Saturday, 25 August 2012


I do admit to being thoroughly confused with what is going  with the GCSE results this year with concerns in England AND Wales about the grades awarded particularly in GCSE English with many pupils having been graded D when they were predicted to gain a C. If the allegations that the regulatory body Ofqual has intervened with examination boards to 'raise the bar' and to make the exam tougher then that is totally unfair on those pupils and my sympathy goes out to them and I wish them every success in their appeal.

But what really confuses me here is the constitutional issue and where is the line drawn in respect of devolved administration responsibility and Westminster. Education in Wales is devolved and is the responsibility of the Minister of Education, Leighton Andrews. Education in England is a matter for the Department of Education and Skills and the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove. This then begs the question whether the English Regulatory body Ofqual has any authority over Wales and its examination body the WJEC?
Ofqual on its website describes its responsibilities as:
At Ofqual, we’re responsible for maintaining standards, improving confidence and distributing information about qualifications and examinations. We regulate general and vocational qualifications in England and vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland.

We give formal recognition to bodies and organisations that deliver qualifications and assessments. We also accredit their awards and monitor their activities (including their fees).
We’re not directly controlled by the government but report to parliament.
That would indicate that Ofqual have no responsibility for accreditating awards to the WJEC, but a report  by Westminster's Education Committee (3/7/12) on the subject of  "The administration of examinations for 15-19 year olds in England", indicates otherwise. This sentence from the report suggests that lawmakers and civil servants were fully aware that GCSE's in 2012 were to be tightened up:
There are signs, as the DfE suggested to us, that Ofqual "has begun to show a real willingness to tackle awarding bodies on the key issues of standards".[157] Since summer 2010, Ofqual has taken action to contain grade inflation at A level. This has proved effective, and it plans to do the same at GCSE from summer 2012.
 Also this recommendation from the Committee indicates that Ofqual does have strong influence if not regulatory control over the Welsh and Northern Irish Examination Board:
We recommend that Ofqual review its arrangements for ensuring comparability of standards between England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and that it continue to monitor standards in GCSE and A level examinations offered by WJEC and CCEA, as well as the English providers as part of its ongoing regulation of standards. We also believe that a debate is needed on the importance of standards comparability between the home nations, with a Ministerial conference to decide whether and what action is necessary. 
 There is no doubt in my mind that decisions made at a Westminster level do have an impact on educational standards in Wales as the GCSE English fiasco goes to prove. Pressure by Michael Gove, the Education Committee in Westminster and Ofqual  to raise the barriers in English pass rates did apply to the WJEC Examination Board despite education in Wales being devolved. The end result of this is that our Minister of Education Leighton Andrews has been undermined and the Welsh Assembly Education Committee should examine what has gone wrong here and make recommendations to the Minister.


Anonymous said...

As a well known Welsh blogger more or less keeps saying....the Assembly is basically a puppet institution.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

In this respect I would agree with you, but we shouldn't accept this situation.