GCSE and A-level exams in Wales cancelled for 2021

Wales' GCSE, AS and A-level exams in summer 2021 are to be cancelled, with grades based on classroom assessments, Education Minister Kirsty Williams has announced. 


Just one day after emerging from its national circuit break lockdown, Wales is the second of the home nations to announce a major change to formal exams in 2021 announcing today that GCSEs, A levels and AS levels will be cancelled and replaced with a system of assessments that will be done under teacher supervision, and will begin in the second half of the spring term. The decision comes following months of classroom and learning disruption due to the global coronavirus pandemic. 

The 2021 assessments will be externally set and marked, but delivered within a classroom environment under teacher supervision. 

Teachers would have flexibility as to when it is best to undertake them, in the context of results timelines, and head teachers would work on a "national approach" to ensure consistency, Kirsty Williams confirmed. 


The primary reason for my decision is down to fairness.

Kirsty Williams, Education Minister


The Education Minister added a video explaining the reasons for the change on her official Twitter account and said that the decision had been made based on fairness due to the amount of time children had spent out of the classroom:

"It is impossible to gaurantee a level playing field for exams to take place." 

Williams confirmed that "the full approach" was going to be developer by school and college leaders, supported by the Welsh Government and advised by Qualifications Wales and WJEC (formerly the Welsh Joint Education Committee). The policy intention, she added, is that this will form the basis for centre-based outcomes which will be linked to an agreed national approach to provide consistency across Wales to assure universities and colleges of our approach. 

Read the full statement from the Welsh Government here


What is the situation elsewhere in the UK?

In England, exams are still going ahead but have been moved back by three weeks to allow for more teaching time, and with reduced content in some subjects.

In Scotland, the GCSE-equivalent National 5 exams are cancelled and replaced by teacher assessments and coursework, but Higher and Advanced Higher exams will just be delayed by two weeks.

Exams in Northern Ireland are still going ahead but the number of papers in some subjects has been reduced.

Number 10 advised today that there was no change to the plan to hold exams in England following the announcement by the Welsh government.

Boris Johnson's official spokesman said: "We continue to think that exams are the fairest way of judging the students' performance."