Qualified for Life: Welsh Government unveils qualifications system

Government in Wales unveils new qualifications system from 2015

25 July 2014

The Welsh Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has set out in more detail how the qualifications system will operate in Wales from 2015. As well as legislating to establish Qualifications Wales as a new independent regulator, numeracy and Literacy are emphasised as the minister’s two personal priorities.

Key changes include:

1. New GCSEs in

  • English Language and Welsh Language
  • English Literature and Welsh Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Mathematics – Numeracy.

Each will be introduced for first teaching in September 2015, with first assessment in summer 2017. Draft subject principles were published in May, and the new qualifications are said to require more extensive critical thinking and analytical skills than the current GCSEs. The split between Mathematics – Numeracy (focusing on the maths needed for everyday life) and Mathematics (extending to those aspects of maths needed for progression to scientific, technical or further mathematical study) is also significant, and Qualifications Wales has recently set out how content is likely to be split between the two qualifications.

Learners who have not achieved at least a grade C in English Language or Welsh Language and Mathematics (or, from 2017, Mathematics – Numeracy) by the age of 16 will be expected to continue working towards these qualifications as part of any full time programme of study from 2016.

2. More rigorous Welsh Baccalaureate, with Essential Skills addressed through ‘Challenges’ rather than qualifications

Universal adoption of the new Welsh Bac will be encouraged across all types of 14-16 and 16-18 provision, with school/college performance measures adjusted accordingly. There will be a renewed emphasis on the seven new essential skill areas (see below), with candidates required to complete an Individual Project and a series of ‘Challenges’ rather than individual Essential Skills (ESW) qualifications.

3. Revised Essential Skills framework and qualifications

The current Essential Skills Wales (ESW) and wider Key Skills qualification will be replaced from September 2015 by a new suite of qualifications encompassing seven essential skill areas:
• Literacy (qualifications will continue to be titled ‘Communication’)
• Numeracy (qualifications will continue to be titled ‘Application of Number’)
• Digital Literacy
• Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
• Planning and Organisation
• Creativity and Innovation
• Personal Effectiveness.

Communication and Application of Number will have a revised assessment model at levels 1-3, consisting of a controlled task and confirmatory test; there will be no change to the assessment model at Entry level. We also understand the Level 4 ESW qualifications (which City & Guilds does not currently offer) will be discontinued.

Digital Literacy is also expected to have a ‘task and test’ end-assessment at levels 1-3, and will likewise be available from Entry 1 to Level 3.

The four remaining skill areas will be combined into a single qualification in Essential Employability Skills – again likely to be available from Entry 1 to Level 3. As with the other new essential skills, there will be no ‘portfolio’ assessment; instead candidates will complete a holistic controlled task involving individual and team working. It is anticipated that this qualification will be graded (pass/merit/distinction).

Whilst the revised Essential Skills qualifications will not form part of the Welsh Bac, they will continue to be used extensively within Apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning, as well as in adult/community settings. The Essential Skills for Work and Life qualifications and units (3846) will also continue to be available alongside the ‘full’ Essential Skills qualifications.

We’re continuing to work closely with DfES colleagues on the redevelopment of Essential Skills. Their current plans involve piloting the new assessment models from January 2015, ahead of full implementation in a year’s time.


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