Big questions – and some early thoughts

We know that the new Curriculum for Wales is an important opportunity to take a fresh look at things. For us, that means asking some big questions about the qualifications taken by 16-year-olds.

By Emyr George, Director of Qualifications Policy and Reform

As people across Wales have been feeding back on Welsh Government’s proposals for the new curriculum, we’ve been talking to a range of education stakeholders and listening to their early thoughts on possibilities.

We’ll be sharing what we heard in more detail in the autumn, ahead of our own public consultation. But in the meantime, there are a few emerging themes to share, which offer a useful insight into current thinking.

We asked what sort of range of qualifications should be available at 14-16. People told us there needs to be choice for all abilities, offering positive experiences and strong foundations as well as the opportunity to stretch and challenge. We heard that qualifications are essential for progression into education and employment, and that incorporating more skills could be a good thing.

Across the new curriculum’s six Areas of Learning and Experience, we heard a real range of ideas on how qualifications could work and it’s already clear that we’ll need to think carefully about the right mix of qualifications in each area. There was an appetite to consider the benefits of separate GCSEs versus a more combined approach, and a recognition that the answer is unlikely to be ‘one size fits all’.

We also asked about assessment, and people were curious about future grading models given the differences across GCSEs in Wales, England and Northern Ireland. The idea of using this opportunity to review how we assess learners was welcomed. There is interest in looking at the mix of assessment methods to use, when assessments should take place and the links between assessments and the way qualifications are delivered in schools.

In terms of planning and implementation, it was no surprise to hear that stakeholders want clarity on the link between future qualifications and how schools are measured. Alongside this, there’s recognition that the new curriculum means real change across the system, and the scale of change – including qualifications reform - will need the right support.

This early input from our education colleagues will prove hugely valuable as we talk to other groups of stakeholders going forward. In the autumn we’ll be launching a public consultation on the principles we should adopt for this reform, and we’d like as many people as possible to get involved. The more views we hear, the better.

If you’d like to get involved, please get in touch at curriculum@qualificationswales.org