Changes to Essential Skills qualifications and assessments

The 'old' suite of Essential Skills Wales (ESW) and wider Key Skills qualifications have now been replaced by a new suite of qualifications encompassing seven essential skills areas.

There are new qualifications in:

  • Essential Communication Skills – available at Levels 1-3, with a two-part end-assessment: controlled task and confirmatory external test
  • Essential Application of Number Skills – available at Levels 1-3, with a two-part end-assessment: controlled task and confirmatory external test.
  • Essential Digital Literacy Skills – available at Entry 1 to Level 3, with a controlled task end-assessment and confirmatory structured discussion.
  • Essential Employability Skills – available at Entry 3 to Level 3, with a controlled task end-assessment and confirmatory structured discussion.

The current Entry Level Essential Skills Wales qualifications in Communication and Application of Number are continuing in their current form.

Essential Digital Literacy Skills replaces the current Essential Skills Wales qualifications in ICT, recognising the increasingly dynamic and varied ways technology can be used throughout learning, work and everyday life.

Essential Employability Skills replaces the wider Key Skills, incorporating the following skills areas into a single, holistic qualification:

  • planning and organisation
  • critical thinking and problem-solving
  • creativity and innovation 
  • personal effectiveness.

Assessment model

All of the new Essential Skills qualifications are end-assessed, with no ‘ongoing’ portfolio assessment. In all cases candidates will complete a controlled task, with the standard of their work then confirmed through a short test or structured discussion with their assessor.

Assessments will be common across all four awarding organisations offering the Essential Skills qualifications.

Key dates 

The new suite of Essential Skills qualifications are now available for first teaching.

There will be a short period of parallel running, the old Essential Skills Wales qualifications will close for registrations on 31 December 2015, with last certification on 31 December 2016.

It is anticipated that the first bank of controlled tasks will be available from October 2015, with the first live confirmatory tests from early 2016.

Changes to Welsh Bac essential skills requirements

The new Welsh Baccalaureate has a renewed focus on developing essential skills, although it will no longer require learners to achieve Essential Skills Wales or Key Skills qualifications. Instead, learners will complete GCSEs in Mathematics and English/Welsh as well as a series of challenges and an individual project, to develop each of the essential skills areas.

The revised Essential Skills qualifications will continue to be used extensively within Apprenticeships, Traineeships and other forms of work-based learning, as well as in adult/community settings. The Essential Skills for Work and Life QCF qualifications and units (3846) will also continue to be available alongside the Essential Skills qualifications.

Further information

Further background information about the changes to Essential Skills Wales qualifications is available on the Qualification Wales website.

Contact us


If you'd like further guidance about the changes to Essential Skills, or more information about offering our new Essential Skills qualifications, please contact your Business Manager or email our Wales office at T3Quality@cityandguilds.com.

Our new essential skills offer

Explore our new Essential Skills Wales offer, including new Essential Skills qualifications, an enhanced suite of Essential Skills Practitioner qualifications, as well as a full range of Essential Skills for Work and Life qualifications and units.

Explore our new offer > 

Download our guide

Are you ready for the new Essential Skills qualifications? Download our handy readiness guide and editable transition checklist to help you identify some of the key areas for consideration and action. 

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