A NORTH Wales head teachers' federation has slammed "anomalies" in AS and A level results which have caused "huge disparities" amongst students and their grades.

The Federation of North Wales Secondary School Head Teachers say it "cannot over-state how disappointed, confused and concerned" it is about A level and AS results released on Thursday.

It comes amid controversy after 42 per cent of Welsh students' grades were downgraded from teachers' predictions - leaving many in limbo with university places withdraw or now uncertain just weeks before the deadline to secure places.

A statement from the federation says although the headline data for Wales shows slight improvement, this is not a "full reflection" of the reality in schools.

It said: "There are huge disparities in the outcomes of individuals which we cannot track, justify or explain. Pupils’ grades have moved up and down in ways we do not understand.

"As schools, we were asked to consider all our internal and external testing data to create rank orders of learners’ centre assessed grades.

"We did this with professionalism and fairness to the students we have supported for the last seven years. This data in many areas has been dismissed, devalued and discounted. Our rank orders have been overlooked and students moved within them making the allocation of grades impossible to fathom and unfair."

On Wednesday, Education Minister Kirsty Williams promised that students would be guaranteed a grade no lower than they achieved at AS-level.

The Leader:

But there is concern that universities may judge applications on the grades already issued, before that revision takes effect.

The headteachers' federation statement continued: "Many universities have downgraded their offers with the absence of international students, resulting in more available places, so many of the young adults involved will thankfully be able to attend the university of their choice.

"However this is not enough. Our pupils’ grades will be with them for the rest of their lives, they will be on their CV for ever.

"Covid-19 has already disadvantaged them, but life after Covid, within a recession-hit country, means their outcomes will be even more important than ever as they enter a challenging job market. Our students have worked for these grades and deserve them; an algorithm that dismisses this is immoral. If there was ever a time for trust it was now.

"As professionals, we were promised that any anomalies in school data would be discussed, to allow schools to provide the evidence to justify the centre assessed grades.

"This had not happened - we have been given no opportunity to provide evidence and no conversations have taken place. This has been a statistical model, over reliant on AS outcomes and historical data, and dismissive of the opinion of a profession who supported their students over many years.

"The A-level results day is usually one of the happiest of the year. This year our children were hurt, confused and left wondering what had gone wrong, just as we are."

The federation says this week's results have "challenged" its confidence in the system and "call into question the structure" that has been have previously trusted.

But it says its fears for next week's GCSE results are "beyond words" and requests that changes be made now to "protect the life chances and wellbeing of our children" and avoid the "confusion and heartache" A-level students have had to face.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "“Data published by Qualifications Wales this week shows that approximately 94 per cent of the grades are the same as or within one grade of the Centre Assessed Grades. This is before any adjustments are made as a result of the AS floor announced Wednesday by the Minister for Education.

“We have also asked Qualifications Wales to consider whether the grounds for appeal can be broadened for all A level, AS level and GCSE qualifications and we expect to provide more information on this next week.

“No student from Wales should be disadvantaged against other UK students. We are pleased that, following the publication of yesterday’s results, UCAS have reported the highest number of Welsh learners being offered a place at university since 2011.”

Simon Budgen, Hawarden High School head teacher, said: “There have been many student successes this year, and credit should not be taken away from those individuals.

"However, there are very real examples of students who are being disadvantaged in their applications to universities as result of the algorithm being used in Wales to calculate final grades when compared with their counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is wholly unacceptable.”

Jane Cooper, head teacher of the Alun School Mold, added: ""Our students have worked very hard to achieve the grades they need for progression to university and employment. Whilst many have been awarded the grades they have earned there are some students whose grade is below what they deserve and what teachers assessed them as.

"We believe that the standardisation of results has disadvantaged some students unfairly and has prevented them from accessing their choice of university courses."