WJEC exam body to re-mark some GCSE English papers after review

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Media captionHead teachers from more than 100 schools have raised concerns with the education minister, Huw Lewis

Welsh exams board WJEC is to re-mark some of the new GCSE English papers taken in January after carrying out a review into "unexpectedly low grades".

The grades, which were issued earlier this month, left heads at secondary schools across Wales shocked.

But the WJEC found the marking scheme was applied consistently in all but one of the cases reviewed.

The six centres whose candidates' work was marked by that examiner have been told and 318 papers will be re-marked.

The internal review also found the results of papers from two pupils had been added up incorrectly.


Gareth Pierce, the WJEC's chief executive, said: "We understand that this has been a distressing period for teachers and pupils alike.

"We hope that this review along with the Welsh government's fact-finding exercise provides reassurance that we are collectively undertaking appropriate action to assess and remedy the situation.

"WJEC remains firmly committed to supporting high standards of education to learners in Wales, delivering qualifications which are rigorous, fair and valued."

The unit, or module, was part of the first Wales-only GCSE examinations, ordered after a split between England, Northern Ireland and Wales in 2012.

About 22,500 pupils sat the exam but there was shock and anger on 6 March at unexpected poor grades awarded to students who sat the new exam in January.

Head teachers wrote to Education Minister Huw Lewis saying the test results have eroded confidence in the examinations system.

Following the outcry at the grades awarded, exam officials stressed that tougher requirements on accuracy in the new exam and a much higher number of students taking the papers could explain lower grades.

But BBC Wales learnt that schools were assured 16 months ago by the Welsh government that pupils would not be disadvantaged by new English language GCSEs.

'Positive' findings

As well as the internal review into marking, the exam board said schools and exam centres could still challenge individual results using the traditional appeal route.

The WJEC's review found the marking scheme was applied consistently in all but one of the cases reviewed.

It said there were indications that the examiner's marking was slightly inconsistent and, although there were no sizeable disparities, a full re-mark of the examiner's work would take place.

The centres whose candidates' work was marked by this examiner have already been informed.

The review also identified an error in adding up the total marks on two candidates' papers, which WJEC has since corrected and communicated to the relevant centres.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said the findings of the review were "positive".

WJEC officials previously said they would be making more support available to schools preparing for the next round of exams in June.

Measures include:

  • Post-exam review meetings at the end of March and in April, with heads of all English departments invited to a session
  • Extra specimen assessment material to be made available, with marking schemes
  • Additional feedback on two questions that students found most difficult in the January exam unit

The Welsh government is carrying out its own review into the January exams and will announce its findings at a later date.

Owen Hathway, NUT Wales Policy Officer said: "It is important now that the Welsh government complete their own review into this situation as quickly as possible and publish the details so that the facts about this issue can be examined.

"Teachers and pupils remain almost in a state of limbo and I am sure that everyone involved wants to see the right course of action taken to recognise fairly the dedication of pupils sitting these exams and the quality of their work."

The Welsh government said it would consider the information provided by the WJEC.

A spokesperson added: "In broad terms WJEC consider that their examiners marked question papers correctly and accurately.

"However this is just one part of the picture and there are other, wider issues that we still need to investigate.

"We are doing this through the Rapid Fact Finding Exercise that we are conducting. The review is now well underway and will be rigorous in its approach. It will identify factors underlying the results and put in place appropriate actions to support schools as they prepare learners for the June assessments."

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