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June 25, 2016

Britain votes to leave the European Union

Britain votes to leave the European Union

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

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On Thursday, the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU) in a referendum.

During the referendum, voters were asked the following question with these options:

“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
Remain a member of the European Union
Leave the European Union”.

Voters across the UK voted in favour of leaving the EU by a margin 52% to 48%. Support for this outcome was strongest across the majority of England and Wales, with London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland the only regions where the majority voted to remain a member of the EU.

The Flag of Europe, used by the EU.

Following the results, David Cameron announced his intention to resign as the UK’s Prime Minister. It is expected he will remain in his post before the UK Conservative Party choose a new leader ahead of their annual conference in October. He also said he would not invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the process by which a member can leave the EU, leaving that to his successor as Prime Minister. A number of officials at the EU — which would be down to 27 members with the UK gone — in a statement said they would like this process to begin “as soon as possible”.

At the start of trading on Friday the markets reacted negatively to the result, with the FTSE 100 falling in value by £120 billion. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, stated an extra £250 billion will be made available to help stabilise markets.



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December 14, 2015

UEFA Euro 16 draw takes place in Paris

UEFA Euro 16 draw takes place in Paris – Wikinews, the free news source

UEFA Euro 16 draw takes place in Paris

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Monday, December 14, 2015

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On Saturday evening, UEFA Euro 2016 draw took place at the Palais des Congrès in Paris; UEFA Euro 2016 is scheduled to be hosted in France. 24 nations were grouped in six groups, with the host nation getting Group A. The quadrennial football tournament of Europe is scheduled to start in June 2016, the matches to be played in ten French cities.

England had the first draw, and went to Group B. Interestingly, Wales also drew into Group B. World Cup winners Germany got Group C. Polish national captain Robert Lewandowski, who recently scored a brace against Croatian Dinamo Zagreb for Bayern Munich, would be facing his Bayern Munich teammate Thomas Müller in a Group C match.

Two-time defending Champions Spain got the D. Netherlands did not qualify for the first time since 1984 after a shocking exit in the qualifying match.

In full, groups drew as follows:

Group A, France, Romania, Albania, Switzerland.
Group B, England, Russia, Wales, Slovakia.
Group C, Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Northern Ireland.
Group D, Spain, Czech Republic, Turkey, Croatia.
Group E, Belgium, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Sweden.
Group F, Portugal, Iceland, Austria, Hungary.

The opening match of the tournament is scheduled to be France versus Romania.



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February 16, 2015

Welsh historian John Davies dies aged 76

Welsh historian John Davies dies aged 76

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Monday, February 16, 2015

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Davies in 2013.
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John Davies, highly regarded Welsh historian, has died at the age of 76. Davies worked closely with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) during his career, often as a commentator on BBC Wales. As well as his work as a broadcaster he was also an author and a teacher at several universities across Wales.

As an author he won the Glyndwr Award, an award that recognizes an outstanding contribution to the arts in Wales, and the Wales Book of the Year in 2010. He won the later award for his work Cymru: Y 100 Lle I’w Gweld Cyn Marw (Wales: 100 Places to See Before Dying). He also wrote A History of Wales, a book regarded, according to the BBC, by many as definitive on Welsh history.

Tributes have been paid to Davies from many people including politicians and broadcasters. Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said “He’ll be remembered as one of our great historians […] of Wales’ past which he gladly and passionately shared through his teaching, writing and broadcasting.”

Current BBC presenter Huw Edwards said “He had an extraordinary way of sharing his message in an engaging and lively way — in both languages — and that was incontrovertibly proved in his excellent and comprehensive work A History of Wales[…] He was a colourful character and great company.” Another BBC tribute came from Rhodri Talfan Davies, the director of BBC Cymru Wales. He said “He didn’t just bring the story of Wales and its people to life — he did so in technicolor.”

Davies, who lived in Grangetown, Cardiff, would go on to share his knowledge of Welsh history by teaching at both Swansea and Aberystwyth universities. He also held the position of warden at Aberystwyth, monitoring a student residence hall.

