One examiner's marking to be re-done in Welsh GCSE row

10:24am Wednesday 19th March 2014

By Emma Mackintosh

THE exam board at the centre of a row over GCSE English exam marks in Wales has said the work of one examiner will be re-done, but that almost all papers were marked correctly and accurately following a Welsh Government specification.

A fortnight ago the Argus reported that education minister Huw Lewis had ordered an inquiry into what had gone wrong, after head teachers said January's GCSE English language exam results were lower than expected.

Mr Lewis AM said a number of factors may have contributed to the drop in results in two particular units on the WJEC course, and Welsh Government officials would investigate them "as a matter of urgency".

The exam board itself also started an internal review into what had happened.

Welsh Government changed the criteria for the qualification in Wales two years ago and in autumn 2012 the revised GCSE English Language specification was put out by the WJEC.

January 2014 was the first time pupils sat two of the new exam units.

In a statement released this morning the WJEC said that after conducting an internal review of marking following the release of this January’s GCSE English Language unit 1 and 2 results, it concluded that the marking scheme "has been applied consistently in all but one of the cases reviewed".

The statement said: "In that one case, there are indications that the examiner's marking was slightly inconsistent, and although there are no sizeable disparities identified WJEC is undertaking a full re-mark of this examiner's work.

"The centres whose candidates' work was marked by this examiner have already been informed."

The Argus has asked the WJEC how many centres and how many candidates were affected.

The internal review also found an error in adding up the total marks on two candidate’s papers, which WJEC has since corrected and communicated to the relevant centres, they said.

"This confirms that, on the whole, WJEC examiners marked question papers correctly and accurately in line with the mark scheme, which was consistent with the one approved by the Welsh Government for the specification assessments published in November 2012 in the context of strengthening the requirements as introduced at that time," said the statement.

The board insists that it continues to cooperate with and support the Welsh Government’s fact-finding exercise, and is looking into making candidates’ papers available to their schools and colleges "at an earlier date than normally permitted within the enquiries period, given the exceptional level of concern expressed".

WJEC chief executive Gareth Pierce said: "We understand that this has been a distressing period for teachers and pupils alike.

"We hope that this review along with the Welsh Government’s fact finding exercise provides reassurance that we are collectively undertaking appropriate action to assess and remedy the situation."

Owen Hathway, policy officer for the teaching union NUT Wales said it was positive that inconsistencies in some of the marking had been identified and that the WJEC had given a commitment to address those particular concerns. 

"It is important now that the Welsh Government complete their own review into this situation as quickly as possible and publish the details so that the facts about this issue can be examined," he said. 

"Teachers and pupils remain almost in a state of limbo and I am sure that everyone involved wants to see the right course of action taken to recognise fairly the dedication of pupils sitting these exams and the quality of their work."

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