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Welsh Government criticised over exam data

16 Mar 2024 3 minute read
Exam hall

Twm Owen, local democracy reporter

Welsh Government data which is intended to show how schools performed in GCSE exams has been criticised as “too complex”.

Members of Torfaen Borough Council’s education scrutiny committee said the public would fail to understand the scoring system used for schools based on GCSE grades and other qualifications achieved by 15 and 16-year-olds in year 11.

Committee chair Councillor Rose Seabourne complained: “If elected members don’t understand it how can they expect the public to understand it?”

Last month councillors in Monmouthshire said the information presented to them on how schools had scored was “too complex and technical”.

But Ed Price, of the Gwent Education Achievement Service that works with the county’s five councils and their schools, said the points system is intended to move away from judging schools based on how many A* to C grades are achieved.


He said: “The old system had been hijacked in a way, particularly by the press, about what the C grade and above was, that was paramount.”

Pupils still receive GCSE grades marked from U (which is unclassified) to A* but their schools are judged on points awarded for every GCSE grade achieved in a pupil’s nine best subjects. Vocational qualifications can also count towards the score.

Known as the Capped Nine, grades must include those in English, mathematics and science, and Welsh for Welsh medium schools, and there is a difference of six points between each GCSE grade, so an A is worth 12 more points than a C.

School scores are then judged against those of others in their “family of schools” grouped together across Wales on factors such as the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals and who live in the most deprived areas.


Mr Price said it was an attempt to judge schools “in the fairest way possible” but acknowledged that is complex.

“A league table of schools ranked in order would be the simplest way but we do not want to go there as it’s not fair to our schools or learners.”

He added: “It’s not like America where you graduate from high school and get a points score yourself. Learners still get A/B/C.

“This is about looking at schools holistically. A learner doesn’t know how many points they’ve got, why would they? They would know about grades.”

Andrew Powles, the council’s director of education, said he believed the way the council has presented the scores is less complex than how it has been published by the Welsh Government.

He also said the results at the end of year 11 the scores represent is just one “important” aspect of school performance but had to be “put in the context of everyday teaching and learning”.

Cohort specific

In response to Cllr Janet Jones, who asked why there was a negative 10 per cent difference in the number of pupils at Pontypool’s Ysgol Gymraeg Gwynllyw, achieving five or more passes at A* or A, against the average for its family of schools, Mr Powles said the figures are “so cohort specific”.

He added schools and education officials discuss results at an individual level and said schools know their pupils and the issues they may have been facing leading up to exams

He said: “I don’t really want to go into any more detail than that.”

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