All maintained schools in Wales are required to use the WJEC Examination Board. Details of all WJEC Examinations can be found on the WJEC website.

Private schools in Wales can choose which exam boards to use.

Following the introduction of the new Curriculum for Wales, the Welsh Government called for a new suite of qualifications in Wales.

The responsibility for bringing this in lies with the Qualifications Regulator in Wales called Qualifications Wales.

In June 2023, Qualifications Wales introduced its plan for the new qualifications in Wales following its ‘Qualified for the future’ consultation. The intention is for the new GCSEs to be introduced from September 2025.

Details of the consultation process is available on the Qualifications Wales website and our Consultation Responses page.

A significant concern for the NASUWT is the increased use of non-examination assessments (NEAs). Concerns include:

  • A significant proportion of an external qualification’s assessment and moderation will rest exclusively on the shoulders of teachers.

  • The NEA will be assessed/marked by the classroom teacher. There may be some cases where the NEA component will also be moderated internally by the subject specialists - especially when there may be a need to present a sample to the examining authority or if the NEA mark is made up from discrete components, for example, a science GCSE NEA mark made up of biology, chemistry and physics components.

  • This scenario has existed in the past with certain qualifications, e.g. in science and humanities qualifications, and, without a doubt, the increase in workload is significant. Any NEA marking or moderation clearly has to be undertaken accurately and according to the examining authority’s guidance. This high-stakes process means it has to be given due regard and attention and so time-wise it is a significant event in the assessment calendar of that school. All our member comments stated that no additional timetabled time is ever assigned to such a high-stakes activity and it is usually addressed piecemeal and as best as the practitioner can. Members report to the NASUWT that lunchtimes are frequently used for NEA activities. This is unpaid work undertaken by teachers. Qualifications Wales cannot direct schools to assign directed time to these tasks, but must be mindful that such an important part of the qualification is mostly being dealt with on a make-do-and-mend basis.

  • NEAs have also been a cause for concern regarding malpractice. Such a high-stakes process in the GCSE cycle can find teachers being put under pressure by schools to ensure good NEA outcomes. This pressure should not be there in the first place, but this is the reality of high-stakes accountability in schools in Wales. Whilst the majority of practitioners will channel that pressure into the preparations and teaching leading up to the NEA, some teachers may feel so pressured that they commit acts of malpractice in order to meet the high-stakes demands of the school.

  • Whilst it is not the responsibility of Qualifications Wales to ensure that practitioners abide by the Teaching Standards, it must be cognisant of the fact that NEAs are infinitely more susceptible to malpractice acts than examinations are. Qualifications Wales has a duty to ensure any assessment process they adopt is robust and can maintain its integrity. However, the NASUWT would oppose increasing rigour in moderation for the reasons of workload stated above. The NASUWT would argue that NEAs cannot compete with examinations in respect of integrity and so Qualifications Wales must ensure that any proposed NEAs involve as little of the practitioner as possible.

  • Another aspect that NEAs may affect the processes of is the examining authority itself. With examinations, the examining authority will have a process of standardising marks that will be dependent on the marks attained by every learner in that examination. This is because the examining authority has the difficult task of having to moderate across different examinations, as well as within that examination itself, to ensure parity. The examining authority will have a specialist formula to calculate a standardised mark from a learner’s marks that takes into account the marks of all other learners in the examination that will allow standardisation across qualifications.

  • With NEAs this is not possible. The NEA mark that arrives from the schools cannot be subject to the same standardisation as an examination, other than perhaps scrutinising a sample of NEAs from a school so as to ensure the sample broadly matches the expected marking. Examining authorities have to accept this as a peril of the process. If the percentage of NEAs in a subject is increased, to perhaps 50% or more, then the robust moderation and standardisation techniques applied by the examining authority will only happen with the smaller examination part of the qualification.

  • Learners who move schools during their GCSE course can be detrimentally affected by having NEAs as a significant part of their qualification. A learner may leave a school before having undertaken an NEA and go to a new school to find that the NEAs have long since been completed. Whilst it is clearly incumbent on the school to provide an opportunity for all learners to have access to the qualification, it is a workload issue for the teacher as well as the learner.

It is also fair to point out that shifting more of the assessment onto the shoulders of schools should see a decrease in the amount that the examining authority may charge for qualifications from the school. Schools pay a hefty sum to examining authorities at the moment and the irony will not be lost on schools seeing that money depart while more assessment responsibility arrives in return. It is also the case that teachers’ work in the NEA is subject to no extra remuneration. Members report to the NASUWT that they sometimes resent doing the work of the examining authority without being paid by them.


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