Fairness is at the heart of our advice for next year’s qualifications by Philip Blaker, Chief Executive

Fairness. That one word encapsulates our advice for awarding qualifications next summer.

Fairness for learners who are studying for the next stage of their lives. And fairness for teachers who have the difficult task of ensuring learners get enough teaching hours during the year.

The truth is that we all face upheaval over the next year due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Education is no exception.

Disruption to lessons is inevitable, as pupils fall ill with COVID-19 or must self-isolate after a fellow learner, friend or relative has contracted the virus.

It means that for many pupils, the number of hours spent learning will be reduced. Only this week we heard that 47,000 pupils missed school during the week before the firebreak in Wales due to illness or self-isolating. This is time they will never get back.

It puts both learners and teachers in a difficult position. How can learners across Wales take the same exam at the end of the year is some have had their education disrupted for weeks or even months due to the pandemic?

That’s why we have looked very carefully at this unique situation to find the fairest solution for everyone.

We have just published our advice to Education Minister Kirsty Williams that timetabled exams for GCSEs and AS levels should not take place in summer 2021. Grades will instead be awarded based on coursework and a set of common assessments taken during the year.

A level learners would need to sit one exam per subject in addition to coursework and set tasks, with some flexibility to take the exam at a different time if they are ill or self-isolating.

The approach that we have proposed ensures all learners are treated fairly. It means that they can take external assessments throughout the year so that they can be awarded a fair grade for their efforts next summer.

It also makes this difficult situation more manageable for schools and colleges, helping to minimise disruption for their learners by giving them control over when and where their learners are assessed.

We have always said in the face of this pandemic there are no easy solutions. But I strongly believe that the recommendations we have put forward are the fairest and most practical way in the current circumstances to ensure that learners in Wales get the grades they have worked so hard for.