GCSEs

We know you have many questions about how these qualifications will be assessed in the absence of exams. We’ve produced two graphics explaining the process and a series of FAQs. These Q&As will provide answers to many of the questions you have, and we will add to them as the situation progresses.

What is happening with summer examinations this year?

Welsh Government announced that schools would be closed after 20 March and therefore the summer exams could not take place. Learners due to sit their GCSEs this summer will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work. Normal arrangements for reporting of Key Stage 4 performance measures will be suspended for this year.

 

How will the decision to cancel summer examinations impact me?

The priority is ensuring fairness for learners while following public health advice. Grades for GCSEs in summer 2020 will be calculated using a range of evidence, including centre assessment grades and performance in other external assessments. In determining how we proceed, the focus will be on what is in the best interests of learners both in terms of their current well-being and their progression on to education, training or employment.

Will we have to sit the exams in the autumn?

It is not our intention for learners in Wales to sit their GCSEs in the autumn. Instead they will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work. The exams that usually take place in November (GCSEs in English language, Mathematics, Mathematics-Numeracy and Welsh language) should happen as normal.

How will grades be calculated?

Grades for GCSEs in summer 2020 will be calculated using a range of evidence and a statistical standardisation model. They will be based on a combination of factors which may include marks for work completed to date (such as exam units sat in 2019) and centre assessment grades. Centre assessment grades will be based on what teachers would expect a learner to achieve at the end of the course. They need to represent a fair, reasonable and carefully considered judgement of the most likely grade that might be achieved in normal circumstances. This is a professional judgement based on the combined assessment information held for that learner and this will be holistic, rather than focusing on a single piece of evidence, like mock examinations. More information can be found here.

 

What is a statistical standardisation model?

Standardisation will calculate grades that are, overall, broadly similar to grades awarded in other years. The approach will use the best combination of evidence available in these extraordinary circumstances. There are two main steps to standardisation:

Step 1: Calculate grades for learners in each centre. WJEC will calculate a set of grades for each exam centre, such as a school

Step 2: Allocate grades to individual learners. WJEC will allocate the set of grades from step 1 to individual learners using the rank order provided by the teachers in the centre

For more information on understanding how grades will be arrived at, read our blog here.

What will happen for learners in Year 10?

Year 10 learners who were due to sit exams that would have led to a whole GCSE qualification this summer will be issued a grade following the same process as year 11 learners.

Year 10 learners who were due to sit units only – that is units that will lead to GCSE results next summer – will not receive calculated results. WJEC will provide adaptations of GCSEs for learners completing in summer 2021.

More information can be found in a letter sent to all centres, here.

Will results still be published in August?

Yes – GCSE results will be published on 20 August.

Can I challenge the grade awarded to me, and how do I do that?

Centres can appeal to WJEC on behalf of the learner, which is the same as in previous years. Learners can ask their centre to check whether they made an error when they submitted their centre assessment data. In certain circumstances, private candidates will be able to appeal directly to WJEC.

Centres will be able to appeal to WJEC on the grounds that;

  1. they used the wrong data when calculating a grade
  2. the calculated grades generated by the statistical standardisation model were incorrectly allocated or communicated
  3. there was some other procedural failing on the part of WJEC

You can find more information on appeals and our consultation into summer exam series 2020, see here.

This graphic will explain the appeals process for summer 2020 exams.

Appeal process Summer 2020

I’m a private candidate – how will I get my result?

Where centres have accepted entries from private candidates – learners who might be home-schooled, following distance-learning programmes or studying independently – , they should be included in the centre’s submission of data,  as long as  the Head of Centre is confident that they and their staff have seen sufficient evidence of the learner’s achievement to make an objective judgement. However, there may be cases where centres will not be able to make a judgement on the achievements of a private candidate.

As part of our consultation into the summer exam series 2020, we considered whether there are methods by which it may be possible to award grades to private candidates who have sat some of the qualification in earlier series.

We concluded that we should allow grades to be calculated for those private candidates who have sat some of the qualification in an earlier series, but for whom their entering centre is not willing, or confident enough, to enter a centre assessment grade and rank order this summer. A similar method to that used when learners are unable to sit all exams due to illness or other exceptional reasons will be used. This method will only apply to private candidates who;

  1. are clearly identifiable as a private candidate
  2. have no centre assessment data submitted for them
  3. have an approved entry for the relevant qualifications made on or before 21 February 2020
  4. have completed relevant sections of the qualification

You can find more information on private candidates and our consultation into summer exam series 2020, see here.

How will my centre inform the awarding body of our centre assessment grades and rank order?

Awarding bodies have issued guidance to centres on how to enter their Centre Assessment Grades and Rank Order. Systems went live on Monday 1st June, and can be accessed through awarding bodies secure websites.

 

Will the loss of current teaching time be taken into account for learners working towards GCSEs in summer 2021?

WJEC have made appropriate adaptations to GCSEs due to be awarded in summer 2021. This has not been a simple process since no single adaptation suits all qualifications, and therefore, each qualification has had to be considered on an individual basis. Generally, the adaptations either support compliance with potential social distancing requirements or streamline assessment to allow more flexibility. The aim of introducing these adaptations is to ease the assessment arrangements for learners and centres, whilst retaining reliable, valid and credible qualifications.

What’s the latest information for learners taking GCSEs in 2021?

When we shared plans for next year’s exams back in March, the full impact of Covid-19 was still unknown. We had hoped that there would be no need for the small number of unitised GCSEs, where learners had been entered for units in year 10 to be taken in year 11. We thought that the GCSE result would be projected from their year 11 units.

This approach was based on an assumption at the time that schools would reopen sooner than the situation has allowed, and therefore assessments in summer 2021 would proceed as normal.

Now, as we consider adaptations to reduce assessment requirements for summer 2021, with a better understanding of the impact on teaching and learning so far, it is clear that this approach cannot be sustained for qualifications whilst simultaneously reducing the assessment requirements. We find there are some qualifications where this approach cannot be sustained.

We have therefore concluded all units should be considered for adaptations for summer 2021, including those that are taken by some in Year 10. In this way, we believe that adaptations can be made whilst also maintaining the integrity and validity of the qualifications. Without allowing this, it is likely that no changes could be made to the assessment requirements for units normally taken in year 11.

WJEC is currently considering feedback that they received in their recent consultation on proposed adaptations for GCSEs and will confirm details of final adaptations from next Monday.

This was not an easy decision to take, and we understand that teachers and learners may be disappointed. However, having considered this carefully we have concluded that this is the fairest way to ensure all learners are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged next summer.