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Covid: 'Scrap GCSE and A level exams for 2021', says panel

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image captionIn August, a fallout over A-level grades led to a U-turn by the Welsh government

All exams in Wales should be scrapped in favour of assessments next summer after disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, a panel has said.

The independent review set up by the Welsh Government said any form of exams in 2021 would be unfair.

Exam regulator Qualifications Wales also said GCSE exams should be scrapped but some A-level papers should remain.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she would consider both recommendations and announce a decision on 10 November.

The Welsh Conservatives have welcomed Qualifications Wales' advice, but have raised concerns about the conflicting recommendations by both Qualifications Wales and the panel.

Plaid Cymru has welcomed the review panel's suggestions that all exams in 2021 should be scrapped.

  • 'I don't want exams to go ahead next year'
  • GCSEs up as grades done on teacher assessments

Pupils have lost months of learning due to school shutdowns in the last academic year.

In August, an algorithm was applied to A-level grades to "standardise" them, leading to an uproar when 42% were moderated grades lower than teacher assessments.

It led to pupils sitting GCSE, A-level, AS-levels and Welsh Baccalaureate receiving the highest grade, whether that was their teacher's prediction or the standardised grades.

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image captionThe independent review and Qualifications Wales have different recommendations on A-level exams

Publishing its interim report, the independent panel's chair Louise Casella, director of the Open University in Wales, recommended all qualifications in 2021 be awarded "on the basis of robust and moderated assessment undertaken in schools and colleges".

She said: "Reflections on the lessons of summer 2020 will be available in December."

But under the Qualifications Wales proposal, grades for GCSEs and AS-Levels would be awarded on the basis of coursework and a set of common assessments taken during the year.

It said A-level students should sit one exam paper per subject in addition to coursework and set tasks.

Key recommendations from the independent panel:

  • Scrap all GCSE and A-level exams for the 2021 series
  • All qualifications in 2021 should be awarded "on the basis of robust and moderated assessment undertaken in schools and colleges"
  • Decisions on grades should "prioritise the needs of, and fairness to, the learners who are being assessed"
  • The Welsh Government "should establish an independently chaired delivery board to oversee and steer the revised approach to qualification in 2021"

Key recommendations from Qualifications Wales:

  • Scrap GCSE exams for the 2021 series
  • Grades for GCSEs and AS-levels to be awarded on the basis of coursework and a set of common assessments taken during the year
  • A-level students to sit one exam paper per subject in addition to coursework and set tasks
  • A-level pupils who are ill or self-isolating would have a back-up opportunity to sit the exam instead

Speaking to Claire Summers on BBC Radio Wales, Ms Casella said students had "lost quite a lot of learning since March 2020".

She added: "Despite great efforts made by schools and colleges, the experiences of those learners is quite uneven in terms of what's happened - that depends on where they live, family circumstances, digital access, all sorts of circumstances come into play in this.

"And we, as a panel, cannot see how a fair exam series can be run at any level in 2021."

What has the reaction been?

Sian Williams, an A-level student from Llangollen, Denbighshire, said she backed the independent panel's recommendations to scrap both GCSE and A-level exams.

She said: "We're not just facing the same issues last year's Year 13s faced, we're dealing with the compounding effects of Covid-19...

"We've missed out on six months plus of learning now...

"It would be extremely unfair to ask any A-level student to sit exams."

Ms Williams said she would now consider both pieces of advice.

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  • Covid: 'I don't want exams to go ahead next year'