He is survived by his wife Janet and four children.


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September 6, 2014

NATO leaders meet for two day summit in Wales

NATO leaders meet for two day summit in Wales

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

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Leaders from NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) member states met in Wales over Thursday to Friday in a summit addressing the organisation’s role in Afghanistan and new threats from Russia and the Islamic State.

NATO member countries
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Role in Afghanistan

Since the 2010 NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal countries involved in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), NATO’s military operation in Afghanistan, have been committed to full transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. This would mark the end of ISAF’s 13 year mission in Afghanistan, with troops changing to a training and assistance role.

Plans had originally intended for Afghanistan’s new President, or President-elect, to attend this year’s summit, but due to the political situation and ongoing election process it is still unknown who will replace outgoing President Hamid Karzai. Bismullah Khan Muhammadi, the country’s defence minister, instead attended the summit in the absence of a President.

This political stalemate has put at risk NATO plans for a continuing military presence in the country, with troops expected to pull out at the end of the year without new security agreements being signed, signature not possible without a new President in place. NATO members have urged Afghanistan’s presidential candidates to reach an agreement, with officials indicating that if no agreement can be reached by the end of the month, then troops would begin to leave.

Threat from Russia

On Thursday, NATO leaders pledged support for Ukraine at a meeting with the country’s President, Petro Poroshenko, in the face of recent moves from Russia. On their website, NATO outlined four areas where the alliance would provide support for Ukraine, “rehabilitation for injured troops, cyber defence, logistics, and command and control and communications”, with assistance expected to have a monetary value of about 15 million euros (about US$19 million).

On Friday, peace talks in Minsk, Belarus resulted in a ceasefire agreement between Ukraine and rebel forces, whom NATO has accused Russia of supporting in their bid for separation of eastern regions of Ukraine. The UK said sanctions being prepared are likely to go ahead, regardless of the outcome of these talks, until it is seen that Russia is acting upon them.

Threat from Islamic State

On Friday morning, a meeting of ten countries chaired by the UK and US agreed to jointly working to combat the threat posed by the Islamic State in the Middle East. John Kerry, US Secretary of State, stated after the meeting that the group should aim to make firm plans and raise support from within the region affected before the UN General Assembly annual meeting later this month. Philip Hammond, UK Foreign Secretary, also said it was clear that regional support was needed, adding “with a new and inclusive Government of Iraq leading the efforts”.

It was also announced NATO would help a non-sectarian Iraqi government, on request, to build defence capabilities in Iraq to help fight the Islamic State, as well as coordinating the humanitarian airlift of supplies.

Increased readiness

Plans for a Readiness Action Plan were agreed at the summit. Speaking on Monday before the summit, NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, described this as a response to “Russia’s aggressive behaviour”, but outlined how he hoped it would increase the responsiveness of the alliance to face any security challenge.

These plans aim to allow reinforcements to reach any NATO member state within 48 hours, in what Rasmussen described as a “spearhead” of the preexisting Response Force. This requires logistical, and headquarters facilities to be set up in Eastern European countries, the ones most under threat from an attack by Russia, or the Islamic State. These plans are also to be rehearsed through joint military exercises.


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  • “Russia accused of supporting Ukrainian rebels’ advance” — Wikinews, September 2, 2014

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June 6, 2014

Queen\’s Speech sets out Coalition government\’s final year agenda

Queen’s Speech sets out Coalition government’s final year agenda

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Friday, June 6, 2014

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Queen Elizabeth II, opening Parliament in a similar event last year.
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Queen Elizabeth II formally reopened Parliament on Wednesday and announced the legislative agenda of the UK government for the final year of the Coalition’s five year term. New measures introduced covered crime, the economy, energy and house building.

Business and economy

The next year of legislative changes would, the speech claimed, “deliver on [the government’s] long-term plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society”. On economics, it promised the government would continue to lower taxes, produce an updated Charter for Budget Responsibility to “ensure that future governments spend taxpayers’ money responsibly”, and continue reduction of the deficit.

