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A summary of the group's purpose up to 20 January 2021.

Background and context

The group has been established to develop workable proposals which could deliver the Minister for Education’s policy on qualifications in 2021, specifically:

  • No exams at GCSE, AS level or A level for Qualifications Wales-approved qualifications
  • An element of teacher-managed classroom-based assessments, which would be externally set and marked by WJEC.    
  • A model of centre-based outcomes linked to an agreed national approach to provide consistency, and will be transparent and rigorous
  • The model for the latter will be discussed and co-produced with teachers/ lecturers, supported by Welsh Government officials by the end of December
  • There will be a Design and Delivery Group to do this, chaired by Geraint Rees.  This group will be advisory: it will not have any formal decision-making role, nor impact on any other organisation’s accountability arrangements or statutory responsibilities.

The focus of the 2021 qualifications work is learner fairness, wellbeing and progression, in the context of major ongoing disruption to learning due to Covid-19.  The decision reflects the recognition that teachers and lecturers are best-placed to support learners this year in the ongoing disruption caused by Covid-19, and respond to their needs.  It provides for a different approach to enable schools and colleges to maximise teaching and learning to the end of the summer term. It also reflects the indications from universities that they are prepared to be flexible as long as the approach is consistent, transparent and rigorous. 


The group will consider issues around GCSE, AS and A levels for Qualifications Wales approved qualifications.  Where issues emerge which are relevant to wider qualifications, including vocational qualifications, these will be noted and shared with the relevant WG policy team or other organisation.    

Proposals on the scope and timescales for the teacher-managed assessments.  The Minister has confirmed her preference that these will be externally set and marked, but practitioners and schools and colleges should have choices about when and how to deliver these, and the role of WJEC in support and guidance.  

Proposals on other elements of class-based assessments, eg non-exam assessment, past papers etc, and any other evidence which could be brought to bear

A proposed model for developing centre-based outcomes, including a consistent approach across Wales, the professional learning that may support this, and the mechanics of the agreed national approach to provide transparency and rigour

In the context of the agreed model, proposals on appeals, private candidates, and other issues as highlighted with the Group which are relevant to 2021 qualifications

This is another exceptional year and the decisions made this year will be the ones that are right for learners in summer 2021.  The approach should be consistent with the direction of travel on curriculum reform, and the group will wish to be mindful of implications for 2022 in developing their model particularly those currently in Year 10 and 12.  However, the group is not being tasked with developing a longer-term model for qualifications: this will be an issue for the next government, informed by Qualifications Wales’ consultation in early 2021, and in the context of Covid-related ongoing disruption.

Issues to consider

Mindfulness of the ongoing pressure on teachers and lecturers and ensuring that any proposals are acceptable and proportionate on their time, given other burdens (in particular the need to continue teaching);

Teacher/ lecturer ownership of the model, and ability to support their learners through the year;

Clarity on how proposals will optimise available teaching and learning time in the summer term;

Ensuring that the overall national picture embeds equalities issues in line with the Welsh Government’s public sector equality duty;

Providing assurance for university about the skills and capabilities of learners and that they have covered the core components needed to successfully progress;

Providing assurance for universities on the rigour of the proposed approach;

Consideration of the legal framework and requirements within which General Qualifications are awarded.  

The group will develop a timeline and workplan including communications as a matter of urgency.  

Structure of decision-making

The headteacher / college leader group members have been invited through recommendations from regional consortia, local authorities, and Colegau Cymru.    

The group will be chaired by Geraint Rees, who has been invited to help the group develop a set of workable proposals which meet the Minister’s criteria.  Welsh Government officials will also sit on the group to represent the wider policy context, and will provide the secretariat.

The group will be tasked with developing the proposals, which the chair or Welsh Government officials will present to the existing Welsh Government external reference group on qualifications.  The reference group may wish to provide comments on the proposals.  The chair will ensure that this iterative approach results in a clear set of proposals for the Minister by end December 2020 (earlier if possible), for implementation from January 2021.  

The proposals will need to provide clear detail on both approach and timings for schools and colleges to take forward from January 2021.  The Welsh Government, with the chair, will consider next steps in terms of governance of delivery of these proposals at that time, to ensure there is clear support and oversight for implementation to summer 2021.

Ways of working

The Minister has set out a preferred policy approach for 2021 which focuses on the learner and requires all parts of the Welsh education sector to come together and collaborate to develop a model and approach which supports our learners.  The Design and Delivery Advisory Group will be led with this in mind.  

The headteacher/ college leaders participating in the group will be embedded within their existing school and college relationships.  However, they will not be required to represent the wider Wales headteacher/ college leader community within the group.  

The detail of the group’s discussions will be confidential within the group, to support open dialogue.  The chair will share information and updates as appropriate;

The group may wish to arrange sub groups to consider specific issues, eg around core courses, or around equalities, or university entrance.

Timing of meetings

Meetings will be weekly for November and December 2020 between 11 and 1, and the Welsh Government will provide the secretariat function.  The group will consider additional meetings as necessary.


The below members have consented to the publication of their name, and school and college affiliation.  

Tracy Senchal (Coedcae School) 
Daniel Owen (Llanidloes high school, Powys) 
Mark Tucker (The John Frost High School) 
Christopher Wilkinson (St Joseph Catholic & Anglican high school, Wrexham) 
Aaron Bayley (Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones, Ynys Mon) 
Justin O’Sullivan (Cardinal Newman) 
Trystan Edwards (Ysgol Garth Olwg) 
Mark Leighfield, (St Davids College) 
Andrew Cornish (Coleg Sir Gar and Coleg Ceredigion) 
Yana Williams (Cambria) 
Kay Martin (CAVC)
Marc Belli (Caldicot School Monmouthshire; Bishop of Llandaff, Cardiff) 
Sarah Sutton (Ysgol Eirias) 
Mair Hughes (Ysgol Penglais Aberystwyth) 

Qualifications Wales and WJEC are invited to all meetings, including sub group discussions, as observers to provide expert advice on assessment.