Wales has cancelled all GCSE, AS level and A level exams in summer 2021 as a result of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the disruption it is causing to learning, education minister Kirsty Williams has announced.
Students grades will be based on teacher led assessments which will be externally marked but delivered within a classroom environment. The approach is to be nationwide to ensure consistency across the country, with a decision yet to be made for those studying for vocational qualifications.
Announcing the decision, Ms Williams said: "The well-being of learners and ensuring fairness across the system is central in our decision-making process.
"We remain optimistic that the public health situation will improve, but the primary reason for my decision is down to fairness; the time learners will spend in schools and colleges will vary hugely and, in this situation, it is impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place.
"We have consulted with universities across the UK and they have confirmed that they are used to accepting many different types of qualifications."
Ms Williams said it remained a "highly challenging year" but the announcement would remove pressures from learners and provide "clear time for teaching and learning".
The move to cancel exams comes following the summer fiasco where GCSE, AS and A-Level results were at first given to pupils based on their predicted grades and a ‘standardisation’ process, which took into account the school’s performance on average.
Williams was then forced to apologise when it was found that 42% of A-level grades had been downgraded by the algorithm. Results were then changed to reflect predicted grades.
The decision of Wales has increased pressure on the government’s education secretary, Gavin Williamson, to follow suit in England, which have already been delayed by several weeks. However, Mr Williamson has insisted GCSEs and A-Levels should go ahead as planned.
In response to the announcement, a Downing Street spokesperson said: "We have set out they will take place slightly later this year to give students more time to prepare.
"We fully understand that they have experienced considerable disruption and it is right that we give them and their teachers that extra time. In addition to that we are also spending £1 billion on a catch-up programme to help schools and pupils make up for the lost time."
A recent poll by YouGov found that 44% of the British public thought that exams should proceed as normal, compared with 28% who said pupils should be graded on teacher assessments.