In November 2021, Qualifications Wales produced guidance to help schools, colleges, and other exam centres to prepare in case Welsh Government decided later in the academic year to cancel the summer 2022 exam series. Here, Trish D'Souza and Cai O'Kane sum up what you need to know.
If exams are cancelled, centres will be asked to award centre determined grades to learners. Whilst this approach is similar to last year, there are some important changes. Qualifications Wales outline in their guidance that “summer 2022 centre determined grades will be awarded on the basis of demonstrated attainment in areas of the qualification content that a learner has covered”. It is important that providers note that centre determined grades are not targeted or predicted grades in that they are not awarded on the basis of potential attainment. Similarly, assessment evidence collected by centres must cover all assessment objectives.
The Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC) will release Qualification Assessment Frameworks and Assessment Creation Guidance for each qualification should the contingency be triggered. One of the key aspects of centre determined grades is that learners are informed in advance of any potential evidence that may be used in the event of exam cancellations. This process creates the need for the implementation of high-level assessment plans for each subject and ensuring that such plans are adhered to.
Whilst the importance of keeping learners informed is a key element of the contingency plan, the importance of maintaining the integrity of exams and determined grades remains at the forefront of assessments. As such, learners should not be provided with specific details of the assessment questions; much like they would not be provided with specific questions prior to traditional exams.
Evidence for grades must include written and practical work, as appropriate to the specific qualification, completed by the learner during the course of their studies. Reasonable adjustments, as they would be in any other situation, must continue to be considered by assessment centres.
It is crucial, though, that the gathering of such evidence does not get in the way of the learner’s preparation for the summer 2022 exams. As such, Qualifications Wales has stated that “a few pieces of substantial, high-quality, authentic evidence will be sufficient to demonstrate attainment.” As of yet, no specific examples have been provided.
As ever, efficient record keeping is pivotal to documenting grading decisions; centres will need to determine what to record and how to store the information. Special considerations may be applied to learners affected by an event, such as significant illness or family bereavement, at the time of the assessment which could be Covid-related.
Nowadays, efficient record keeping must always be in accordance with data protection regulations. Ensuring all data protection policies and privacy notices are up-to-date can often be a complex and time consuming task. Our team of data experts are always on hand to answer any queries that you may have.
The internal quality assurances processes, that ensure consistency of centre determined grades across the centre, will remain the same as summer 2021. Centres are, however, invited to review and update their internal processes as they see fit. This will give centres the opportunity to address any issues/hiccups they faced during last year’s exams.
In any event, should the summer 2022 sittings be cancelled, WJEC will implement a programme of external centre quality assurance processes. It is important that centres record and maintain records of all relevant assessment evidence used.
All centres, in adherence to the Public Sector Equality Duty, will be required to communicate transparently with learners and take into consideration the needs of those who share protected characteristics. Centres are also encouraged to engage with the training on unconscious bias produced by WJEC and Diverse Cymru given that the assessment process last year was widely reported to have exacerbated pre-existing inequalities for example in terms of the grades awarded to BAME candidates.
All processes will also need to be implemented in line with an assessment centre’s duty to promote equality and avoid discrimination under the Equality Act. We can guide you in this process.
Qualification Wales’ full guidance document can be found here. Should the decision be taken by Welsh Government to cancel summer 2022 examinations, further guidance will be released closer to the time. But it is incumbent upon centres to have contingency plans in place as early as possible.
Are you an assessment provider who is concerned about the implementation of contingency assessment arrangements, have data protection concerns or want to know more about the Public Sector Equality Duty? If so, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our dedicated Education team.