Gove attacks Welsh schools chief over exam fiasco move

A political spat has broken out after the Education Secretary accused his Welsh counterpart of being irresponsible in ordering a re-grading of GCSE English results in Wales.

Michael Gove launched a scathing attack on Welsh education Minister Leighton Andrews, accusing him of damaging children’s education and attempting to shift the blame.

Mr Andrews, a Labour politician, hit back, arguing that Mr Gove has “undermined parental confidence in GCSEs”.

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It has been estimated that thousands of teenagers received lower-than-expected English results this year after the grade boundaries were moved between January and June. The same mark could result in a different grade depending on which time of the year the student sat the exam.

The row came as England’s exams regulator, Ofqual, announced that it has written to the Welsh Government about Mr Andrews’s decision to order the WJEC board, which sets GCSE exams in both England and Wales, to re-grade English language GCSE results in the principality.

Ofqual argued that the results should not be re-graded and asked for an urgent meeting.

Ofqual which insists it would be inappropriate for exams to be re-graded. Its inquiry into the fiasco concluded that January’s GCSE English assessments were “graded generously” but that the June boundaries were properly set and candidates’ work properly graded.

WJEC has called for regulators on both sides of the border to come to a common view on how to proceed.

Before the Commons Education Select Committee, Mr Gove ruled out ordering an independent inquiry into the fiasco. He said it is right to have an independent regulator, accountable to Parliament, to take decisions.

“I think it would be quite wrong for me to appoint over that regulator an outside body in order to second-guess those decisions,” he said.

Mr Gove added: “I think this situation would only worsen if I were to do what, for example, the Welsh Education Minister has done and decide that I know better than exam boards how to mark the papers.”

He claimed Welsh children performed “appreciably worse” in the exam, which he blamed on Labour Party administration of education in Wales.

Responding to Mr Gove’s comments, Mr Andrews said that the Education Secretary has “got a number of basic things wrong”. He said: “Michael Gove’s continued unilateral statements over recent months have, potentially irrevocably, damaged the three-country consensus on GCSEs and A-levels that had existed for decades.

“His outbursts devaluing these qualifications have already led the Northern Ireland Examinations body to decide it would no longer offer its qualifications in England.

“Michael Gove is the person undermining parental confidence in GCSEs. On GCSE English language, the bottom line remains the same. Everyone accepts that a cohort of students have been treated unfairly.”

Jayne Dowle: Page 13.