On employment law, the Queen’s Speech announced reduction in employment tribunal delays and plans to try and “improve the fairness of contracts for low paid workers” — a response to “zero-hours” contracts. The Institute of Directors support reforms to zero-hours contracts, specifically by removing “exclusivity” clauses. The speech also announced the introduction of a “collective pension” system similar to schemes in use in the Netherlands.

The government is also to increase penalties on companies that do not pay employees minimum wage, and reform National Insurance contributions by self-employed people. The government also plans to extend the ISA and Premium Bond savings schemes and abolish the 10% tax rate on savings. The speech also promised more house building, and also to introduce legislation to reduce the use of plastic bags.

Crime and law

The speech announced the government would seek to pass a new Serious Crime Bill “to tackle child neglect, disrupt serious organised crime and strengthen powers to seize the proceeds of crime”. Another bill will be introduced to deal with modern slavery and human trafficking and to support victims of these offences. The speech also said the government “will lead efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict worldwide”.

The Serious Crime Bill would also include an increase in the sentence for those who bring about “cyberattacks which result in loss of life, serious illness or injury or serious damage to national security, or a significant risk thereof”. Under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, these are currently subject to a ten year prison sentence, but the punishment would now risk imprisonment for life. Punishment for cyberattacks that cause “a significant risk of severe economic or environmental damage or social disruption” would increase from the current ten year maximum tariff to fourteen years.

Jim Killock from the Open Rights Group said existing laws already allow effective prosecution of those engaging in cyberattacks.

The speech also announced legislation would be introduced “to provide that where a person acts heroically, responsibly or for the benefit of others, this will be taken into account by the courts”.

Constituents would be able to “recall” an MP who had been found guilty of misconduct under a proposed law that will be debated. The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith described the current plans as “meaningless” and said voters had been “duped”. The Bill would force a by-election if 10% of voters signed a petition within eight weeks, but only if a Commons committee had decided the MP could be recalled. This latter requirement will make it “impossible to recall anyone” according to Goldsmith.

Business minister Michael Fallon defended the recall proposals: “we have to protect MPs from being recalled by people who just disagree with them[…] What you have to ensure is an MP can’t be hounded out just because people disagree with them back in their constituency.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he agreed with Goldsmith the bill was not perfect, and he wanted “a radical California-style recall” system, but he had settled for a “modest” bill to satisfy “Conservative Party resistance”. Goldsmith claimed Clegg had been “the architect of the current Recall Bill”.

Tim Aker, head of policy for the UK Independence Party, said: “The decision to only offer recall voting on a signed-off-by-Parliament-basis reflects a political class that does not know, does not trust and certainly does not represent its people.”

Fracking

Green MP Caroline Lucas spoke in opposition to the government’s fracking proposals.
Image: The Health Hotel.

The speech included measures to make it easier for businesses to engage in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of shale gas. The Institute of Directors said laws “must be updated if the UK is to enjoy the benefits of our shale potential”, specifically by scrapping laws on trespass to allow the gas extraction to occur. The British Chamber of Commerce also support such a reform: “While fracking may be unpalatable to some, it is absolutely essential, and business will support legislative measures to exploit Britain’s shale gas deposits”. Activists from Greenpeace fenced off Prime Minister David Cameron’s home in Oxfordshire with a sign reading “We apologise for any inconvenience while we frack under your home”, and delivered a £50 cheque — identified as the maximum compensation suggested for property owners.

Simon Clydedale from Greenpeace UK said of the fracking proposals: “The prime minister is about to auction off over half of Britain to the frackers, including national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty like the Cotswolds. Fracking won’t deliver energy on a meaningful scale for years, if ever, by which time we’ll need to have moved away from dirty fossil fuels and towards high-tech clean power if we’re to head off dangerous climate change.”

