The Future of Qualifications in Wales 

A suite of new GCSEs and bitesize qualifications to target practical skills in mathematics and languages; Emyr George explores reforms to the curriculum.

You can register here for the IWA’s upcoming event discussing the effect of changes to the curriculum in Wales.

Education in Wales is in the spotlight like never before.

COVID-19 is impacting on everyone’s lives, especially learners studying for general and vocational qualifications across Wales.

We know this is a difficult time for learners and their teachers. For many young people, there has been disruption to their learning and teaching time through periods of isolation and remote learning.

Our job is to make sure that qualifications in Wales are the best they can be for all learners, and that there is public confidence in qualifications and the Welsh qualification system. 

We’re working with a wide range of stakeholders across Wales, including the Minister’s Design and Delivery Advisory Group, on the best approach possible in these difficult circumstances.

As the independent regulator, our role is to consider the qualifications that will be needed in the future, particularly on how the Welsh Government’s new curriculum for Wales will be assessed from 2027.

From 2022, there will be a new curriculum based on six broad areas of learning: 

  • expressive arts
  • health and well-being 
  • humanities
  • languages, literacy and communications 
  • mathematics and numeracy
  • science and technology 

The draft Curriculum Bill is making its way through the Senedd, and we want to continue the important debate about its impact on qualifications. 

That’s why we are now in the middle of our second of three consultation exercises, called Qualified for the future, on proposals for GCSE subjects  and other qualifications that have been designed in Wales to support the new curriculum.

A new engineering and manufacturing GCSE could… help develop ambitious, enterprising and creative learners.”

These qualifications include new health and social care and child care qualifications created following a review of this important employment sector by Qualifications Wales.

This will give learners and schools a better idea of the choice of qualifications that could be available to them and help them think about and prepare for the future. 

The consultation contains many proposals covering all the broad areas of learning, some suggesting smaller changes to qualifications while others are larger in scale.

The proposals include new GCSEs in Social Studies and Engineering; new consolidated GCSEs in the areas of Maths, Welsh, English and Science; as well as bitesize qualifications that target practical skills in mathematics and languages.

We are considering a new GCSE in engineering as an example. Engineering and manufacturing play an important part in the Welsh economy, employing more than 165,000 people from those working in small workshops to hi-tech companies such as Airbus, Tata Steel and Aston Martin.

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A new engineering and manufacturing GCSE as part of a new suite of science and technology qualifications could support the purposes of the new curriculum by helping to develop ambitious, enterprising and creative learners.

Another proposal is to create a new GCSE in film and digital media to replace the existing GCSE Media Studies and GCSE Film Studies qualifications.

Wales continues to see growth in TV and film production in recent years through the established broadcast channels and independent producers.

The proposed qualification would support progression to a range of subjects and career pathways within the expressive arts and wider creative industries, a growth sector here in Wales and beyond with the continuing expansion of online streaming services.

It’s therefore important we hear from as many people as possible about these and other proposals, to make sure that learners in Wales can choose from the right mix of qualifications. 

We want to know what everybody thinks, whether a teacher, parent, learner, employer or just someone with an interest in education.”

We want to know what everybody thinks, whether a teacher, parent, learner, employer or just someone with an interest in education. The future of our young people depends on it.

This consultation is about the choice of subjects and qualifications that should be available to learners who will follow the new curriculum.

We will look at the specific content and assessment of individual qualifications at a later date, based on research and working closely with teachers, learners and awarding bodies.

It’s an exceptionally busy and challenging time for everyone as we continue to deal with the pandemic. 

But we’re carrying out this consultation now so that everyone has an opportunity to have their say on these important decisions and to make sure that schools and learners have enough time to prepare for any changes.

We’ve tried to make it as easy and quick as possible for people to tell us what matters most to them.

That’s why alongside the main consultation document on our website we’ve also produced a youth friendly version explaining the proposals in simpler terms.

The consultation is open until 9 April, and all the information is available on the Qualifications Wales website.

All articles published on the welsh agenda are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

You can register here for the IWA’s upcoming event discussing the effect of changes to the curriculum in Wales.

Emyr George is Director of Qualifications Policy and Reform at Qualifications Wales.

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