Posted: Fri 14th Aug 2020

Secondary school head teachers across region express disappointment and concern over A Level downgrading for people living in or visiting the wrexham area

The Federation of North Wales Secondary School Head Teachers has expressed its disappointment and concern over yesterday’s A-level and AS results.

It comes after around 42 per cent of students’ grades in Wales were downgraded from their teachers’ predicated marks.

This is despite a guarantee from Education Minister Kirsty Williams on Wednesday evening that a learner’s final A Level grade cannot be lower than what they received in their AS Levels.

It was also confirmed that all appeals will be free for Welsh students.

Although the results across Wales were found to have increased slightly on the previous year, the federation say that despite the headline data there are “huge disparities in the outcomes of individuals which we cannot track, justify or explain.”

Concerns had also been raised by senior education officials yesterday, who said issues raised by schools included a “significant disparity” between centre assessed grades and grades awarded by WJEC at AS and A Level and grades being downgraded from an A to a D and B down to a U.

There have also been reports of learners of equal ability in a subject which were awarded the same grade by the centre having at least 2 grade difference between them after standardisation by WJEC.

In a statement, the Federation of North Wales Secondary School Head Teachers, argue that using an algorithm that dismisses the work and effort of students is “immoral.”

The federation says: “As schools, we were asked to consider all our internal and external testing data to create rank orders of learners’ centre assessed grades. We did this with professionalism and fairness to the students we have supported for the last 7 years.

“This data in many areas has been dismissed, devalued and discounted. Our rank orders have been overlooked and students moved within them making the allocation of grade impossible to fathom and unfair.

“Many universities have downgraded their offers with the absence of international students, resulting in more available places, so many of the young adults involved will thankfully be able to attend the university of their choice.

“However this is not enough. Our pupils’ grades will be with them for the rest of their lives, they will be on their CV for ever.

“COVID-19 has already disadvantaged them, but life after COVID, within a recession-hit country, means their outcomes will be even more important than ever as they enter a challenging job market.

“Our students have worked for these grades and deserve them; an algorithm that dismisses this is immoral. If there was ever a time for trust it was now.

“As professionals, we were promised that any anomalies in school data would be discussed, to allow schools to provide the evidence to justify the centre assessed grades. This had not happened – we have been given no opportunity to provide evidence and no conversations have taken place.

“This has been a statistical model, over reliant on AS outcomes and historical data, and dismissive of the opinion of a profession who supported their students over many years.

“We were grateful for the WJEC announcement about the review of the appeals system as currently it is unworkable and inhibits our ability to challenge the unfairness of these outcomes. The A-level results day is usually one of the happiest of the year.

“This year our children were hurt, confused and left wondering what had gone wrong, just as we are.

“This week’s results have challenged our confidence in the system and call into question the structure we have previously trusted; however, our fears for next week’s GCSE results are beyond words.

“We would request that changes be made now to protect the life chances and wellbeing of our children and avoid the confusion and heartache our A-level students have had to face.”

Catrin Pritchard, Headteacher, Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, added: “Our students have worked very hard to achieve the grades they need for progression to university and employment.

“Whilst many have been awarded the grades they have earned there are some students whose grade is below what they deserve and what teachers assessed them as.

“We believe that the standardisation of results has disadvantaged some students unfairly and has prevented them from accessing their choice of university courses.”

Today it has been confirmed that the Welsh Parliament’s Education Committee has been recalled to examine the results process.

The committee plays a part in holding the Welsh Government and other relevant public bodies to account and is inviting decision-makers to explain what has happened and the measures that have been – and will be – put in place to help those concerned about their results.

Lynne Neagle, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee: “Our Committee has an important role in holding the Welsh Government and public bodies to account on the approaches adopted in response to this pandemic.

“Given the significant concerns and complexities surrounding the awarding of exam results this year we will be meeting urgently to seek clarity for those who’ve been through this challenging process in unprecedented times.

“Young people’s well-being, and their ability to plan for their future learning and careers, will be at the centre of our work looking at these issues.

“We recognise that these matters are complex and will need detailed, longer term consideration.

“However, we believe that there is an important role for us to play now, to ask questions which will ensure that a fair and clear approach is adopted and communicated to the Welsh people as quickly as possible.”

The Committee will meet on Tuesday 18 August. It has invited the WJEC, Qualifications Wales and the Welsh Government to provide information on the latest developments and answer questions.

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