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Calls for independent appeals process for A-level students in Wales

12 Aug 2020 3 minute read
Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash.

Plaid Cymru are calling for students to be allowed to refer their awarded A-level grades to a free and independent appeals process if there are given lower exam results than their teachers recommended.

Last week Qualifications Wales warned Wales’ schools were too generous assessing GCSE and A-level grades in the absence of exams due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Qualifications Wales said that nearly one in four students (25%) would have received an A* or A in their GCSE results if they had accepted the grades recommended by teachers.

That compares to only 17.9% of pupils in 2019.

At A-level, 40.4% achieved A*s and As recommended by teachers when last year only 27% achieved those grades through exams.

A-level students in Wales will receive their results on Thursday.

A political storm erupted in Scotland last week as more than 124,000 exam results, were downgraded. On Tuesday Scotland’s education secretary, John Swinney announced in an emergency statement at Holyrood that exam grades which were marked down last week will be reinstated.

In England 39% of teachers’ predictions are expected to be downgraded when results are also announced on Thursday.

As in England and  Scotland, teachers in Wales were asked to assess grades for each student based on coursework, mock exams and homework, the grades were put through a ‘standardisation’ process which considers past performance of the school or college. As a result, it has been reported that thousands of students are set to get lower grades than expected for reasons beyond their control.


Siân Gwenllian MS, Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister praised teachers and pupils for showing “incredible resilience during this time of unimaginable uncertainty”.

“First coronavirus, and now a flawed standardisation system that scores thousands of learners according to their schools’ past record rather than their performance as individuals. It is so unfair that this cohort of young people has had to deal with much that is out of their control,” she added.

“I’m calling on the Welsh Government to acknowledge the anxiety all this uncertainty is causing, and to step in with a package of support for them during this time – this needs to include careers advice, counselling and – crucially – a robust, national and independent system of appeal. All of this must be free for our learners.

“Furthermore, it shouldn’t be merely up to pupils to refer themselves to the appeals process. Schools must ensure rigorous oversight of this so that everyone who should have their grades appealed is able to do so. There also needs to be an independent review of schools and colleges in deprived areas to ensure that students have not been unfairly disadvantaged by historic under-performance.

“Too much emphasis has been on the system – now we must see focus on the individual and ensure that no young person should suffer because of this flawed system.”

A Children’s Commissioner report published in May showed that 52% of children aged 12 – 18 said they were worried about how coronavirus would affect their exam results, and 58% were worried about falling behind.

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