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Written Statement - Future arrangements for AS and A levels in Wales  

Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

On 15 April, I informed Assembly Members that, for those students who started their A level courses in September 2012, January assessment opportunities should remain available to them in January 2014. The Welsh Government has been working to ensure that WJEC offers these opportunities to learners in Wales. 

Today, I am also announcing that:

  • AS and A levels will continue in Wales as coupled qualifications; that is, with the AS contributing towards the full A level;  
  • learners in Wales will have one opportunity to resit each individual AS and A2 module - which will be available each summer with the best mark counting towards the final award; and  
  • after January 2014, there will be no further January assessment opportunities for GCE AS and A levels.

The removal of January assessments will reduce the amount of time spent on assessment rather than learning; will make the system simpler and more cost effective; and will reduce the examination burden for teachers and learners.  The retention of the AS/A2 structure in Wales will align with the views of stakeholders in Wales and beyond on the merits of the current system, and will continue to provide valuable information to Higher Education Institutions on the progress being made by potential applicants.

Whilst the removal of the January assessment window will significantly reduce the opportunities for learners to resit modules, limiting re-sits to one per module, as is currently the case for GCSEs, will also be consistent with the recommendations of the Review of Qualifications – as are all these announcements.

Over the next few months, my officials will be working with WJEC and other stakeholders - including employers and a range of Higher Education Institutions, to take forward these proposals. Members may also be aware that these proposals mirror those put forward in Northern Ireland and I have asked my officials to explore the extent to which the Welsh Government might be able to agree on some of the detail relating to the revised AS and A levels with colleagues in Northern Ireland.  

The Review of Qualifications found that GCSEs, AS and A levels are trusted and valued qualifications. With suitable and appropriately timed reform, we can ensure that these qualifications are even better and of a standard which is comparable with the rest of the UK and beyond. In Wales, our support for GCSEs, AS and A levels has not wavered and we remain committed to retaining them.