Essential Skills Wales

Essential Skills qualifications are designed to assess the skills that learners need for successful learning, employment and life. Essential Skills provides a single ladder of progression from Entry Level 1 to Level 3 in Essential Communication Skills, Essential Application of Number Skills, Essential Digital Literacy Skills and from Entry 3 to Level 3 in Essential Employability Skills.

Design principles

The Design Principles for the Essential Skills Wales qualifications set out the rationale, structure, aims, learning outcomes and assessment requirements for teaching from September 2015.

What’s changing

The Review of Qualifications recommended revised and more rigorous assessment for Communication and Application of Number, a new qualification to replace ICT (called Digital Literacy) and revised Wider Key Skills, to become part of one suite of Essential Skills, which will consist of the following:

  • Communication
  • Application of Number
  • Digital Literacy
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Planning and Organisation
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Personal Effectiveness

Stand-alone qualifications in these skills will still be available post-16 and in Work-based Learning and Adult and Community learning, as appropriate. Skills qualifications will no longer be a requirement of attainment for the Welsh Baccalaureate; instead, literacy and numeracy will be assessed through new GCSEs in English/Welsh and Maths. The revised assessment method for Communication and Application of Number Level 1 to Level 4 will be a controlled task and supporting confirmatory instrument. The assessment for Entry Levels 1 to 3 will remain as at present, i.e. a controlled task. The assessment for Digital Literacy and Employability will be a controlled task and confirmatory discussion.


The technical criteria have been developed in collaboration with awarding bodies, in particular City & Guilds, WJEC, Agored Cymru and Pearson. The revised assessments have been contextualised and trialled by practitioners across Further Education, Work-based Learning, Adult Community Learning and alternative settings. Awarding bodies will use the Design Principles to create Essential Skills Wales stand-alone suite of qualifications in:

  • Essential Application of Number Skills (Entry 1 to Level 3)
  • Essential Communication Skills (Entry 1 to Level 3)
  • Essential Digital Literacy Skills (Entry 1 to Level 3)
  • Essential Employability Skills (Entry 3 to Level 3)