Plaid Cymru call for ‘outdated’ exam model to be permanently jettisoned

Exam hall

Plaid Cymru have said that students’ grades should continue to be based on teacher’s assessments in the future, and that the “outdated” exam-based method of assessing students should be scrapped.

The Shadow Education Minister said that the algorithm used by the Welsh Government to recreate exam results had demonstrated how unequal such a system of assessing students was, as it reflected how well they performed on the day rather than their teacher’s assessment of their overall ability.

With a new curriculum due to be introduced in Wales, it was time for reform in the way students were assessed, Siân Gwenllian MS said.

“If there is one thing we have learnt about our education system during the coronavirus crisis is that the way our learners are assessed doesn’t necessarily correlate to their ability in any given subject, rather it’s based on how well they perform on the day,” she said.

“It depends on all sorts of external circumstances, or sometimes even just good luck.

“The cruelty this year, of course, was that some students were originally marked down for bad performance in an exam they didn’t even sit. While this inequality has been addressed by the Welsh Government, the question remains over how well exams reflect student ability, and how fair an exam-based form of assessment really is.

“For those students sitting A-levels at the end of the 2020-21 school year, who may not have AS level exam results to fall back on, I call on the Welsh Government to give reassurance now that grades will again be based on teacher assessments, rather than students having to rely on an exam performance following such a disrupted educational journey.

“My concern is that this disconnect between teaching and assessing will only widen when the new curriculum is passed. No matter how progressive a new curriculum is, all the while Wales clings to an outdated form of exam-based assessment, the same inequalities that were so horribly exposed during the A-level fiasco will continue to hang over the heads of our learners.”

 

‘Fairness’

The call comes after almost half of Wales’ A-Level students’ grades were initially downgraded because of the system used to calculate results earlier this month.

After initially defending the process, the government backtracked and announced on Monday of last week that teachers’ assessed grades would now be used rather than those produced by the standardisation algorithm.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said at the time: “Working with Qualifications Wales and WJEC we have sought an approach which provides fairness and balances out differences in the standards applied to judgments in schools.

“Given decisions elsewhere, the balance of fairness now lies with awarding Centre Assessment grades to students, despite the strengths of the system in Wales.

“I am taking this decision now ahead of results being released this week, so that there is time for the necessary work to take place. For grades issued last week, I have decided that all awards in Wales will also be made on the basis of teacher assessment.

“For those young people, for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand.”

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