THE education minister Huw Lewis has ordered a "rapid fact finding exercise" after head teachers said January's GCSE English language exam results were lower than expected.
In a statement released today Mr Lewis AM said a number of factors may have contributed to the drop in results in two particular units on the course and Welsh Government officials "will investigate these as a matter of urgency".
After a row over the course in 2012, Welsh Government changed the criteria for the qualification in Wales and in autumn that year the revised GCSE English Language specification was put out by the WJEC.
January 2014 was the first time pupils sat two of the new exam units and this week head teachers across Wales, including those in Gwent, reported to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) that they were concerned for pupils.
In a statement Mr Lewis said the Welsh Government adopts the principle of “comparable outcomes” in its regulatory oversight of GCSEs, AS and A-levels, with qualification outcomes for large-entry subjects such as GCSE English Language to be stable from one year to the next.
"Welsh Government has not committed to a re-calibration of standards in GCSE English Language," he said.
"I have previously raised concerns about the trend towards early entry and I am concerned that this practice, on the part of schools appears to be increasing."
The fact-finding exercise will assess the January 2014 GCSE English Language results to establish what are the key issues underlying the results; identify schools or colleges where there have been "significant variance from expected outcomes"; and identify what action needs to be taken for the future.
This will be carried out over the next few weeks and initial outcomes will be reviewed by late March.
All four of the GCSE English language units will be available in the summer 2014 exams.