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A ‘major effort’ is now needed to ensure young people have all the information, advice and support they need ahead of exams, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales has said.
It comes after Education Minister Jeremy Miles confirmed that GCSE and AS/A Level exams would take place this year ‘unless the public health situation makes it impossible to physically take them’
It will be the first time formal end-of-year exams for students have been held since before the pandemic.
For the past two years, GCSE and AS/A level grades have been decided via teacher-run assessments.
This included assessments set and scored externally, but delivered in a classroom under the supervision of a teacher.
Speaking last week, Mr Miles said school exams would be shorter and cover less material ‘to reflect the reduced teaching time many pupils have experienced’.
He said: “All countries in the UK are continuing exams and to do otherwise in Wales would risk putting our learners at a disadvantage compared to learners in other parts of the UK.
“We are convinced that examinations and assessments remain the fairest way to assess learners, even in these difficult circumstances.
“We know that alternative options such as determining grades at the center actually mean less opportunity for teaching and learning in the classroom and can also introduce their own inequities.
“Adaptations to the content of the exams have been put in place to take into account the disruptions encountered over the past two years so that the assessments are as fair as possible.”
Mr Miles added: ‘I know learners may have been anxious about taking exams for the first time, but what I would say to learners, schools and parents is that this will not be exams as they were. in the summer of 2019.
“What I want to see is that anyone sitting for example at GCSEs this summer can progress to the next stage of their educational journey or whatever they choose.
“For those doing A levels this summer, I want them to have a level playing field with those taking exams in other parts of the UK, I don’t want them to be put at a disadvantage.”
However, Children’s Commissioner Professor Sally Holland called for “a major effort to ensure young people have all the information, advice and support they need over the coming months”.
She said: “Schools and colleges have worked tirelessly to try to provide a full educational experience for exam takers, but it is a huge challenge, despite the adjustments that have been made to exams this year.
“I warmly welcome the support program which has been funded by the government.
“But this support will be most beneficial if young people, and the adults who support them, have immediate information about the full range of options available for their next steps.
“Young people need to know that flexible approaches are an option for those who don’t feel ready to take a full set of exams this summer.”
“Conversations about the best options for individuals need to happen now.”
The Children’s Commissioner said: “Councils should reassure young people that no matter how they perform this summer, they will be supported by opportunities to take the next step in their education, employment and career. training.”
“There are plenty of courses young people can take without reaching their basic GCSEs, and colleges and Careers Wales can help young people find their best options for next year.”
“Young people regularly approach me with concerns about their qualifications and we all as a nation need to ensure that this cohort of young people are confident that we are ready to support them over the coming months.”