Official statistics on changes in results at a centre level in summer 2021

Qualifications Wales has today published official statistics on year-on-year changes in results across centres for GCSE, AS and A levels. These statistics summarise the changes in results across centres in Wales.

Philip Blaker, Chief Executive of Qualifications Wales said, “National results increased again in 2021 after even larger increases in 2020. The increases in 2021 were larger for AS and A level than for GCSE. These new statistics show that there is considerable variation in results by centre, with some increases being much larger than others.  The overall pattern of changes in results across centres is also unusual in that the results at a centre level are generally higher than previous years, whereas in an exam year there would be some results that are higher and some lower.  

Moving back to a national exams system this year means results will look different again, but will improve consistency between centres. Greater consistency means that we expect results to be fairer overall.  

As results in subjects and centres generally went up between 2019 and 2021, we think that the return of normal assessment arrangements will lead to results being lower in 2022. And as the increases between 2019 and 2021 in subjects and centres were different, the decreases in 2022 will also vary. This is because there will be a different assessment approach and results in 2022 will be more comparable to those pre-pandemic.” 

Variation in centre results  

These official statistics show that results in centres generally increased in line with the increases in national results. Statistics released on results day showed there were inconsistent changes in results by centre types and by characteristics of learners such as their gender. A level results in further education colleges increased by less over that period than in schools. 

However, the national increase across centres does not give a full picture of how results changed at centre level. For some, results in a small number of centres decreased (especially at GCSE) but results in most centres increased substantially and in some centres the increases were very large. If you compare the pattern of changes if exams had taken place over two years, they would be atypical.  

The inconsistencies in results are likely produced by a number of factors, and the flexibility in approach to assessment in 2020 and 2021 is likely to be contributing. This flexible approach was needed to ensure learners got grades and was the right thing to do in extra-ordinary circumstances.  

But when results change more for some learners than others just because of how they are assessed this can be unfair. For example, it could put some learners at an advantage compared to others in the admissions process to Higher Education. 

Grades in 2022 

Returning to exams in 2022 will improve the consistency in the way that learners are assessed and should reduce the influence of inconsistent approaches to assessment on the grades that learners receive, whilst placing learners on a more level playing field in terms of demonstrating what they know and can do.