Andrews dismisses GCSE re-grading order 'incompetent' claim

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Media captionFormer Education Minister Leighton Andrews said it was 'ludicrous' that he dismissed advice about the complexities in re-grading exam papers

Former Education Minister Leighton Andrews has dismissed claims the Welsh government was "authoritarian and incompetent" over the re-grading of exam papers in 2012.

Nearly 2,400 English language pupils got better results after the review.

Ex WJEC acting chair David Lewis said Mr Andrews dismissed advice about the complexities re-grading would cause.

Mr Andrews said Mr Lewis' comments demonstrated the necessity for the WJEC governance to change.

The row over the English exams broke out in 2012 as GCSE results were published for pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Mr Andrews claimed pupils in Wales were the victims of an "injustice" after receiving lower grades than expected following a shift in grade boundaries.

Image caption Leighton Andrews said the re-grading was ordered out of a 'principle of fairness' to Welsh pupils

After the re-grading ordered by Mr Andrews, 1,202 students had grades increased from a D to a C and 598 from a C to a B grade.

Lowering boundaries also meant some changes at other grades. This resulted in an overall figure of 2,386 receiving raised grades.

Mr Lewis, who became acting chair of the WJEC after the re-grading row, has spoken out to say it was clear to him that Mr Andrews dismissed any advice about the logistical problems it created for the exam-awarding body.

Mr Lewis wrote to First Minister Carwyn Jones outlining his concerns about the WJEC and its relationship with the Welsh government.

BBC Wales has seen a copy of the reply given to Mr Lewis.

Image caption David Lewis wrote to First Minister Carwyn Jones outlining his concerns

In it, Mr Jones says: "The Welsh government has had a long-standing and multi-faceted relationship with the WJEC and I acknowledge that, in some areas, this relationship has recently gone through a difficult period."

Mr Jones did not accept Mr Lewis's version of events but went on to say: "I have asked the Welsh government's director general for education, Owen Evans, to consider whether there are any lessons that officials here can learn from your letter."

When asked to describe the conduct of the Welsh government, Mr Lewis, a Neath Port Talbot councillor, told BBC Wales: "There's one word, and that's authoritarian.

"And without necessarily, in terms of what we experienced, evidence of a full grasp of what the real issues were. Now that's a damning thing to say, but that's the way it came over.

"The Welsh government were the incompetents in all this from our point of view."

Mr Andrews rebutted the allegations. In a statement to BBC Wales, he said: "These comments are ludicrous.

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Media captionLeighton Andrews ordered the GCSE English papers to be re-graded last autumn

"The decision to re-grade GCSE English was taken following a full regulatory review and was welcomed by all parties.

"Sadly, too many WJEC board members became hung up on minor points of process rather than the fundamental issue of principle, which was fairness to Welsh students."

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales on Thursday, Mr Andrews added: "I think Councillor Lewis's comments illustrate why it was so necessary for the governance structure of the WJEC to be reformed and I want to congratulate local government leaders in Wales who've taken a grip now of the situation and reformed the governance structure of the WJEC.

"I'm afraid the WJEC clearly wasn't used to being regulated and the reality is, I think, the WJEC governing body thought it could exist in a cosy little world in which it would have a word on the quiet with the Welsh government and things would be dealt with to their satisfaction."

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "These allegations from David Lewis are baffling.

"The actions we took last summer in relation to GCSE English language were based on evidence in a full report from regulatory officials.

"They were wholly appropriate, well supported and most importantly they led to the swift and fair resolution of an injustice served to well over 2,000 Welsh candidates."

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Media captionEx WJEC acting chair David Lewis said Mr Andrews dismissed advice about the complexities re-grading would cause

The WJEC said it had experienced "a range of difficulties" arising from the Welsh government's approach to policy.

A spokeswoman said: "WJEC's board remained very clear in terms of its own responsibilities in relation to qualifications standards and the development of new qualifications for Wales and for England."

She added a meeting with current Education Minister Huw Lewis on Wednesday had "provided the basis for a clear understanding of how the qualifications agenda in Wales can be progressed successfully".

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