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Written Statement - GCSE English Language – Awarding Arrangements in 2013

Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

GCSE English Language was the subject of much concern in 2012 and, following the report “GCSE English Language 2012 - An investigation into the outcomes for candidates in Wales”, which I published in September last year, I issued a Direction to WJEC to re-grade the qualification for candidates in Wales.  

My officials have held discussions with WJEC and Ofqual, the qualifications regulator in England regarding awarding in 2013.  These discussions will continue.  Meanwhile, I have now agreed four new Conditions of Recognition for awarding organisations offering qualifications in Wales.  These are the rules which must be followed by awarding organisations recognised by the Welsh Government to award qualifications in Wales.

The first three of these new Conditions of recognition will ensure that awarding organisations must:

  • mark examinations and moderate controlled assessments for the January units, but must not award unit grades for the January units.  All January marks will now be considered at awarding meetings in the summer, together with marks from the summer examinations and controlled assessments;
  • set separate assessments for learners in Wales taking GCSE English Language units in June 2013, where they have more than 5000 expected entries; and
  • hold separate award meetings for those learners in Wales (as opposed to learners in any other country) and set grade boundaries which lead to comparable outcomes with 2011, where they have more than 5000 expected entries.

In addition, the fourth new Condition will require WJEC to issue one certificate per candidate in Wales.  Certificates will contain all the WJEC GCSEs awarded to each candidate and these certificates will include only the Welsh Government and WJEC logos.

The first of these new conditions ensures that the issues at the centre of the Judicial Review ruling in England on 13 February – relating to changing grade boundaries between January and June assessments - will not be repeated in 2013.  The second and third new conditions will ensure that the awarding of WJEC’s GCSE English Language qualifications in Wales will be separated from the arrangements for English Language in England.  This will ensure that an appropriate methodology for determining grade boundaries will be used in 2013 for WJEC’s candidates in Wales.  

The report “GCSE English Language 2012 - An investigation into the outcomes for candidates in Wales”, was clear that awarding decisions for candidates in Wales should be made on the basis of data relevant to Wales.  The arrangements I have agreed make that possible for awards in 2013.

The fourth new condition is about certification.  It provides for certification arrangements that are consistent with those that were required in 2012, following the re-grading of WJEC’s GCSE English Language qualification for candidates in Wales.  It also takes account of the need for separate certification from 2014 onwards, when more Wales specific GCSEs will be awarded due to the different policies in Wales and England relating to modular and linear assessment.  This course of action is also consistent with arrangements that will be required in future, once Qualifications Wales is established as the sole provider of the majority of general qualifications in Wales.

GCSE English Language is a key qualification.  I am determined that learners in Wales should have confidence that they achieve the grades that their work deserves and that other stakeholders should also have confidence that this is the case.  The arrangements I have agreed establish the framework to ensure that this happens.