Testing times for us all
For anyone working in education in Wales, the past week has forced unprecedented decisions that would normally be unimaginable.
By Philip Blaker, Chief Executive, Qualifications Wales
Closing schools and cancelling exams is a drastic measure to protect public health. Although it’s undoubtedly the right decision, we know how hard it is for learners and professionals who have worked for those exams - and for the loved ones who are supporting them.
Now our job as the regulator is to find the fairest way forward, focusing on doing the right thing. At an already anxious time, people want answers and understandably so. Some we already have, and some we don’t have yet - but we will.
With centre closures, the initial focus has been on GCSEs and A levels taken in Year 11 and Year 13. This was because of the high number of learners taking these gateway qualifications across the country. For those studying for qualifications not featured in recent headlines - for example BTECs, other vocational qualifications and AS levels - the wait for clarity is bound to feel frustrating.
We don’t have all the answers yet, but we are working hard to find them, and we will communicate more as soon as we possibly can.
The priority is to get grades for everyone who needs them in 2020, both in general and vocational qualifications, to help people’s onwards progress in life.
Getting it right matters. Most vocational qualifications are offered across the UK, so we are working with fellow regulators, exam boards and governments across the UK to align consistently.
AS levels also need careful consideration, as do GCSE unit entries in Year 10. We recognise that there is a need for clarity on what’s going to happen for learners entered for these assessments.
Unlike vocational qualifications, which are mostly UK-wide, GCSEs, AS and A levels are designed for Wales, which means our solutions may differ from England.
So the way forward is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach, because it can’t be. The common denominator across all qualifications is the principle of fairness across the 2020 cohort of learners.
We will continue to work closely with all the right people, to get the answers as quickly as we can. As we work through every aspect of those answers, we are aiming to offer a daily update on our website coronavirus hub. There will be some days when we don’t have an update, and we will say so.
We’re also setting up an area for people to ask us questions and are putting together a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page on our website, which we will update whenever we have more clarity.
In the meantime, thank you to every education professional helping us to make progress at this most testing of times. Thank you to learners who are waiting for answers. We appreciate your support and your patience.
Published 23 March 2020