GCSE and A level 2021 exams scrapped in Wales

GCSE, AS-level and A-level exams to be replaced by coursework and teacher assessments in a move backed by heads

Tes Reporter

Wales cancels exams

GCSE, AS-level and A-level exams in Wales will be scrapped in 2021, Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams has announced.

The exams will be replaced by coursework and assessments amid ongoing disruption to schools caused by the coronavirus.

Ms Williams said that the ongoing pandemic made it “impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place” and the decision “removes pressures from learners”.


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

“In line with the recommendations of both Qualifications Wales and the Independent Review, there will be no exams for GCSE or AS-level learners next year. A-level students will also not be required to sit exams.

“We remain optimistic that the public health situation will improve, but the primary reason for my decision is down to fairness. The time that 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.”

Ms Williams said universities across the UK had been consulted and had confirmed “that they are used to accepting many different types of qualifications”.

“They expect a transparent and robust approach that provides evidence of a learner’s knowledge and ability,” she said.

“Our intended approach does just that, as it is designed to maximise the time for teaching and learning.

“Cancelling exams provides time for teaching and learning to continue throughout the summer term, to build the knowledge, skills and confidence in our learners to progress in whatever they decide to do next.”

Teacher-managed assessments will include assessments that are externally set and marked, but delivered within a classroom environment under teacher supervision.

Teachers will also have flexibility when it is best to undertake the assessments.

Commenting on the arrangements for GCSEs, AS and A levels in Wales in 2021, Eithne Hughes, director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said: “We wholeheartedly support the decision of the minister for education to scrap end-of-year exams and focus on ensuring the maximum fairness for students amid the disruption of the Covid pandemic.

“This is the right decision for our young people. 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.

“Parents can be reassured also by the steps the Welsh government has taken to ensure this approach will not disadvantage students in Wales in comparison to those in the other UK nations.”

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