GCSE English – Why it is not just today’s problem

19 Mar

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do” – Henry Ford

Last year I wrote an article for the Western Mail arguing that developing Welsh qualifications was only half the battle, with the real test being how exactly we sell the merits of them both inside and outside Wales.  At the time I said it was ‘crucial that the quality of those qualifications is promoted and explained within Wales, the UK and beyond.’ 

Given the importance of ensuring confidence in our qualifications the on-going debacle surrounding this January’s GCSE English exam is increasingly worrying.

The rights and wrongs of the individual issue will no doubt come out in due course.  Today the WJEC seemed to have batted the matter back to the Welsh Government with their statement that essentially says they were just following orders.  We await the Welsh Government’s own internal review.  Clearly there are still questions to be asked, specifically around what was agreed between the Welsh Government and the WJEC regarding the marking scheme; how that was translated to schools and why there has been such an unexpected impact given previous assurances this would not happen.

However, regardless of what comes out of the Welsh Government’s review, and how we ensure such a situation doesn’t happen again, there is a perception problem that will have damaged the work being done to sell Welsh qualifications.  Teachers who have been supportive of the positive way the independent qualifications review panel went about their work have been left shocked and upset by these results.  The profession in Wales, that by and large supported the direction of travel of the qualifications divergence with England, are worried that confidence is being lost in the system.  If we have teachers in Wales losing faith in our own ability to deliver Welsh specific qualifications it is extremely hard to project a view of rigour to universities and employers both inside and outside Wales.

Aside from addressing the immediate travesty for those individuals who have been caught up in this current problem we must also ensure that there cannot be a repeat in future.  This newest GCSE English fiasco has to be the last, and it must sharpen minds as to the need to make sure Welsh qualifications are seen as sector leading.  The communication of that objective is not beyond achievable but it has no doubt been made that little bit harder due to the events of the past few weeks.

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