A-level results in Wales remain higher than pre-pandemic
Education minister Jeremy Miles has defended the extra measures put in place to support A-level students in Wales this year as results remain higher than before the pandemic.
The proportion of A and A* grades achieved this year was 34% compared with 40.9% in 2022 and 26.5% in 2019 before Covid-19.
But in England, the marking regime has returned to pre-pandemic grading with 26.5% achieving top grades – compared to 35.9% in 2022 and 25.2% in 2019.
It comes after Covid-19 led to an increase in top grades in 2020 and 2021, with results based on teacher assessments instead of exams.
Jeremy Miles, minister for education and Welsh language, said it was right to give students extra support this year because their AS-level examinations, which contribute to their final A-level grades, were undertaken during the pandemic.
Step by step
“The approach we have taken in Wales, which is similar to the approach taken in Scotland and Northern Ireland, has been to set grade boundaries broadly speaking at the midway point between the 2019 results and the 2022 results,” he told the PA news agency.
“The reason we’ve done that in Wales is because AS-level results still count towards A-level results in Wales.
“What we need to make sure is that we are moving step by step back to the sorts of arrangements that we had in place in more normal times.
“I think by next year we will have reached there. It will be a decision which Qualifications Wales take and they are planning on making an announcement in September.”
The minister, who had earlier visited students collecting their results at Coleg Gwent in Ebbw Vale, praised their achievements.
“I want to congratulate every young learner who has had their results today. It’s a real milestone, whether you’re doing BTec, A-level or AS-level,” he said.
“It’s a big day and this group of young people have had quite a tough time over the last few years. I’m particularly pleased that they’ve had good results.”
Meanwhile, education trade unions said it was unfair to compare the results of students this year with pre-pandemic cohorts.
“While we welcomed the Welsh Government’s decision to implement a more gradual return to pre-pandemic standard setting and the retention of many important mitigations, the investment in education recovery has fallen below that seen in other comparable nations,” Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said.
“The approach to education recovery has failed to come anywhere close to meeting the depth of educational, social and emotional needs which exist within the pupil population.
“The predictable outcome is that the most disadvantaged students have been particularly let down.”
Mary van den Heuvel, from the National Education Union Cymru, said: “The last few years have been extremely challenging for everyone in education.
“Our members hope mitigations continue for next year. Covid is still having an impact in schools and colleges, and attendance levels are still down on pre-Covid levels.
“We need to support young people and their teachers and lecturers, to make sure they are not put under excessive and unhelpful pressure around results.”
The Welsh Conservatives criticised the drop in the numbers of students getting top grades and blamed underfunding from the Welsh Government.
Shadow education minister Laura Anne Jones said: “Ultimately, there is more to education than just exam results and Wales deserves better than the underfunding from the Labour Government that has placed our schooling system bottom of the UK league table, with Wales continuing to take a different approach to our counterparts in England.
“The Labour Government must do better in providing top tier education in every school in Wales.”
The Welsh Government cited an Institute for Fiscal Studies report into school funding across the UK which found that after 2010 school spending per pupil fell by 8% in real terms in England and by 5% in real terms in Wales.
The report estimated that total coronavirus-related spending on schools between 2020 and 2022 was at about £800 per pupil in Wales, while in England it was £300 per pupil.
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