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EDITIONS
Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Welsh exam success not all it seems
examination room
Welsh A-level results were good - but not that good

Welsh Assembly officials have presented an incomplete picture of the A-level results for Wales - unaware that fuller results were available.

Things are likely to be changed next year - and the results could well go down.


When the briefing was being prepared for the minister we didn't know this information was available

Assembly spokesperson
BBC News Online had asked the Assembly why it was trumpeting the success of Welsh students on the basis of figures which excluded more than a third of Welsh A-level entries.

Results from the Welsh board WJEC, quoted by the Assembly Education Minister, Jane Davidson, showed a 98.2% pass rate - but the pass rate for Wales as a whole was actually 95.8%.

Officials have now said they became aware only on Thursday that these data were available - even though the figures were released to the news media on Wednesday.

So the presentation of the results was under review and was likely to change next year, a spokesperson said.

Passed on

"Now we are aware that it exists there's a likelihood that it will change," she said.

"Previously we have never had this information at this stage and when the briefing was being prepared for the minister we didn't know this information was available."

She said they had been told only on Thursday by the Welsh qualifications watchdog, Accac.

Accac's assistant chief executive, Linda Badham, said she had received the detailed national picture late on Wednesday and passed it on to colleagues at the Assembly.

Better performance

The query arose because a striking feature of this year's A-level results is that the Welsh exam board, WJEC, has an even higher pass rate than the already very high overall average - 98.2% against 94.3%.

And bucking the general trend, entries for its A-level exams shot up this year by more than 15%. Overall across the exam boards there was a 6.3% drop in entries.

In a press statement the minister, Ms Davidson, said WJEC entries "account for the vast majority of results in Wales".

Publication

In fact they account for less than two thirds. Just over 12,500 entries this year - 37.8% - involved boards other than the WJEC.

And the pass rate for Wales as a whole was actually 95.8%.

This was still higher than the English pass rate, which was 94.1%.

The WJEC is unusual in that it publishes its figures, as historically it always has done - the other boards all decline to give theirs except collectively.

The overall results are released by the Joint Council for General Qualifications, a body convened for the purpose by the exam boards and chaired by the big English boards in rotation.

It represents those boards - AQA, Edexcel and OCR - plus Northern Ireland's CCEA and the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC).

Figures available

The joint council gives overall A-level results and a breakdown of the results from the exam centres - mainly schools and colleges - for each nation.

This information was made available to journalists on Wednesday morning - in printed booklets, on the web, and on computer disks whose files bore last Sunday's date.

This is the annual procedure. The same thing happened last year, when the WJEC pass rate was 94.3% and the overall rate for Wales was 92%.

It is not clear why officials at the Assembly were unaware of the existence of such data and issued a "news flash" on Thursday using the partial results.

Last year at the same time, they published the results from all of Wales for the new AS-levels, but only the WJEC results for the A-levels.

In Northern Ireland the local CCEA exam board's entries account for about 60% of the total - but officials there publish the figures for all the exam boards.

Secret figures

The joint council declines to publish the relative performance of each board's entries.

Asked what their pass rates were, the boards themselves all said they would not comment until final figures were available, following any late entries and appeals, later in the year.

Schools and colleges can and do use whichever exam board they wish for different subjects.

The WJEC A-level entries were up this year by 4,186 from 26,918 to 31,104 - a rise of 15.6%.

English entries

Entries from centres in Wales remained broadly the same, at 20,599.

Entries from centres in England were 10,505, or 33.8% of the total.

The A-level entries for all centres in Wales, using whichever exam board, were 33,138 - down very slightly on the previous year.

To put this into perspective, the total number of A-level entries this year was 701,380.

'Less deprived'

The WJEC's chief executive, Wyn Roberts, said the biggest rise in entries had been from English schools switching to his board - to do English.

Design and technology had also proved popular.

Conversely, the biggest decline in entries elsewhere had been for general studies - an exam the WJEC had never offered, he said.

He thought the relative lack of inner city deprivation across Wales might explain the higher pass rate.

"But it's very difficult to give a reason."


GCSES

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15 Aug 02 | Wales
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