners who have been WG priority during this term.

Whilst the overall national position gives a positive picture of results, schools across North Wales have seen significant inconsistency and inequality in outcomes causing considerable anxiety to individual learners, their parents / carers and school staff.  It seems that the over emphasis on historical data has seen the same schools and learners being penalised as they were in 2018 when schools in the North supported the Minister’s advice to not enter pupils early at GCSE, which subsequently had a negative impact on their outcomes in some key subjects.

It is quite clear that the A Level brand has been protected at the expense of individual learners who have missed out on forecasted grades when national distribution has reached school level.

It is becoming more evident that there is significant discrepancy between grades awarded by WJEC and Centre Assessment Grades.  Some schools testify that nearly 70% of their grades have been downgraded without any contact from the examining body or regulator.  This disparity is not only within the same subjects, but also when comparing grades awarded across subjects.  There does not seem to be a consistent pattern within or between schools. This has resulted in individual pupils being awarded grades by WJEC where schools can’t explain the rationale behind the awarding.

We are calling on the Education Minister to undertake an urgent review and redress the situation to ensure that individual learners are not failed and that the right pupils receive the right grades.

Too many pupils in North Wales are at a significant risk of being disadvantaged and missing out on opportunities to the future employment pathways of their choice when compared to their peers in other countries in the UK, especially Scotland.

Schools report that they have no confidence in the present appeal process.  While a promise of an urgent review has been made, this might come too late to make a difference to individual learners.  They also report that they are concerned about the emotional wellbeing of their learners who have been affected and are looking enviously at their peers in Scotland who have found a very rapid solution without increasing anxiety on the young people in an already unprecedented time.

Schools also report that they are very concerned of the impact next year of the AS results on the current Year 12, and particularly if there is another COVID spike or local lockdown.

Finally, we want to express our very deep and significant concern that GCSE results next Thursday will mirror the same process which will further compound what is already an extremely stressful situation for our young people and teaching profession.

Note for Editors

Specific examples shared by head teachers from schools across the region:

  • A top student predicted four A* grades by his school was awarded A*/A/A/B at A2 (having been previously awarded four As at AS in 2019)
  • Two students given CAGs of D grades dropped to U grades by WJEC and another dropped from a B to an E.  Two C grades in another subject were taken down to Us
  • Number of Maths students in one school reduced by two grades
  • A school with a three year record of over 20% A*/A in one subject submitted CAGs in line with this.  However, following standardisation no students were awarded A*/A.
  • A student’s grades at AS were Biology B, Chemistry A, Physics B. When actual grades from WJEC were received today they were downgraded to Biology C, Chemistry C and Physics U.
  • Two students downgraded from a C to a U in one subject although the school felt they had ample evidence to support the CAGs.
  • Two students allocated CAGs of U by their school because of poor work quality and low attendance. WJEC standardisation process saw them uplifted to C grades.
  • Student uplifted in one subject from A to A* whilst another in the same group went from a C to a U.
  • Two students of equal ability getting a CAG of a B in English literature. WJEC standardisation process saw one maintaining their grade whilst the other student dropped to a D grade [even though the student had obtained a B grade at AS].
  • Examples of students downgraded from C to a U during standardisation but no contact from WJEC to request any additional evidence to support CAGs grades.
  • One student, having obtained A* in Biology, Chemistry and Physics at GCSE and a CAG of B for Physics AS this year downgraded to a U grade by WJEC.
  • One high ability student downgraded from A* to C in one subject yet remaining on A* in a similar subject.
  • Several examples of learners of equal ability in a subject awarded the same CAG by their school but having at least 2 grade difference between them after standardisation by WJEC.
  • 1% of learners known to be eligible for free schools meals have had their grades lowered following standardisation which is higher than those not eligible.