An open letter to Wales’ young people – 2021 Exams

9 November 2020

Dear Wales’ young people

This summer, I wrote to you all about how I felt about this year’s exam results day. I shared with you how devastated I was for you all, how Government should accept that they got it wrong, how this wasn’t a fight for you to try winning on your own. I also set out in that letter what should happen next.

Government did listen and accept that things were not right. They committed to learning lessons from the process and in the end made sure that qualifications reflected the grades your teachers had given you.

Since then, my team and I have been working hard to make sure there’s no repeat of this for those of you sitting exams during this school year. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

  • Given evidence to the independent review of exams, that Government set up to learn the lessons from this year. During that session I shared with the review team what I’d heard from thousands of you during the first national lockdown.
  • Met with some teaching unions to hear from teachers’ perspective.
  • Discussed our thoughts with Qualifications Wales – the body responsible for exams in Wales.
  • Shared our opinion with the Minister and others within Welsh Government.
  • Arranged for the Minister for Education to hear from young people directly to help inform her decision.

During all these discussions, I’ve impressed on all those involved that children’s rights should be at the heart of decisions and next steps. I’ve also shared with the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, six key things that I would expect her and others to protect:

  • wellbeing and mental health of young people should be the first consideration in making any decision;
  • we need to maximise the time young people spend learning;
  • fairness for all learners;
  • young people who are already in a position of disadvantage when it comes to taking their qualifications, for example because they’ve had to take time out self-isolating, are not further disadvantaged;
  • young people should be able to appeal their grade easily. Information to help them do this should be clear;
  • young people can participate in the decision about exams and in developing the system that’s then put in place.

This week, on Tuesday 10th November, the Minister will make an announcement about what should happen with this year’s exams. Whatever the decision, I’ll fight for these principles to be upheld, and for you and your teachers to receive information about what happens next without delay.

I want this year to be a year of learning for you, not a year of worry.

I’ll repeat again what I promised you this summer: We are listening, we’ll support you, and we’ll do all we can to defend your rights.