Nick Clegg says GCSE regrade in Wales 'wrong'

Nick Clegg says politicians should not interfere in the way exams operate

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Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has criticised the Welsh education minister's decision to order a regrading of some GCSE English papers in Wales.

Mr Clegg told BBC Wales that Leighton Andrews appeared to be "shifting goalposts" for children in Wales.

A cross-border government row blew up with regrading ordered just in Wales.

The Welsh government said it was "properly" fulfilling its regulatory responsibilities.

Mr Andrews said hundreds of pupils in Wales were victims of an "injustice".

The minister, as the exam regulator for Wales, had stepped in and ordered a review which found the original marking criteria disadvantaged students.

More than 2,300 of the 34,000 pupils in Wales who took English with the WJEC exam board (the former Welsh Joint Education Committee) received better results last week after their papers were looked at again.

However, papers of 84,000 students in England who took the same exam have not been regraded after the exam regulator there, Ofqual, decided not to step in.

Mr Clegg told BBC Wales parliamentary correspondent David Cornock: "I don't agree with what the Welsh government is doing, they appear to be shifting goalposts for children in Wales.

"I know what they say but I don't think it's right for politicians to be interfering in an independent exam system.

GCSE GRADING ROW

  • Issues with GCSE English grading emerged as results reached schools last month
  • Heads suggested the exams had been marked over-harshly after Ofqual told exam boards to keep an eye on grade inflation
  • Exam boards told reporters grade boundaries had changed significantly mid-way through the year
  • Alterations were as much as 10 marks
  • Heads complained pupils who sat GCSE English in the winter might have got a lower mark had they sat it in the summer
  • Their unions called for an investigation and some mentioned legal action
  • Ofqual held a short inquiry but refused to order regrading

'Interfering'

"My heart goes out to the parents and the children, particularly those who have taken English GCSEs where they feel there has been a change in the way they have been assessed, but I strongly feel that it isn't for politicians to start interfering and say we're going to change the system unilaterally."

Mr Clegg said the coalition had made the "sensible" decision to replace GCSEs with the English Baccalaureate Certificate (Ebac).

"Now it's for the Welsh government and the Welsh politicians to decide whether they want to follow that example, but one thing I don't think will serve the Welsh people and children in the long run very well is to have Welsh politicians interfering in a haphazard way in which exams operate," he added.

Mr Andrews has said that he will make his own decision on the future of GCSEs in Wales in November.

A Welsh government spokesperson said that, unlike in England, Welsh ministers had regulatory responsibility for the qualifications taken by learners.

"In requiring the regrading to take place, the minister was fulfilling properly these regulatory responsibilities," said a spokesperson.

"The decision to carry out the re-grade in Wales led to the swift resolution of an injustice served to well over 2,000 Welsh candidates.

"The decision to direct the WJEC to carry out this work was about fairness and ensuring that Welsh students got the grades they deserved for the work they put into their examination."

Mr Clegg also defended his decision to try to block coalition government plans to cut the number of MPs in Wales from 40 to 30. He said those plans would not now go ahead.

Earlier this month, he said he would vote against changes to MPs' constituency boundaries after attempts at House of Lords reform, championed by the Lib Dems, were doomed after opposition from 100 Conservative MPs.

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