Qualifications Wales aims to ensure that qualifications meet the needs of learners in Wales and to promote public confidence in qualifications and the qualification system. Qualifications Wales has carried out a wide engagement exercise with many stakeholders, for the purpose of developing and documenting a clear understanding of the current GCSE and GCE A’ Level qualifications landscape in Wales and to identify any weaknesses in the qualifications in meeting the needs of learners.
Qualifications Wales commissioned Miller Research to investigate the views of learners, in particular their opinions on;
- Whether the assessment arrangements of the qualifications are effective, particularly in terms of the reliability and validity of the present arrangements;
- Whether the content and structure of the qualifications are appropriate for learners to engage with their study;
- The value of the qualifications and, in particular what progression opportunities they feel are made available to them by the qualifications.
In order gain a representative view of six GCSEs and seven GCE A’ Level qualifications specified, Miller Research organised 26 focus groups with current and former learners and 12 telephone interviews with former learners of these qualifications. The focus groups were spread throughout Wales including a combination of English and Welsh medium schools and colleges.
Given the diverse range of the qualifications included in the research, the feedback from learners was unsurprisingly varied; however there were a number of general trends noted across the qualifications. In more practical subjects e.g. GCSE and GCE Design and Technology, most students would prefer to weight the final grade mark in favour of practical assessment. Learners also preferred a unitised structure of assessment (as opposed to linear), particularly for GCSE qualifications. Reasons for this included the opportunity to re-sit assessments, to take assessments early, to spread the revision load and avoid ‘cramming’ and to progress through units incrementally. Lastly, the existing compensatory model of assessment was deemed to be appropriate for almost all of the qualifications included in the scope of the research. Only in the case of GCSE and GCE Information Communication Technology
was there some call for the introduction of a competency based model of assessment, given that the exams and the controlled assessments were deemed to test very different skills and competencies.
Overall, the research has provided some clear messages for policy makers and those responsible for developing new qualifications in Wales. It has also suggested that in some cases learners are content with the status quo and do not see a need to make radical changes to the existing structure of these qualifications.