Current research projects

We are undertaking research to help monitor and review current qualifications, and to help shape the future design and development of qualifications for learners in Wales. Central to this programme of work is considering how qualifications can support the new school curriculum for Wales. For more information on each of our current projects, please click on the relevant title below.

The use of technology in assessing Vocational Qualifications

Qualifications Wales has commissioned a partnership of vocational education providers and national membership bodies, led by Pembrokeshire College, to identify and investigate a number of examples of good or innovative use of technology in assessing vocational qualifications. The examples identified will be a mix of cases covering the assessment of knowledge and skills. They will be predominantly focused on vocational learning in level 2 or 3 qualifications in Further Education or Work Based Learning. However, the researchers will also explore the use of technology in assessing qualifications from other levels (for example higher education) or general qualifications, providing that those examples have potential to be used in assessing level 2 or 3 VQs. 

Exploring GCSE Mathematics Qualifications in Wales

Qualifications Wales is conducting a programme of research to explore Mathematics qualifications in Wales. The project will focus on GCSE Mathematics, GCSE Mathematics-Numeracy and Level 2 Additional Maths.

Initially this project will be made up of three strands of work:

Strand 1: A survey of Maths teachers to explore thoughts and opinions about the design, tiering, content, manageability and examination entry approaches for each of the qualifications.

Strand 2: An exploration of the assessment constructs of the qualifications and how they relate to each other.

Strand 3: An analysis of data related to the qualifications including an analysis of exam entries, results and performance, from before and after the introduction of the new Mathematics GCSEs.

The curriculum in Wales is currently going through a period of reform. The new curriculum will be structured around six areas of learning and experience (AoLEs). Given that one of the AoLEs focuses on Mathematics and Numeracy AOLE, we can expect further changes to Mathematics GCSE qualifications in the future. Our research aims to inform any such changes by gathering information about the focus of each qualification and the views of those who teach these subjects.

Non-Examination Assessment (NEA) in reformed GCSEs

Non-Examination Assessment (NEA) refers to any type of assessment that is not an exam taken by all candidates at the same time. NEA therefore covers a range of assessment activities including coursework, oral assessment, fieldwork, portfolio work and practical assessment. As part of an ongoing programme of work to consider how qualifications can support the new curriculum for Wales, we are exploring whether the current approach to delivering, assessing and moderating NEA is appropriate.  

This work has been divided into four strands 

Strand 1: Focus groups and an online survey with teachers to explore their experiences and perceptions of delivering and assessing NEA in their subject. You can read more about the focus groups here 

Strand 2: Subject-specific focus groups with learners to explore their thoughts about the NEA they have recently undertaken 

To enable efficient data collection, analysis and reporting, this engagement with teachers and learners was facilitated in two phases.  

Phase 1: 

The first phase explored NEA in the following GCSE subjects. Data was collected in Spring and Summer 2019, and we anticipate reporting on the findings in Summer 2020.  

  • Art  and design 
  • Computer science    
  • Drama    
  • English language    
  • English literature    
  • Geography    
  • PE    
  • Science (double award)    
  • Welsh language (first language only)    
  • Welsh literature 

Phase 2: 

The second phase explored NEA in the following GCSE subjects. The focus group data was collected between November 2019 and January 2020. The survey to collect teacher views is still live. To take part please follow this link. We anticipate reporting on the findings in Autumn 2020.  

  • Design and technology 
  • Food and nutrition  
  • History 
  • Media studies 
  • Modern Foreign Languages (French, German and Spanish) 
  • Music 
  • Welsh second language  

Strand 3:  Research into the assessment functioning of NEA, including analysis of the targeting and reliability of the assessments, the extent to which they discriminate between candidates and whether the intended weighting of NEA in the grades received by candidates is achieved in practice. This strand of work will run across both phases of work with all subjects being considered.  

Strand 4: A briefing paper exploring the potential merits and challenges of a range of approaches to the moderation of NEA and online survey for moderators to explore their perceptions and experiences of the current approach to moderation. Initially, this strand of work will focus on the subjects outlined in phase one. Any future work will be agreed based on the emerging findings.  



Teachers perceptions of reformed GCSEs

We have commissioned a study to investigate teacher opinions of some of the recently reformed GCSEs. The aims of the work are:

  • To find out how the new qualifications are working and what impact the changes are having.
  • To gather evidence that could inform any future qualification reforms, including to support the new curriculum for Wales.

In 2018-2019 we used interviews and an online survey to explore the views of teachers of the following GCSE subjects: Geography, Science, Performing Arts, English, Welsh, Maths and Modern foreign languages.

In 2019-2020 this work is extended to: Art and Design, Business, Design and Technology, Computer, Science, Food and Nutrition, History, Media Studies, Physical Education, Religious Studies.

Monitoring public confidence in qualifications and the qualification system

One of our principal aims is to promote public confidence in qualifications and the qualification system in Wales.

We have also commissioned an annual survey of public confidence which is being conducted by Beaufort Research. This survey asks a representative sample of the general public in Wales about aspects of their confidence in GCSEs, A levels, vocational qualifications and the Welsh Baccalaureate Skills Challenge Certificate.