Welsh parents ‘dismayed’ at Welsh Government exams announcement, Welsh Secretary says

Simon Hart (left) by Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0).

The Welsh Secretary Simon Hart has said that parents in Wales have felt “some dismay” and been left “confused” by the Welsh Government’s decision to cancel exams in 2021.

He also said that he was “surprised” with the decision and that communication with the Welsh Government had been “a bit one-sided”.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced yesterday that there will be no end of year exams for learners taking GCSEs, AS levels or A levels in Wales.

Simon Hart, however, suggested on LBC that the Welsh Government should have followed England and waited to see if the Covid-19 situation improved.

“[It] does seem odd when the question, quite rightly, sort of revolves around fairness across the whole of the UK, not just fairness in individual nations,” he said.

“And I think we were surprised that this early in the process that that decision was taken. Just on the same day pretty well as the first glimmers of hope around a vaccine became public.

“And the reaction from parents in Wales has been one of some dismay, confused not quite certain about quite what the science is behind it. Just wanting to know that there is an evidential base.

“And I think these things are always much easier to explain if you can rely on some really clear evidence which will demonstrate that kids won’t be disadvantaged as a result of this policy decision by Welsh Gov. And particularly kids that might be more challenged than others. That would be a significant own goal.

“So I think, to answer the question about what UK Government should do – stick to its guns on this. The policy is quite clear. Try to build in some additional delays into the system next year so that those really important objectives, the tests, can be met.”

 

‘Early sight’

Asked by LBC host Iain Dale if the UK Government were consulted by the Welsh Government before the announcement, he said: “No, not on this occasion, I’m afraid – but they’re not obliged to, to be fair”.

Iain Dale later asked him whether as Welsh Secretary of State he should have been tipped off about it.

“You’ve pushed me into an area which I’m trying to avoid, because over the last month there has been an almost weekly debate about ‘has UK Government engaged Welsh Government sufficiently,’ and we are constantly being accused of not having done that even though I stopped counting after 150 meetings with the Welsh Gov about Covid response and economic response issues.

“I think we had four in the one weekend before last, so I think the cooperation and collaboration has actually been pretty extensive on this and a range of other issues.

“However the opposite should be the case, the opposite should be the case, and I do think it is a bit one-sided – I do think we do cooperate.

“But on these kinds of announcements which have cross-border implications and UK-wide implications, I think some early sight of that would have helped us and helped them.”

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