How we reached results day

Across Wales and the UK, results day is always characterised by raw nerves and nail-biting – as well as relief and celebration, so in that respect this year is no different to others. However, this is an extraordinary year and we have made every effort to protect learners and the principles of fairness.

 By Philip Blaker, Chief Executive, Qualifications Wales 

The global pandemic forced a fast rethink, to find answers to some very difficult questions. We think the solutions for awarding qualifications are the best possible under this summer’s unique circumstances.  

The approach to awarding grades this year is meaningful, robust and has been carefully thought through to be as fair as possible in the circumstances, protecting the value of results. Ultimately, protecting standards protects learners. The qualifications awarded in Wales this year carry the same value as those awarded in any other year.  

Weve been sharing our approach and guidance with schools, colleges, learners and their families and anyone who has an interest in this. 

We’ve also been listening. Earlier this summer, we consulted widely on this year’s grading plans, including a version tailored for young people. 

It attracted thousands of responses, more than half from young people, which helped inform our thinking before finalising the process for awarding grades and the appeals arrangements. 

We have also regularly shared information as it has become available to help people understand how grades are calculated.  

Grading 

Teachers played an important role in providing their learners with estimated grades and ranking them in order. It was a difficult task under extraordinary circumstances and we’ve thanked them for that work. We appreciate that through this challenging time, teachers have done their best for learners. 

When the centre grades were analysed it was found that there was inconsistency between exam centres and, on the whole, they were generous. 

Our analysis showed a clear difference between the Centre Assessment Grades (CAGs) submitted to WJEC and exam results in previous years. This highlighted the need for standardisation to secure fairness for learners. 

For example, had we stuck with the CAGs in Wales this year for A level, more than 40% would have had an A* or A grade compared with 27% in 2019, which is a difference of more than 13 percentage points. 

Changes of this magnitude between one year and the next are unprecedented and, unchecked, would not be credible for future employers, colleges and universities or indeed anyone else. Nobody wishes 2020 grades to lack credibility. 

Standardisation ensures that results at a national level are broadly similar to previous years, something that most people agreed with when we consulted on our aims.  

Without standardisation big variations in outcomes would reduce confidence in results and would therefore disadvantage this year’s learners. It also protects learners in past and future years. 

The Minister for Education has also asked us to make sure that A level learners will not receive a result that is lower than their corresponding AS level grade. If the A level grade is lower than the previous AS grade, then WJEC will issue a revised grade as soon as possible. We’ve made sure universities across the UK are aware of this as they make their decisions. 

Equality 

Some have rightly questioned how we can be confident that the needs of disadvantaged pupils or those in lower performing schools have been taken into account. This was a risk we were mindful of from the start, so we have analysed attainment gaps this year relative to previous years – looking at aspects such as gender, age and eligibility for free school meals. Our analysis shows no statistically significant differences this year relative to other years.  

Appeals 

We are currently looking at whether the grounds for appeal for A level, AS level and GCSEs can be broadened, and will update on this early next week.  

Learners who are not happy with their grades can appeal through their school or college in the same way that they have always been able to do. If you are worried that something’s gone wrong with a grade, the first thing to do is talk to your school or college. If they agree that it looks like something has gone wrong with the process, then they’ll pursue it with WJEC. 

If they don’t agree that something’s gone wrong, but if you still think so, schools and colleges also have systems in place for you to escalate your concerns. 

Anyone with other questions or queries should check the helpful information available on WJEC’s website as well as ours. 

For every learner waiting for their results, this is just the start of the journey ahead. We wish you well, whatever it is you choose to do next. 

Published 13 August 2020