Year 12 in Wales and the cancelled 2020 AS examinations – Some thoughts from Alps

3rd April 2020

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On 27 March, Qualification Wales and the WJEC clarified what is happening at AS in 2020. Further clarification was provided in a blog on 23 April by Philip Blaker, Chief Executive, Qualifications Wales.


What do we know now?

1. There will be no AS exams in 2020

2. There will be no AS exams until Summer 2021

3. All students entered for AS in 2020 will be awarded a calculated grade

4. Schools and colleges have been asked to provide the teacher-assessed judgement grade they think that their learners were most likely to have achieved had they sat the exams as normal, and to provide a rank order position for each learner within each grade.

5. When issuing guidance relating to GCSE and A Level, Qualification Wales stated ‘that teacher assessed grades must be based on the overall qualification grade each learner is likely to achieve at the end of their course of study, based on their performance on a range of classroom and external assessments and on their overall commitment to their studies and ability in the subject’

6. The 2020 AS ‘calculated’ grades will then ‘be based on a range of evidence, including teacher assessed grades’

7. The 2020 AS ‘awarded’ grades will ‘not contribute to A level results in 2021’

8. In his blog on 23 April, Philip Blaker said ‘because this summer’s exams have been cancelled unit-level mark data won’t be available’

9. Philip Blaker argued that ‘it would not have been reasonable to ask centres to provide actual marks for learners this summer’

10. It is worth noting though that, as centres have to provide a rank order within each teacher-assessed grade, assessing ‘marks’ is not a million miles away from deciding which student is the top (for example) B grade candidate and which candidate is lowest on that same grade’s rank order

11. However, as AS UMS will not be available for A Level candidates in 2021, Philip Blaker stated that ‘we had to consider other ways of awarding the A level in summer 2021’

12. In summer 2021, AS learners will be given two options for their A level qualifications, either to:

  • Sit their A2 units only, and their grade will be awarded based solely on their performance in those units (which will be used to calculate marks for their AS units)
  • Sit both AS and A2 units, if they wish to do so

13. If students opt for option a. in 2021, ‘statistical approaches that relate A2 unit performance to AS unit performance will be used to calculate the marks that would most likely have been achieved in the AS units’

14. If students decide to take option b. in 2021, ‘then the best result from either option will be awarded’


What issues arise from this for schools and colleges and their Y12 students?

1. Is it possible to withdraw students from AS qualifications as the awarded grades will not contribute to their A Level result in 2021? The GCE Amendment date in 2021 was 18 March, and the amendment window was 19 working days. Their guidance in General and Vocational Qualification Fees 2019/20 states that ‘If centres withdraw a candidate, subject or unit after the amendment date, in most cases the entry fee will not be refunded’. In England, where the AS is now a ‘standalone’ qualification that does not contribute to A Level results, most schools and colleges do not enter many candidates, if any, for AS exams

2. It seems more than likely that the 2021 A Level and Vocational cohort will not return to normal schooling anytime soon. They might miss as much as the whole of the Summer Term 2020. However well-organised your remote learning is, it is difficult to imagine that these students will have been taught, learned and accomplished all they would have done in more normal times. This poses challenges for your teachers 2020-21 schemes of work and raises the question whether all accountability measures need to be suspended in 2021 too. Obviously, this also applies to current Y10 and KS4

3. Many students may have studied 4 AS subjects, and be working towards the Skills Challenge Certificate too, in Year 12 during 2019-20. It seems likely, based on recent years’ entry patterns across Wales, that most students will only take 3 subjects and the Skills Challenge Certificate in Year 13 in 2020-2021. Without AS exams and without marks from AS carrying forwards towards A Level, decisions about which subjects to take forwards look much more complex

4. Retention from Y12 to Y13 has been a thorny issue in recent years, largely generated by students dropping out of L3 study after performing very poorly in AS. The latest figures were released by Welsh Government in February 2020. These are tabulated below

5. They show that 93% of learners enrolled completed their AS levels in Y12 but that only 75% returned in Y13 to continue study post-AS. To keep things simple, there were roughly 25% fewer students in Y13 nationally in September 2019 than had been in Y12 nationally a year previously


Graphic shows that 93& of learners entrolled completed their AS levels in Y12 but that only 75% returned in Y13 to continue study post-AS.

*Consistent performance measures for post-16 learning: Achievement, August 2018 to July 2019. Access the full report here.


6. This raises several problems:

  • Will teachers award Grade U when assessing their AS Judgement Grades?
  • Will the WJEC award comparable percentages of each AS grade in 2020 as were awarded in 2017-19? Will students who were not allowed to take AS exams be awarded a Calculated Grade U?
  • Will schools and colleges allow all current Y12 L3 students to return to Y13 in September 2021?
    • Not allowing students to continue based on teacher assessed / exam board calculated Grades seems unjust.
    • Allowing students to continue taking L3 subjects they appear most likely to fail in 2021 after another year of study is also problematic


Advice from Alps – Teacher-assessed judgement grades

1. When teachers are assessing AS grades give them clear guidance about the range of assessments in your school or college that they must consider

2. If practical and possible, set up remote departmental/faculty moderation

3. If you have Connect Interactive, use the Monitoring Accuracy tools to see how accurately subjects and teachers predicted final AS grades in 2019, when they were most accurate and to what extent individual student AS ‘predictions’ have varied during 2019-20

4. If you have Connect Interactive, upload an AS judgement Gradepoint so that you are able to analyse value-added progress by school/college, by subject, by student group and student before submitting these grades to the WJEC. Check whether they seem right based on past patterns of performance

5. As a rank order within each grade (for example C) in each subject is required, export the subject page to excel with the students ranked from high to low by your teacher-assessed Judgement Grades

6. Add a Rank Order column and rank the students within each judgement grade from most certain (1) downwards

7. Crucially, when you receive the Calculated final awarded grades you will then be easily able to assess the impact of the external moderation processes overall, by subject etc in Connect Interactive

8. Alps value-added analysis will demonstrate grade discrepancies, accuracy evidence and trends through time and will be useful evidence if you need to appeal against finally awarded grades


Read our guide on how to use connect interactive to assist with grading

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