Awarding body warns ministers over pace of GCSE reform


The head of exam board WJEC has warned the Welsh government could do “immense damage” to qualifications system in Wales if it sticks to its timetable for reform.

Gareth Pierce, chief executive of WJEC, says there are real concerns that the way the Welsh government has chosen to implement change to qualifications will undermine its vision.

The comments came after an announcement by education minister Leighton Andrews that Qualifications Wales, a new arm’s-length body designed to award and regulate qualifications, would start work in September 2015. 

It is the first recommendation made by a review panel to be implemented. But it has far-reaching implications. As well as removing regulatory duties from the Welsh government it casts doubt over the future of the WJEC. 

Mr Andrews publicly said that discussions with WJEC and local government leaders were already under way. However signalling the state of the relationship between the two organisations, Mr Pierce said no formal meetings had been scheduled. And in response to his criticism the Welsh government has said he is “in denial”.

In his letter to a Welsh Assembly education committee Mr Pierce said there were “several complex and fundamental issues which a review will need to address” and it was possible closer scrutiny could uncover “insurmountable difficulties in respect of the current plans for Qualifications Wales”.

In his letter, also sent to Mr Andrews, Mr Pierce added: “While we agree (with the review team) that Wales can indeed build ‘world-class’ arrangements for 14 to 19 qualifications, we have several real concerns that the overall vision and strategy is not being helped by the sequence in which matters are currently being addressed by the Welsh government.

“Doing anything other than pressing ahead urgently with designing and implementing a strengthened regulatory model for Wales adds huge risk to current arrangements in Wales and prejudices the quality of the excellent set of 14 to 19 qualifications development proposals that are contained in the report.”

Relations between the Welsh government and WJEC have become increasingly frayed in recent months, following last summer’s GCSE grading fiasco.

A spokesman for Mr Andrews said: “Sadly the WJEC appears to be in denial. Qualifications Wales will be established on the model of the Scottish Qualifications Authority. Either the WJEC plays a constructive role in these discussions or the government may have to take another course of action.”


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