Skills Challenge Certificate element of Welsh Baccalaureate to be reviewed

(Title Image: National Assembly of Wales)

Also discussed yesterday afternoon was the Children & Young People Committee’s report on the much-maligned Welsh Baccalaureate qualification – summary here.

Changes needed to ensure Welsh Bacc reaches its potential

Chair of the Committee, Lynne Neagle AM (Lab, Torfaen), said the weight of concerns “set alarm bells ringing” for the Committee. For the Welsh Bacc’s potential to be realised, misunderstandings and inconsistencies in provision needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“We have heard that the introduction of the Welsh Bacc., along with wider education reforms in recent years, has led to timetables being stretched. As a consequence, options and choices for learners are perceived to have narrowed. While it cannot be denied that the introduction of the skills challenge certificate and wider education reforms leave less capacity in the timetable for other learning, if designed and implemented effectively, we believe the Welsh Bacc. has the potential to widen learners’ skills and experiences.”
– Chair of the Children & Young People Committee, Lynne Neagle AM

Shadow Education Minister, Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West), says it’s now Conservative policy to scrap the Welsh Bacc. She did, however, accept that some teachers have bought into the principle and developed the Bacc. in a way that’s relevant to pupils – though the main elements of the qualification should have been mainstreamed into the curriculum by now.

Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly) said Colegau Cymru was aware that some students struggle to balance the needs of the Welsh Bacc, with other post-16 qualifications and possibly GCSE resits. Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) suggested the various tiers of Welsh Bacc. were confusing and the skills challenge certificate element wasn’t as well understood or promoted as the individual project element (which may be useful for university applications).

In a surprisingly angry exchange, Michelle Brown AM (Ind, North Wales) – who cited the low acceptance or understanding of the Welsh Bacc. by universities as evidence that it “gave students an easy ride” – accused Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore) of talking over her (when asking for an intervention), eventually telling him to “shut up”.

Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy) echoed the report’s findings that teacher training seemed inadequate, while the pressure on them was set to increase with the introduction of the new curriculum.

Welsh Bacc. is here to stay (with some changes)

Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), extolled the virtues of the Welsh Bacc., which enables students to become more independent, develops their critical thinking skills and enables them to develop a closer awareness of their communities.

She had no intention of scrapping the qualification, though she accepted the need for change; in particular, widening acceptance and understanding of the skills challenge certificate element of the Welsh Bacc – though it was wrong to say universities were ignoring them.

“It’s important to note that the Committee’s review of the Welsh Bacc. started only a few months after Qualifications Wales published its own review of the skills challenge certificate in April 2018. Now, one of the main findings of the independent review was that the design of the certificate is more complex than it needs to be. Consequently, Qualifications Wales has established a design group and practitioner group to take forward the recommendations of the review, including the manageability of the qualification and the potential impact on learners’ mental health and well-being.”
– Education Minister, Kirsty Williams

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