AS and A Level results

We cannot over-state how disappointed, confused and concerned we are about the A-level and AS results our young adults received today (13.08.20).

Although the headline data for Wales shows slight improvement, this is not a full reflection of the reality in schools. There are huge disparities in the outcomes of individuals which we cannot track, justify or explain. Pupils’ grades have moved up and down in ways we do not understand.

As schools, we were asked to consider all our internal and external testing data to create rank orders of learners’ centre assessed grades. We did this with professionalism and fairness to the students we have supported for the last 7 years. This data in many areas has been dismissed, devalued and discounted. Our rank orders have been overlooked and students moved within them making the allocation of grade impossible to fathom and unfair.

Many universities have downgraded their offers with the absence of international students, resulting in more available places, so many of the young adults involved will thankfully be able to attend the university of their choice.  However this is not enough. Our pupils’ grades will be with them for the rest of their lives, they will be on their CV for ever. COVID-19 has already disadvantaged them, but life after COVID, within a recession-hit country, means their outcomes will be even more important than ever as they enter a challenging job market. Our students have worked for these grades and deserve them; an algorithm that dismisses this is immoral. If there was ever a time for trust it was now.

As professionals, we were promised that any anomalies in school data would be discussed, to allow schools to provide the evidence to justify the centre assessed grades. This had not happened – we have been given no opportunity to provide evidence and no conversations have taken place. This has been a statistical model, over reliant on AS outcomes and historical data, and dismissive of the opinion of a profession who supported their students over many years.

We were grateful for the WJEC announcement about the review of the appeals system as currently it is unworkable and inhibits our ability to challenge the unfairness of these outcomes. The A-level results day is usually one of the happiest of the year. This year our children were hurt, confused and left wondering what had gone wrong, just as we are.

This week’s results have challenged our confidence in the system and call into question the structure we have previously trusted; however, our fears for next week’s GCSE results are beyond words. We would request that changes be made now to protect the life chances and wellbeing of our children and avoid the confusion and heartache our A-level students have had to face.

Note for Editors

Quotations to support above statement:

“Whilst we are pleased with many of the results our learners have been awarded and that a national standardisation model is necessary, there are nonetheless some results which bear little or no resemblance to the grades awarded by the Centre. This is disappointing to the school and distressing for our learners.”

Mrs Sarah Sutton, Headteacher, Ysgol Eirias.  general@eirias.conwy.sch.uk neu 01492 532025.

“Within every system confidence is only gained where fairness and consistency is seen. This system has generated numerous inconsistencies and grades that can’t be traced back to the data schools hold. It can never be forgotten that every inconsistency is a child whose life has been turned upside by an algorithm and this cannot be allowed to happen. It is unjust and immoral and our children deserve better.”

Claire Armitstead, Headteacher, Rhyl High School.  csa@rhylhigh.co.uk

“I am a proud Welshman and take my responsibility to all our school children and young adults as though they were my own. This has been the most difficult time in a generation and I accept the complexity of trying to put a fair system in place. However, what I saw yesterday was a group of young people who weren’t quite sure how to handle the situation. Furthermore, I am worried that the fact that there was flexibility in the University admissions system meaning that everyone got a place led to a broad acceptance of a situation that frankly was unacceptable for some. These grades remain with them for life and many walked away without questioning them.”

Aaron Bayley, Headteacher, Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones. YSTJPEN@ynysmon.gov.uk

At a time of economic crisis and spiralling unemployment, I had hoped that the interests of our young people would come first. Regrettably, students have been disregarded, downgraded and simply told ‘computer says no’.

It is deeply regrettable that here in Wales, leaders have not had the courage of their convictions to follow the outstanding example set in Scotland where young people have been put first. Trust and confidence in Welsh Government, Qualifications Wales and WJEC is now at an all-time low and I appeal to them to make decisive changes ahead of the GCSE results next week.”

Geraint Parry, Headteacher, Ysgol Brynhyfrydgparry@ysgolbrynhyfryd.co.uk

“As a school we are deeply upset and saddened by the grading system which has resulted in many of our young peoples’ lives being devastated. We have seen so many inexplicable inconsistencies between the final grades awarded to pupils,  which in some instances have dropped several grades in relation to the data presented by  the school at both  A and AS level. We are particularly concerned about how  this will adversely have an impact on  the lives and prospects  of our  students in comparison to the rest of the country. I find this unjust and unacceptable.”

Ellen Williams, Headteacher, Ysgol Brynrefail.  eaw@brynrefail.gwynedd.sch.uk

A-Level results day is usually a joyous and wonderful occasion with proud parents and teachers celebrating the student’s achievements. Results day this year was a day of sadness, anxiety and confusion. The thoughtless, unfair and carless way by which the A-level results have been allocated to my 6th form students this year is disgraceful. Many of the grades allocated bear no resemblance to our centre assessed grades or the past performance of the school. The harmful way the grades have been generated alongside last minute changes in policy have just gone to highlight what an utter mess the whole system is in. I am now extremely worried for our GCSE pupils next week.    

Neil Foley, Headteacher, Ysgol Uwchradd Prestatyn.  nfoley@prestatynhigh.co.uk

“There have been many student successes this year, and credit should not be taken away from those individuals. However, there are very real examples of students who are being disadvantaged in their applications to Universities as result of the algorithm being used in Wales to calculate final grades when compared with their counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  This is wholly unacceptable.” 

Simon Budgen, Headteacher – Hawarden High School (01244 526400) hhmail@hawardenhigh.flintshire.sch.uk

“WJEC empowered us as a profession to predict grades for our students this year, this was a task we completed with pride and professionalism; collating a wide variety of evidence to substantiate our Centre Assessed Grades. Many of the grades awarded on Thursday bears very little resemblance to the Grades we determined. The system has generated inconsistencies and has shown a clear lack of respect for teacher judgements.  Our students were elated and confused yesterday; elated that they had been offered a place at University but confused at the results they had been awarded. Our students will be relying on these grades for years to come as they apply for jobs, grades which due to the system are not a fair reflection of their hard work over the last 18 months. This is inexcusable. “

Catrin Pritchard, Headteacher, Ysgol Morgan Llwyd.  PritchardC157@Hwbcymru.net

“Our students have worked very hard to achieve the grades they need for progression to university and employment. Whilst many have been awarded the grades they have earned there are some students whose grade is below what they deserve and what teachers assessed them as. We believe that the standardisation of results has disadvantaged some students unfairly and has prevented them from accessing their choice of university courses.”

Jane Cooper, Headteacher, Alun School.  Jane.Cooper@alun.flintshire.sch.uk