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Jane Davidson, Assembly Education Minister
"The challenge to me would be 'is it going to work in the south Wales valleys?'"
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Thursday, 19 October, 2000, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Assembly vision of Welsh baccalaureate
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The new assembly coalition in Wales could be set to take on and develop a Welsh Baccalaureate exam qualification to create a distinct difference between sixth forms in England and Wales.

The qualification - which the majority of English universities have said they would accept - would replace the existing system of A-levels in Wales.

The pilot scheme is one of the most significant education policies facing the coalition, which is keen to develop a distinct Welsh style of sixth form education.

Whitchurch High School in Cardiff is the first school in Wales to begin teaching the International Baccalaureate, the qualification on which the proposed "Welsh Bac" is based.

The qualification is a spread of six subjects, mixed between the sciences and humanities.

It has been promoted energetically by the independent policy think-tank the Institute of Welsh Affairs.

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The assembly's new education minister, Jane Davidson, said the challenge facing the fledgling qualification was how it would work in the most deprived areas of Wales.

"If we are ever to have a Welsh baccalaureate it will have to meet the whole needs of Wales," she said.

The system has proved successful in Ireland, where a version of the international qualification has been taken up.

Although the new political order of Labour and the Liberal Democrats could create a policy around the baccalaureate, the loudest voice in favour of a new qualification has been Plaid Cymru's.

Plaid last year pressed for a pilot scheme to assess the merits of a Welsh Baccalaureate in sixth forms.

The party believed that by bringing together academic and vocational work, a better qualification could be created.

The issue of a Welsh baccalaureate has been overshadowed by concerns at providing more classroom teachers and cutting class sizes.

'Deeply dispirited'

Ms Davidson - on her first day in the job earlier this week - also highlighted a purge on temporary classroom accommodation for pupils.

But educationalist Professor David Reynolds criticised the Assembly last month when he said not was being done to take on important education initiatives.

"Where you have original ideas in Wales, such as the Welsh Baccalaureate for 16 to 18-year-olds, you do not see those developed properly," he said.

"I think most people in education in Wales are deeply dispirited by the Assembly's lack of policies."

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