Year 10, Year 12 – we hear you

Parenting was never designed to be an easy ride. But parenting through a pandemic is a whole new ball game.

By Kate Stokes Davies, Director Communications & Stakeholder Relations, Qualifications Wales 

For many of us with teenagers, there was probably enough to think about even before Covid-19 hit. Then schools closed, exams were cancelled and everyone felt slightly lost - even though we knew it was the right action to take. Now we know schools are re-opening, but there are still many questions. 

Last month, we consulted on our arrangements for this summer, asking anyone interested to share their thoughts. We had more than 4,000 responses, with over half from learners. Later this month we’ll publish a summary of what we heard and the decisions made.  

Beyond our consultation questions, some contributors also wanted to tell us their thoughts on other specific aspects. One of these was the situation for those currently in Year 12 (AS level) and Year 10 (GCSE units).  

As mum to teenage learners - one in Year 10, one in Year 12 - I know first-hand how deeply disruptive this time has been as families have tried to make sense of the way forward.  In our house, nobody ever thought they’d miss the prospect of revision and looming exams - until suddenly they were no longer an option.  

If your household is going through similar turmoil, here’s the most important thing you need to know: all of us in the qualifications system in Wales understand how disruptive Covid-19 is. We have a number of brilliant experts working on viable solutions to this complex situation, with fairness firmly in focus as the guiding star. I see first-hand how passionate they are about it, working hard to find the way forward. 

For our family, like many others, the main frustration was the feeling that their years had been short-changed. Years 11 and 13 would get grades and could now kick back safely in that knowledge. Meanwhile, after all the hard work, Year 10 wouldnt get grades for units and AS grades wouldn’t count towards next year’s results. Why not? 

There are very sound reasons why, which we’ve explained in this blog on AS level and this one on GCSE units. In short, to calculate results this summer exam boards need teacher judgements on grades. They aren’t asking for exact marks because that would be an unfair request which would generate unreliable data. For GCSE unit and AS results, the specific marks from exams contribute to the end grade at GCSE and A level. Broader grades simply aren’t specific enough to work, and rank ordering can’t help narrow this to marks. 

The reality is, we can only work with what’s possible while protecting the qualifications system. Protection means maintaining the integrity of grades and the value of qualifications, regardless of which year they are awarded – which ultimately helps protect standards and protect learners past, present and future.  

But it’s important to understand, that’s not where it ends. Working closely with WJEC, we’re looking carefully at next summer when these same learners will be due to sit A levels and GCSEs. Nobody knows yet what the next 12 months will bring, so we’re planning for a range of scenarios. Well need to consider adjustments, balanced really carefully with the need to protect the integrity of the qualifications. The trick will be adapting without undermining credibility. 

It’s too early to say what next summer will look like. But we understand the disruption learners have gone through as centres swiftly switched to distance and blended learning. This blog outlines some of the things we’ve been thinking about as we plan ahead. 

For families across Wales, disruption continues for a whole host of reasons and we all want to understand ‘what next?’ As well as GCSEs, AS and A levels, there’s also a wide range of vocational qualifications which we’re working on. For our young people, life feels particularly strange and the future feels uncertain on so many levels 

We want them to know that we are here and we understand. Although none of us has the luxury of perfect answers in this extraordinary time, we are doing everything we possibly can to help learners on their journeys.

Published 9 June 2020