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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Welsh Bac schools 'enthusiastic'
The aim is to give a richer tapestry of topics to study
Headteachers taking part in the pilot of the Welsh Baccalaureate are cautiously optimistic it could play a valuable role in boosting sixth formers' skills base.

The Welsh Bac is being tried at 19 schools across Wales, with schools and colleges preparing for the introduction of the qualification next year.

Jane Davidson, Welsh Education Minister
Jane Davidson: 'exciting and innovative'

Welsh Assembly Education Minister Jane Davidson will be watching the development of the qualification, which could eventually replace A-levels in Wales.

As well as core exams, the Welsh Bac also places emphasis on non-academic areas, such as key skills and work experience, to create well-rounded students for potential employers.

The Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC) is currently holding talks with the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) about the accreditation of points to the Welsh Bac qualification.

School heads and teachers are already getting to grips with the qualification, with working groups being set up for the various subjects.

Welsh Baccalaureate pilot schools:
Barry Comprehensive School
Builth Wells High School
Cardinal Newman RC School
Coleg Glan Hafren
Coleg Gwent
Coleg Llandrillo
Coleg Meirion Dwyfor
Coleg Powys
Coleg Sir Gār
Deeside College
Neath Port Talbot College
Pen y Dre High School
Pontypridd College
Porth County Community School
St Albans RC High School
St Cyres School
St David's Catholic College
Swansea College
Tredegar Comprehensive School

Sian Davies, headteacher of Builth Wells High School, is optimistic the Welsh Bac will work well in the long term.

Builth Wells HS will be launching the Welsh Bac at Level 3 - Advanced level - to all students, while schools such as Pen-y-Dre High School, Merthyr Tydfil will begin at Level 1 - GNVQ - for intermediate pupils.

"When you talk to employers they tell you they want kids with initiative, kids with sparkle, that can speak well and qualifications often come fourth down the list of priorities," she told News Online.

The qualification could allow for the successful reintroduction of key skills, which some heads complained were foisted on students.

A-level students celebrate results
A-levels could become a thing of the past in Wales

Key skills - communication, IT skills, working with others, improving personal performance - will be integrated directly into the Welsh Bacc, and not "bolted on" to the curriculum, Ms Davies explained.

She is a fan of the Welsh Bacc, having studied the International Baccalaureate at Atlantic College, and she explained that the life skills element of the pilot qualification was hugely important.

"There is extra work involved, but we are doing a lot of it already, which is not getting official recognition.

"Pupils' work experience sits beautifully with the Careers and Work Experience module in the Welsh Bac and there is a language module in Wales, Europe and the World, giving accreditation to what we are doing."

Ken O'Shea, assistant headteacher at Pen-y-Dre Comprehensive, said the Welsh Bac would help encourage students into the sixth form who would not normally think of doing A-levels.

Student in exam
Students will now have core topics to study for

The flexibility of the qualification - with three entry levels - could become particularly attractive to students.

"The reason why I have targeted it at intermediate level to begin with is to phase it in for teachers and pupils," said Mr O'Shea.

"The staff want to get to grips with it and I felt it was important to do that.

"Staff here are beginning to realise what the Welsh Bac could mean in the future."

He added: "In 5-10 years time, it could replace A-levels, it really depends on the Welsh Bacc's currency with universities."

  • In the six-year pilot, students at the colleges will continue to study for GCSEs, AS and A-levels, BTECs and NVQs alongside a new, mandatory core curriculum incorporating:

    • Key skills of communication, numeracy, information technology, working with others and problem-solving.
    • Contemporary Welsh life, Europe and the world, including a language.
    • Work-related, personal and social education programmes.
    • Employment with local enterprises and in the community.

    The assembly has charged Welsh Joint Education Committee with delivering the new programme and gave the body £600,000 for the trial.

    The Bac is a key component of the Welsh Assembly's drive to create "a learning country" and was mooted by the Institute of Welsh Affairs think tank as far back as 1993.

  • See also:

    28 Jun 01 | Wales
    12 Feb 02 | Wales
    12 Jun 01 | Education
    29 Mar 99 | Education
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