Plaid Cymru calls for clarity and brevity on exams decision to avoid “double disadvantage” that exams could bring some learners

Plaid Cymru has called for a decision to be taken quickly about summer 2021 exams, to remove anxiety that a lack of clarity will bring.  

Siân Gwenllian MS, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Education says that learners “desperately need clarity” over whether they will be expected to sit exams during the current school year. The longer this decision making process is drawn out, the less time schools will have to put in place what Ms Gwenllian calls a “perfectly reasonable alternative” to exams, given the extraordinary circumstances of the global pandemic.  

Ms Gwenllian says the Education Minister needs to “make up for lost time” in waiting for the results of two reviews before starting a consultation with the education sector. Ms Gwenllian asks why a consultation couldn’t have been started in September or immediately after the “2020 summer exam fiasco.”

An announcement from the Education Minister is expected to be made later today (Tuesday 10 November) following the publication of two different sets of recommendations – one independent review chaired by Louise Casella which calls for exams to be replaced by centre assessments, and one review from Qualifications Wales which recommends retaining “external assessments” for GCSEs, AS and A levels next summer.

Ms Gwenllian has also expressed concerns that children in disadvantaged areas – who we know from the summer exam fiasco are less likely to perform well in exam conditions – are more likely to have missed school through higher infection rates. She points out “it makes a ‘one size fits all’ exam even less fair.

Plaid Cymru has been calling for summer 2021 exams to be scrapped since August 2020.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister Siân Gwenllian MS said,

“The Welsh Government needs to make a quick decision on summer 2021 exams. The longer this is dragged out, the more uncertainty it brings to our learners, most of whom have already had a disrupted educational year, and many of whom are still experiencing the anxiety that comes from living through a global pandemic.

“The Education Minister will rightly need to consult with the sector on any decision. I worry that the impact of not starting this consultation in September – or even immediately after the 2020 summer exam fiasco – will further drag out the inevitable. Clinging on the hope of being able to hold external assessments makes no sense when we have a perfectly acceptable alternative – moderated assessments undertaken by the learner’s education setting, as recommended by the independent review.

“The disruption to the current school year looks likely to continue into 2021. We know that children in high prevalence areas are more likely to have missed school due to self-isolation, school closures, or being ill themselves. We know that coronavirus rates tend to be higher in disadvantaged areas. We also know from the summer exam fiasco that children from disadvantaged areas are less likely to perform well in exam conditions. If Welsh Government insists on pressing ahead with ‘one size fits all’ exams in summer 2021, we run the risk of doubly penalising children from disadvantaged areas.”