GCSE English: Regrade demand made in Wales

Several hundred pupils in Wales are expected to receive higher GCSE English grades after the education minister demanded their papers be regraded.

Leighton Andrews said a review had persuaded him they had been the victims of an "injustice".

It follows a row about students being awarded lower grades than expected last month.

His decision marks a break with England where ministers have refused to intervene.

The percentage of pupils from Wales gaining an A* to C in GCSE English language fell from 61.3% in 2011 to 57.4% this year.

The Welsh government says it expects "several hundred" candidates will now get higher grades.

England's exams regulator, Ofqual, has refused to order exam boards to regrade this summer's English GCSEs.

It acknowledged grade boundaries had changed part way through the year, but stood by the new June grading system.

UK Education Secretary Michael Gove has refused to intervene despite admitting pupils have been treated unfairly, saying it was up to Ofqual to oversee marking.

But Wales' education minister has taken a different course of action by asking the WJEC exam board to regrade papers. If it refuses his request he can order the board to act.

An investigation was commissioned by Mr Andrews after the results were published.

Announcing its findings, the Welsh government said it identifies significant problems with the methodology used to award grades.

Mr Andrews said: "After careful consideration, the report leads me to believe that the apparent injustice which has been served to hundreds of Welsh learners needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. "

Ofqual still had the option to take similar action for pupils sitting WJEC papers in England, he said.

He added: "My responsibility is to ensure fairness to the GCSE candidates in Wales."

Pupils in Wales will also be offered an opportunity to resit in November.

The WJEC said it "understands and sympathises" with the concerns expressed by candidates and teachers about the GCSE English results.

The board, which provides exams in both England and Wales, said it needs to take account of the perspectives from both Ofqual and the Welsh government.

"Given that the regulators have worked jointly on all matters to date relating to WJEC's GCSE English language awards, it is helpful that the minister's statement indicates that discussions 'will continue' with Ofqual on the results of WJEC English language candidates," said a spokesman.

"We look forward to further urgent discussions with both regulators in order to be clear about the direction we should now take."

Teaching unions warmly welcomed the Welsh government report, which says pupils on the borderline between grades C and D were at a disadvantage.

NUT Wales secretary David Evans said: "Hundreds of Welsh learners have been disadvantaged by this change and we applaud the Welsh Education Minister for taking the action which he has today."

NAHT Cymru director Anna Brychan said: "This decision allows Wales to blaze a trail to ensure fairness for pupils."

ATL Cyrmu director Philip Dixon said: "In the longer term we now need to look seriously at how we regulate our exam system in Wales."

But Conservative education spokeswoman Angela Burns AM questioned Mr Andrews' motives.

"The current education minister never ceases to amaze in his ongoing hunt for headlines," she said.

"I fear that this intervention - at odds with the situation in England - has been made purely for political reasons."

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