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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Welsh lesson for bacc plans
Students celebrate exam results
Welsh bacc: Less exams and more independent study
Welsh schools and colleges are already gearing up for the sort of baccalaureate qualification which could appear in England by 2010.

From September, students at 18 schools will pilot the new Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification (WBQ) - a broad mix of existing subjects plus core skills including community work.

Welsh assembly ministers ordered the trial two years ago as concerns grew over the flexibility of A-levels and GCSEs.

Before long, head teachers and those overseeing the qualification urged English officials to copy their new "model for the future".

The trial will begin with all students aged 16+ taking the core element first.

Topics drawn from existing A-Level/GCSE portfolio
Wales, Europe and the world
Personal/social education
Work-related education
Information technology
Key skills (communication, numeracy, IT, working with others, problem-solving)
This will include studies on modern-day Wales and Europe, social education, work and entrepreneurship, information technology and key skills such as numeracy.

Students will then choose a broader range of subjects such as those already on offer with A-Levels and GCSEs - but the big difference is that they will undertake independent study instead of more exams.

Assembly Education Minister Jane Davidson's aim was to encourage choice and flexibility and to improve employment chances through practical experience.

"It's very exciting and it's going very well indeed," said Brian Lightman, head of St Cyres School in Penarth, one of the 18 centres ready to trial the WBQ.

Students will undertake more independent study
"We have had a very positive response from students and parents - they are looking forward to the programme.

"It's been a fascinating process, and we are enjoying it because it allows us to pay attention to the things we value as a school - like community service and personal skills.

"The real difference is that it is much more structured - employers will like it."

Reacting to the report recommending that England could replace GCSEs and A-levels with a single diploma, Mr Lightman said: "I'd advise them to look very carefully at it. I hope the WBQ will set a lead for England.

"There has got to be change to the exams system because it is overloaded."

Laura Ellis, 16, a St Cyres student from Dinas Powys is looking forward to embarking on the new qualification because it gives her greater flexibility.

I'm quite excited about the new opportunities
Laura Ellis, 16
"I am quite excited about the new opportunities I'll get to have.

"I'll take chemistry, biology, politics and Welsh in the first year and can drop a subject in the second.

"It opens the world up. I'll have a chance to work in the community and learn skills in the workplace. It's still a bit vague in my mind, though."

More schools will pilot the bacc over the next four years which could prompt change in schools across Wales after 2007.

Some students will be learning in the workplace
WBQ project manager Kim Morgan advised her counterparts in England to pilot any changes in a similar way.

She said: "The current curriculum has plenty of depth in subjects but not enough breadth or choice.

"Students aren't coming out of schools with the skills to go straight into work.

"I believe England is talking about reform of the exams system. We are not asking pupils to take more exams - instead teachers will assess them.

"But, if the exams system does change, our model is able to evolve with that - we believe it is the baccalaureate is the model of the future."

Diploma could replace A-levels
16 Jul 03  |  Education
Enjoying the Baccalaureate life
16 Jul 03  |  Education
College prepares for Welsh Bac
24 Feb 03  |  Wales

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