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, spoke in opposition to the fracking proposals after the Queen’s Speech: “Not only does this bill defy public opinion, it denies people a voice. To allow fracking companies to drill under people’s homes and land without their permission is to ignore public interest in pursuit of the vested interests of a few.” A poll conducted by YouGov found 74% of respondents opposed the plans.

Reaction

Following the Queen’s Speech, politicians from all parties debated the direction of the government in the year ahead.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that the Queen’s Speech showcased “a packed programme of a busy and radical government”, whose “long-term economic plan is working but there is much, much more to do”, and it would “take the rest of this Parliament and the next to finish the task of turning our country around”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “We would have a Queen’s Speech with legislation which would make work pay, reform our banks, freeze energy bills and build homes again in Britain. A Queen’s Speech which signals a new direction for Britain, not one which offers more of the same.”

Cameron described Miliband as having a “rag bag, pick-and-mix selection of statist Seventies ideas [… a] revival of Michael Foot‘s policies paid for by Len McCluskey‘s money” — a reference to controversies surrounding the substantial funding Labour gets from trade union Unite.

Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron said of the Queen’s Speech: “I suspect the pensions proposals will be around for a generation or more and will be remembered. It’s about making sure they are fairer, cheaper, more secure, more reliable and potentially better for people.”

Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd said: “This was an uninspired Queen’s Speech delivered by a government that has well and truly run out of steam.”

Angus Robertson, the leader of the Scottish National Party in Westminster, said the Queen’s Speech barely mentioned Scotland: “The absence of any mention at all of the Westminster parties’ plans for Scotland in the Queen’s Speech is extraordinary. […] In this – the year of the biggest opportunity in Scotland’s history – Scotland hardly even gets a nod at Westminster, and not a single mention of future plans for improving government in Scotland.”

The speech made brief mention of Scotland: “My government will continue to implement new financial powers for the Scottish Parliament and make the case for Scotland to remain a part of the United Kingdom.”



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December 19, 2013

Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins sentenced to 29 years in prison for attempting to rape baby

Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins sentenced to 29 years in prison for attempting to rape baby

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

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Ian Watkins in 2007.
Image: Lprandyb.

Ian Watkins, frontman of Welsh rock group Lostprophets, was sentenced to 29 years in prison yesterday for his involvement in a series of sex-related offences involving children. He pleaded guilty to offences including attempted rape and sexual assault, conspiracy to rape a child, sexual assault of a child, possession of indecent images of children, and possession of an extreme pornographic image involving sex with an animal.

Watkins had pleaded guilty to the offences along with two others, the mothers of two of the children he abused. The two women — who are being kept anonymous to protect the identity of their children — were jailed for 14 and 17 years respectively.

Watkins is to be eligible for release after two-thirds of his prison sentence, and is to spend six years on licence.

Mr Justice Royce, in his sentencing remarks, said the actions of the defendants “plunged new depths of depravity”. He also said: “Any decent person looking at and listening to the material here will experience shock; revulsion; anger and incredulity.”

The sentencing remarks detail text messages sent between Watkins and one of the mothers planning to abuse children, as well as giving the infant in their care methyl amphetamines. The evidence, according to the judge, “is a dreadful catalogue of abuse of a previously innocent boy to satisfy your own interests and lusts.” In other communications, Watkins planned to turn the life of the other defendant’s child into “a life of filth”.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Doyle from the South Wales Police said investigating Watkins’ actions exposed him to “the most disturbing child abuse evidence” of his police career.

Following his guilty plea but before his sentencing, Watkins discussed his sentencing with a friend via telephone. The singer told his friend: “I’m going to put a statement on [December] 18th now just to say it was megalolz, I don’t know what everyone is getting so freaked out about.” Lolz is a variant form of LOL — laugh out loud.

He also told his friend: “You know I plead[sic] guilty just to avoid a trial, not realising ‘Hang on, that makes me look a bit guilty’ but I would never harm anybody.” Watkins’ “mega lolz” comment was the front page story today in the taboid newspaper The Sun.

Investigation into Watkins’ activities continue, as do attempts to seek more possible victims. There are also investigations going on by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into how police failed to pick up on Watkins’ activities before 2012.



