Wales cancels summer 2021 GCSE and A level examinations

Students in Wales will not sit end-of-year GCSE, A and AS levels exams in summer 2021, Wales’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced on Tuesday.

Empty exam hall
Instead of exams, students will likely be assessed by teachers in classroom settings in an approach that includes assignments set and marked externally.This centre-based approach will link to an agreed national framework to provide consistency across Wales, said the government statement.In Scotland, the National 5 examinations have already been cancelled, with teacher assessments and coursework determining the results. Higher and Advanced Higher exams will go ahead as usual, but two weeks later than planned. England and Northern Ireland are also to going ahead with examinations.

'Flexibility and fairness'

The decision on the exams regime for 2021 in Wales is based on Qualifications Wales’ advice on the delivery options available, as well as interim findings of an independent review into this year’s exams process.Learners and their families, headteachers, college leaders, the Children’s Commissioner and universities across the UK were also canvassed for their views, said the Welsh Government.Education Minister Kirsty Williams said the government would work with teachers to take forward teacher-managed assessments. Teachers would have flexibility on when to undertake them, with well-being and fairness key factors in determining the policy for summer 2021’s examination session.

Wales Education Minister Kirsty Williams’ statement

“In line with the recommendations of both Qualifications Wales and the Independent Review, there will be no exams for GCSE or AS level learners next year. A-level students will also not be required to sit exams.“The well-being of learners and ensuring fairness across the system is central in our decision-making process.“We remain optimistic that the public heath situation will improve, but the primary reason for my decision is down to fairness; the time learners will spend in schools and colleges will vary hugely and, in this situation, it is impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place.“We have consulted with universities across the UK and they have confirmed that they are used to accepting many different types of qualifications.“They expect a transparent and robust approach which provides evidence of a learner’s knowledge and ability. Our intended approach does just that, as it is designed to maximise the time for teaching and learning. “Cancelling exams provides time for teaching and learning to continue throughout the summer term, to build the knowledge, skills and confidence in our learners to progress in whatever they decide to do next.”

Summer 2021 GCSE, AS and A level exams around the UK

Wales’ final approach will be developed by school and college leaders, supported by Welsh Government and advised by Qualifications Wales and WJEC. This should be completed before the end of the year for implementation from January, with the first assessment activities starting towards the end of the spring term.Qualifications Wales, which regulates awarding bodies offering qualifications in Wales, said in a statement: “As the independent regulator of qualifications, we provided advice to the Minister on what we considered to be the fairest approach to assessment in 2021. “We recognise this has been a difficult decision and there are no easy answers. We are considering the decision and what it could mean in practice.  In the meantime, we will provide advice to the Independent Design and Delivery Advisory Group. In England, UK Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson announced on 12 October that exams will go ahead in England in 2021 from 7 June and end on 2 July for almost all AS and A levels and GCSEs.However, Tuesday's statement from the Welsh Government and the ongoing consultation announced by Mr Williamson in his October statement could mean further changes to the summer examination session are a possibility for students in England.Responding to Wales’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams’ announcement, a spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Exams are the fairest way of judging a student’s performance, which is why Ofqual and the government all agree they should go ahead next year. “We are working closely with stakeholders on the measures needed to ensure exams can be held, and will set out plans over the coming weeks.”

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