Commissioner’s open letter to young people

16 August 2020

Dear Wales’ young people

Last Thursday was never going to be like other exam results day; the pandemic made sure of that. Yet, we had hoped it would be a day of celebration and excitement for many of you. But that was not the case. I’ve heard from many about your frustrations, your anger, your disappointment. And there are many more that haven’t been able to share those feelings publicly. I am truly devastated for you all.

I want to you to know that I’ve heard your calls that something must change. I agree with you.

For many months, I’ve been discussing the implications of the pandemic on exam results with government and Qualifications Wales. I was reassured that the Government had the right aim: to make sure you didn’t lose out on your qualifications and to put in as fair a system as possible. Despite this, I was concerned that there would be individual anomalies and asked for a robust, fair and accessible appeals process to be put in place. Now that the results are out, I have heard from young people and schools that the sense of injustice is very widespread.

As a mother, an academic and as your Commissioner, I know how powerful education can be. I also know that we often tell you that we must learn from our mistakes. Now is the time for the Government to accept that things are not right.

I’ll be honest and say that I’m worried that introducing a quick fix has the potential to lead to more unfairness. For that reason, here’s what I’ll be doing:

  • Listening to Wales’s youth parliament, head teachers and others about their concerns and to find the best way forward for everyone
  • Asking for more data from Qualifications Wales and WJEC to find out how some candidates have been down-graded so drastically from their teachers’ assessments
  • Working with the other UK commissioners to ask UK universities to honour conditional offers
  • Supporting the Senedd’s education committee to hold the Government to account on its actions
  • Making sure that any changes to the system leaves no-one behind
  • Asking the Government how they will make sure there is no repeat of last Thursday for our GCSE students

This isn’t a fight for you to try winning on your own. We are listening, we’ll support you, and we’ll do all we can to defend your rights.

Sally Holland

Children’s Commissioner for Wales