Wales politics

O-levels: No return in Wales, says Leighton Andrews

Education Minister Leighton Andrews says Wales will not return to O-levels after reports that changes are being planned in England.

UK government Education Secretary Michael Gove may scrap GCSEs and returning to O-level style exams.

"I think it's a bonkers way of proceeding," Mr Andrews told BBC Wales. "GCSEs are a very good qualification and well respected".

A Welsh government review of the qualification system is under way.

Sources have told the BBC that Mr Gove believes GCSEs "have gone beyond the point of rescue".

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 live , Mr Andrews added: "We certainly won't be bringing back O-levels.

"What we want is a qualification system that is easily understood by parents, students and people in business.

"I really think the right way to do these things is to review them rigorously and not to make announcements in order to capture newspaper headlines."

The changes being considered by Mr Gove, which could be brought in for pupils from autumn 2014, would amount to the biggest change to the exams system for a generation.

'More straightforward'

Less academic pupils would sit a different "more straightforward" exam, like the old CSE.

The details are in a leaked document seen by the Daily Mail which sources say are broadly correct.

Mr Andrews said making announcements through newspapers was a "bonkers way of proceeding".

He said Mr Gove did not have the power to make decisions about qualifications in Wales, adding that the Welsh government owns the GCSE brand.

"We will make our own decisions in our own time on the basis of evidence supplied to us," Mr Andrews said.

Plaid Cymru education spokesman Simon Thomas said he welcomed Mr Gove's "move towards a single exam board for core subjects" which Plaid had already advocated for Wales.

"I am very concerned about the consequences of the creeping marketisation of the education of our young people and I'm glad that the UK government has shown that it is too," said Mr Thomas.

He said it was key for the Welsh government to "take clear and decisive action to reform the education system, to make it fit for purpose rather than fit for the market.

"In order to provide qualifications that measure pupils' abilities, we need to measure educational attainment. In particular we need a system that ensures that qualifications are only awarded to students with appropriate levels of literacy and numeracy."

A review commissioned by the Welsh government is asking whether major changes should be made to the qualifications system for teenagers.

It is consulting on whether completely new qualifications for 14-16-year-olds should replace GCSEs or whether Wales should follow what happens in England.

It is also looking at a significant cut to the number of qualifications on offer. At the moment, about 6,500 are taught in schools and colleges out of a potential 11,400.

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