Parents query GCSE grading in Wales

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:
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Welsh exam chiefs say their GCSE grading system is "robust" despite fresh concerns from top schools.

A poll of Welsh independent schools has revealed that some parents lack confidence in the Welsh exam system.

The poll by the Western Mail found that many Welsh private schools opted for England’s new number-graded GCSEs, with one head stating it “was very clear that the groundswell of opinion was for England’s GCSEs”.

Simon Antwis, headteacher at St Clare’s School in Porthcawl, personally backs Wales’ GCSE reforms, but said that parents – when consulted during a specially-held meeting – wanted their children to take England’s qualification.

He added: “This is not a protest against education in Wales and our pupils took the Welsh A levels. I think parents have seen the statistics produced across Wales in numeracy and literacy and the GCSE results for them are lower. I think the opinion was that the English GCSEs were of a higher standard.”

He said he would not compare the two GCSE systems but he did believe a grade 9 was higher than A*.

“I would class it as an A**,” he stated.

Headteacher Simon Smith, of Rydal Penrhos School in Colwyn Bay, which also used the English system, said he believed universities such as Oxford and Cambridge would be “looking for 9s rather than A*s as a means of filtering their over-subscribed application process”.

However, an Oxford University spokesman refused to be drawn into the debate, stating that GCSE grades were just part of the information it used to select students.

He said: “In terms of the new GCSE grading system, we have decided on some equivalences to make sure no-one is disadvantaged. Thus, both grades 8 and 9 are considered equivalent to an A*, and a grade 4 is considered equivalent to a C.

“We do work closely with the Welsh government, and we hope to continue to do so with the aim of ensuring parity across the different education systems.”

A Welsh government spokesman said: “Our GCSEs are quality assured at UK level by independent regulators to make sure they are comparable to qualifications from the other nations.

“Our grading system and the robustness of our qualifications are clear.”

Exam regulator Qualifications Wales said standards across the UK were equivalent, there were no plans to change Wales’ grading system and grades A and A* in Wales cover the same attainment as the new grades 7, 8 and 9 in England.

It added: “It is not true to say that grade 9 in England is harder than A* as it rewards students of the same ability.”


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