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December 10, 2013

UK Government announce same-sex weddings to start from March 29

UK Government announce same-sex weddings to start from March 29

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Maria Miller, the minister who led the same-sex marriage bill through Parliament.
Image: Work and Pensions Office.

The British government announced today that marriages in England and Wales between members of the same-sex will be conducted from March 29 of next year. The change follows the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act earlier this year.

The equalities minister Maria Miller said: “Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from 29 March 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex. This is just another step in the evolution of marriage and I know that many couples up and down the country will be hugely excited that they can now plan for their big day and demonstrate their love and commitment to each other by getting married.”

The government have not given details of how couples already in a civil partnership will be able to convert to a marriage. The government are also working on arrangements for those who wish to change their legally recognised gender while married. Miller said arrangements on both of these issues would be in place by the end of 2014.

Ben Summerskill from the gay rights group Stonewall said: “This historic step will mean that, for the first time, every gay person in England and Wales will finally enjoy exactly the same rights as their heterosexual friends and family.”

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said on Twitter that it was “great news”.



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July 16, 2013

House of Lords approve same-sex marriage bill at third reading

House of Lords approve same-sex marriage bill at third reading

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

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Members of the London Gay Men’s Chorus outside Parliament to celebrate the passage at Third Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
Image: Tom Morris.

A religious protester outside Parliament.
Image: Tom Morris.

Ice cream and cake being handed out at the demonstration celebrating passage.
Image: Tom Morris.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom’s House of Lords passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at Third Reading, the last major step in changing the law to allow marriages between same-sex partners in England and Wales. The bill is to become law this week and same-sex marriage ceremonies are likely to start in 2014.

During the brief debate in the Lords, Peers supporting the law wore pink carnations. Lord Alli, who is openly gay, said because of passing the law “my life and many others will be better today than it was yesterday”. The Lords discussed an amendment to review how to deal with survivor pension benefits due to the same-sex partners of those in civil partnerships. Other amendments the Lords have discussed include a review on whether to allow humanists to conduct weddings, and a review on whether to allow opposite-sex partners to enter into civil partnerships.

A handful of opponents of the Bill spoke during the debate including Lord Cormack, who said: “Those who support the Bill have won; there is no doubt about that. It would be churlish and ridiculous to pretend otherwise and I, for one, would never do so.” Lord Framlingham criticised “the Government’s complete rejection of any meaningful amendments” and said the Bill “is built entirely on pretence. It pretends that there is no difference between a man and a woman. From this deceit have sprung all the problems we have been wrestling with — problems we have failed to resolve and which will bedevil generations to come.”

In summing up the debate, Baroness Stowell said: “I believe that we have brought forward a Bill that is a force for good and that the change it brings about is right and reflects the change in society. However, there is no question whatever that anybody who disagrees with it should in any way feel that their views have not been properly taken into account during our debates.”

A group of supporters of the Bill held a celebration outside Parliament yesterday during the debate and carrying on into the evening. A small number of opponents of the Bill turned up to protest. The celebrations included musical performances by the London Gay Big Band and the London Gay Men’s Chorus, and Ben & Jerry’s provided free ice cream and cake.

A planned demonstration by Christian Concern was cancelled to “conserve energy” as “there will not be a vote at the third reading of the same sex marriage bill on Monday and what happens on that day in the House of Lords will be a mere formality”.



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November 3, 2012

Report says UK teachers \’boosted GCSE marks\’

Report says UK teachers ‘boosted GCSE marks’

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

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According to a new report by the United Kingdom exams regulator Ofqual, some teachers have been marking students’ General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) coursework “significantly” too high.

Cquote1.svg “Children have been let down. That won’t do”. Cquote2.svg

—Glenys Stacey

Pupils sit GCSEs aged between 14–16. Part of the pupils’ overall grade is made up of controlled assessment, which usually takes place in a controlled environment in school. The rest of the grade comes from the final exam.

