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08 August 2019
This is a guest blog article from Jo Richards, Executive Director of Regulation at Qualifications Wales. A similar article was published last year.
Qualifications Wales’ Regulation Director JO RICHARDS takes a closer look at some of the GCSE qualifications sat by students in Wales this year.
Whenever GCSE results are published, there’s always great interest in how pupils have performed in Maths, Welsh and English – and I’m sure this year will be no exception.
While we’ll have to wait until the results are published later in August, it is interesting to note the increase in the number of entries for each qualification.
The total number of entries for the language and literature GCSEs in English and Welsh and the two Maths GCSEs have all increased this year compared with summer 2018.
So why is this?
There are a number of factors including an increase in the population of 16-year-old students and changes to school performance measures.
How many students are taking the exams this year, and what could it mean for results when they are published in August?
Let’s first look at GCSE Maths and GCSE Maths-Numeracy. Total entries for both exams have increased this year, up by 5,005 to 34,570 for GCSE Maths and up 1,695 to 24,695 for GCSE Maths-Numeracy. The increases are due to more learners taking their qualifications at the end of Year 11, rather than taking them earlier.
However, it’s also worth remembering that some learners will have sat these qualifications early and achieved their grades last summer or in November 2018 and therefore won’t be sitting the exams this summer.
These different entry patterns are likely to impact on the final overall Wales results this summer, so care should be taken to make any meaningful year-on-year comparisons.
Our comparisons will be based on the best results achieved by students who are finishing Year 11 this summer. This means that if a student got a better grade earlier in the course or sat an earlier series and didn’t return this summer, that’s the grade we’ll use for comparison with Year 11 results from previous years. This ensures the comparison is as fair and valid as possible.
There’s a similar story for both GCSE English Language and GCSE English Literature.
The number who sat GCSE English Language this year increased by 8,800 to 36,270, while those who took GCSE English Literature rose by 5,220 to 29,055.
These increases are caused by an increase in Year 11 entries for GCSE English Language and Year 10 entries in GCSE English Literature – likely again to be in response to changes to school performance measures.
The changes are likely to impact on the overall results this summer, so to help explain how they compare with previous years we will focus on 16-year-olds, that is Year 11 learners.
GCSE Welsh Language and GCSE Welsh Literature have also seen increases, although not on the same scale. Entries for GCSE Welsh Language are up by 355 to 5,220, while GCSE Welsh Literature has seen an increase of 365 candidates to 3,695.
It’s a different story for the new GCSE Welsh Second Language. This new qualification will be awarded for the first time this summer and replaces the previous full and short course GCSE qualifications.
The new qualification has two oracy units compared to one unit worth 25% in the old qualification. These new units have a greater focus on the speaking and listening skills of students than in the old oracy unit, including their ability to respond spontaneously to conversation.
As a result of these reforms there is a substantial change in the number of entries for the full Welsh Second Language GCSE this summer compared to 2018.
This summer there are 19,670 total entries for the new GCSE Welsh Second Language qualification compared to 12,115 who sat the legacy full course GCSE Welsh Second Language in Summer 2018.
Given the change in the size and make-up of the cohort entering the qualification, coupled with changes to the assessments within the new GCSE, we would expect to see a change in the overall results this year compared to summer 2018. Schools may therefore see a greater variation in their results this summer compared to previous years.
Further details on this, and a range of other exam related subjects, can be found in the Exams 360 section of our website.
Article by Jo Richards, Executive Director, Regulation, Qualifications Wales