Wales’s education minister has defended his decision to order a regrade of last year’s GCSE English language papers, stating his only motivation was to ensure fairness.
Leighton Andrews said he had no regrets about his decision, which resulted in more than 2,000 pupils in Wales gaining better grades after last summer’s exam fiasco. Appearing before the Education Select Committee, he said a “sober and serious” report by Welsh officials in September had made clear that outcomes for students were “unsafe”.
He said a change in methodology used to award grades led to candidates from Wales being awarded lower marks than would normally be expected and action was taken to “deal with that unfairness”.
Overall, 2,386 Welsh pupils were given improved GCSE English language scores by Cardiff-based exam board WJEC – with 1,202 students seeing their scores rise from a D to a C.
Mr Andrews said Ofqual’s insistence on using key stage 2 data – specific to pupils in England – as the defining factor to set grade boundaries, had acted as a “deflator” and impacted directly on Welsh scores. He explained: “We took the decision that we did in terms of regrading explicitly on the basis of the regulatory report. There are clearly not comparable outcomes in Wales compared to the previous year.”
When asked whether his intervention was politically motivated, Mr Andrews, who is head of exam regulation in Wales, said the issue was “not a partisan matter” and the action taken had been endorsed by three of the parties in the Assembly. “I think everybody must accept that 2012 was unhappy all round,” he said.
“We took action that we felt was appropriate. People, I think, will ask what is the difference between a Welsh C and an English C, but then in England they will ask what is the difference between a January C and a June C.”
Mr Andrews last month announced changes to the way GCSE English language will be delivered in Wales, with Welsh pupils sitting a separate paper to students elsewhere in the UK.