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Written Statement - Statement regarding the final report of the Review of the Structure of the General Qualifications Market in Wales

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The review panel found no clear evidence to indicate that the current market structure has had an adverse effect on standards but made four recommendations.
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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

In December 2011 I appointed an external review panel to consider the structure of the general qualifications market in Wales. This followed, in part, allegations made in the Daily Telegraph regarding awarding organisation seminars. The review ran from February to May 2012, and today I am publishing the review panel’s recommendations.
The panel’s terms of reference were to deliver:
  • an assessment of the impact of the current market structure of awarding organisations on standards in GCSEs and A Levels;
  • an assessment of the efficacy of the current market structure;
  • the identification of options for change and recommendations.

The report highlights both the complexity of this area and the contrasting views of stakeholders in relation to key issues.

After careful consideration the review panel found no clear evidence to indicate that the current market structure has had an adverse effect on standards and highlighted that, whilst stakeholders expressed a range of views, there was no clear consensus on the efficacy of the current system. The panel does not consider the current system to be critically flawed.

Given the high dependency on WJEC as the provider of a significant proportion of general qualifications in Wales, the Review panel focussed heavily on its activities. In terms of standards, the panel members have been reassured that the standards of qualifications awarded by WJEC are in line with those of other awarding organisations. However, the panel questioned whether its governance arrangements should more closely reflect the constitution of its stakeholders in supporting its role as a key deliverer of modern qualifications in Wales.

To improve the system moving forward, the Report makes four recommendations:

  1. At this moment in time there is insufficient evidence to move away from a multiple awarding organisation market, given the potential destabilisation this would entail. However, the panel recommends that if any Wales-only qualifications emerge from the Review of Qualifications, these may be well served by a single awarding organisation structure. 
  2. That, in the longer term, based on an examination of the legal and technical issues in this area, the Scottish qualifications system (based on the work of the SQA) be considered as a possible model for Wales.
  3. That WJEC, as the main provider of general qualifications in Wales, reviews its mission, structure and governance arrangements giving consideration to establishing a separate and clear focus on its core awarding function and incorporating a wider stakeholder group in line with a social enterprise model.
  4. That awarding organisations review their conflict of interest policies and develop guidance regarding the updating and professional development of teachers and examiners.

I am aware that the House of Commons Select Committee looking into the administration of examinations for 15-19 year olds in England has recently reported its findings. It does not recommend a move to a single awarding organisation structure for qualifications in England but has made other recommendations in this area. The Report has not yet received a formal response from the Westminster Government.

The panel’s recommendations for Wales do not lead me to believe that any immediate changes to the market structure for general qualifications in Wales are needed. The report and recommendations of this review will feed into the Review of Qualifications which is being chaired by Huw Evans OBE.  That Review will report to Ministers in November this year and we will formally respond to both reports at the same time in January 2013. However, recent statements by the Secretary of State for Education have suggested significant changes may take place in due course in the awarding structure for qualifications in England which would have major implications for the WJEC’s operation in England. The board of the WJEC will need to give urgent consideration to these issues. I will be meeting the Chief Executive of WJEC to discuss in more detail the findings and recommendations that relate to WJEC. I will also be discussing them with the WLGA.