Chief Regulator Glenys Stacey said schools were under too much pressure to achieve certain grades, which contributed to the over-marking. She also said exams place too much emphasis on teachers’ marks. “We have been shocked by what we have found. Children have been let down. That won’t do. It’s clear that children are increasingly spending too much time jumping through hoops rather than learning the real skills they need in life. That won’t do.” She said English teachers had been put under particular pressure. “Teachers feel under enormous pressure in English, more than in any other subject, and we have seen that too often, this is pushing them to the limit. That won’t do either.”

The leaders of several teaching unions objected to the report. “For Ofqual to suggest that teachers and schools are to blame is outrageous, and flies in the face of the evidence. Ofqual is responsible for ensuring fairness and accuracy in the system”, said Deputy General Sectretary of the of the ASCL union Malcolm Trobe. “The fact remains that different standards were applied to the exams in June and January and this is blatantly wrong. The accountability measures do place tremendous pressure on teachers and schools, especially at GCSE grade C, but to say that teachers would compromise their integrity to the detriment of students is an insult.”

There was controversy concerning GCSE English exams in the UK earlier this year. In June’s GCSE English exam, the grade boundaries were different from the exam in January, which meant thousands of pupils received lower June grades than they would have in January. The Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews ordered a re-grading of Welsh pupils’ exam papers; pupils who sat exams in England were left with their original grades.

Ofqual released an initial report, finding that the grade boundaries set for the June exam were correct but the exam in January was in some cases “graded generously”.

Pupils in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland currently sit GCSEs. This year, the UK government announced plans to replace GCSEs with a new examination, similar to the old O-levels. In Scotland pupils currently sit Standard Grade examinations, which will shortly be replaced by National 4 and 5 exams.



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November 2, 2012

United Kingdom teachers \’boosted GCSE marks\’

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Friday, November 2, 2012

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According to a new report by the United Kingdom exams regulator Ofqual, teachers have been “significantly” over-marking some pupils’ GCSE coursework.

Pupils sit GCSEs aged between 14–16. Part of the pupils’ overall grade is made up of controlled assessment, which usually takes place in a controlled environment in school. The rest of the grade comes from the final exam.

Chief Regulator Glenys Stacey said that schools were under too much pressure to achieve certain grades, which contributed to the over-marking. She also said that exams place too much emphasis on teachers’ marks. “We have been shocked by what we have found. Children have been let down. That won’t do. It’s clear that children are increasingly spending too much time jumping through hoops rather than learning the real skills they need in life. That won’t do.” She said that English teachers had been put under particular pressure. “Teachers feel under enormous pressure in English, more than in any other subject, and we have seen that too often, this is pushing them to the limit. That won’t do either.”

The leaders of several teaching unions reacted angrily to the report: “For Ofqual to suggest that teachers and schools are to blame is outrageous, and flies in the face of the evidence. Ofqual is responsible for ensuring fairness and accuracy in the system.” Deputy General Sectretary of the of the ASCL union Malcolm Trobe said.

“The fact remains that different standards were applied to the exams in June and January and this is blatantly wrong. The accountability measures do place tremendous pressure on teachers and schools, especially at GCSE grade C, but to say that teachers would compromise their integrity to the detriment of students is an insult.”

Cquote1.svg “Children have been let down. That won’t do”. Cquote2.svg

—Glenys Stacey

There was controversy concerning GCSE English exams in the U.K. earlier this year. In June’s GCSE English exam, the grade boundaries were lowered from the exam in January, which meant thousands of pupils received lower grades than expected. The Welsh Education Minister Leighton Andrews ordered a re-grading of Welsh pupils’ exam papers but pupils who sat exams in England were left with their original grades.

Ofqual conducted an initial report into the June exam, which found that the grade boundaries set for the June exam were correct and the exam in January was “graded generously”.

Pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland currently sit GCSEs. This year, the U.K. government announced plans to replace GCSEs with a new examination, similar to the old O-levels. In Scotland pupils currently sit Standard Grade examinations, which will shortly be replaced by National 4 and 5 exams.



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