Directors of Education and Managing Directors of Consortia have been working closely to support Welsh Government's reform journey. This includes several changes that will result in schools taking a much more central role in the planning and delivery of national education policy; the curriculum reforms heralded in Professor Donaldson's report Successful Futures will be implemented over the next four years which see not just changes to what is taught in schools but in how it is taught. It is also likely that there may be further revisions to the National Model for School Improvement which will take account of potential changes to the accountability and assessment frameworks.

Schools and learners are already beginning to experience and manage a series of changes this year. In Summer 2017, pupils will sit an English Language and, in Welsh medium schools, a Welsh Language GCSE, along with maths and numeracy GCSEs with a pupils best maths or numeracy grade counting towards the Level 2 inclusive indicator (5 A*-C including language and maths / numeracy). Previously both English literature and Welsh literature GCSEs counted towards the English element of this indicator and only one mathematics GCSE. The new GCSE mathematics and GCSE mathematics-numeracy qualifications are significantly different to the previous GCSE mathematics qualifications – and indeed to each other – with each assessing different content and skills. These new qualifications are designed to assess students' problem solving ability in addition to their subject knowledge.

As this is the first year these examinations are being used, the Welsh Joint Education Council (WJEC), the body that sets the examinations wrote to all schools in November 2016 to highlight some of the outcomes they expect to see which may include increased variability for schools and colleges in their results "as they adapt differently to the demands of the new qualifications". Whilst it is likely that the national results may remain largely stable this may not be replicated at school or local authority level. Additionally the WJEC expects that the overall proportion of students attaining grade C or above in both GCSE Mathematics qualifications will be lower than the percentage of candidates awarded a grade C or above in each of these qualifications individually.

Local Authorities are already talking to sixth forms and FEI in their areas to ensure that there is a consistent approach this year given the potential for variability which may mean that some pupils who may have achieved the requisite grades for course entry in previous years do not quite achieve that this year. Given the significant changes that are happening there is some potential for this to happen and we, in common with sixth forms and FEIs, are keen to see no pupil disadvantaged unfairly.

The other important implication of these changes is that because these are new examinations looking at differing skill sets and knowledge base than the previous examinations, this year’s results cannot be meaningfully compared to last year’s results. In effect, this year’s results will become our new baseline for comparison purposes and trend data won’t be available meaningfully until 2019. LAs and the regional consortia already work with schools to track individual pupil performance over time which will mean school leaders and LAs will still be well positioned to gauge where schools are progressing well or where they may require additional support.

All of our schools and our learners are working very hard to get the best possible outcomes in the upcoming examinations and we are looking forward to celebrating their successes.

Aled Evans
Director of Education, Leisure and Lifelong Learning,
Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council

Cyfarwyddwr Addysg, Hamdden a Dysgu Gydol Oes,
Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Castell-nedd Port Talbot
01639 763298
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