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Exams shake-up welcomed

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

By Helen Keates

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CHANGES to the Welsh exam system, which will set it further apart from England, have been welcomed.

A review was prompted by a number of concerns about the complexity of the current system and the extent to which it is understood, and the relevance, value and rigour of some qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds.

An independent report commissioned by the Welsh Government last year has been published, featuring a series of recommendations.

These include a revised, more rigorous, Welsh Baccalaureate at the heart of the system and a single body, Qualifications Wales, to regulate, approve and assure the quality of qualifications in Wales.

However, pupils would continue to sit GCSEs, but ones which would challenge literacy and numeracy — something that the review heard repeated concerns about with regard to Welsh pupils.

Receiving the report, Deputy Minister for Skills Jeff Cuthbert said: "Our young people deserve to have confidence in their qualification system.

"The purpose of this review was to ensure that the qualifications available to learners in Wales are relevant, valued and understood, and that those qualifications are what employers and universities want.

"An important part of this is making sure that qualifications available in Wales are recognised and valued not only in Wales, but also across the border and worldwide.

"I would like to thank Huw Evans and the board for their excellent work on the review and for producing an extremely thorough, well considered and valuable report.

"I am excited by the opportunities outlined in the report. I look forward to considering the recommendations in detail and I intend to respond formally by the end of January 2013."

In England, an English Baccalaureate is being introduced for core subjects.

The Welsh report has received a cautious welcome from Wales's largest teaching union, NASUWT.

Rex Phillips, Wales organiser, said: "If the recommendations of the report are taken forward by the Welsh Government there will be much to be done to ensure that any changes are workload impact assessed, but in general the report presents a measured approach to the future of qualifications in Wales.

"The retention of GCSE and A-levels will be welcomed by teachers, as will the ending of the essential skills element within the Welsh Baccalaureate that has been the cause of much concern to NASUWT members.

"The devil, of course, will be in the detail, but on balance it must be a case of so far so good."

Plaid's shadow minister for education Simon Thomas also welcomed the report, particularly the greater emphasis on basic skills such as reading and writing, adding: "We look forward to the implementation of these recommendations."

Conservatives in the Welsh Government said: "We need robust qualifications to restore confidence and drive up standards to meet the best in international comparisons."

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