Frequently Asked Questions

What will the new curriculum mean for qualifications?

What does the new curriculum mean for 14 to 16-year-olds studying in Wales?

The new curriculum gives us the opportunity to consider what qualifications taken by 14 to 16-year-olds are for. We are taking this chance to look at whether the choice of qualifications available to take by 14 to 16-year-olds is the right one, and to consider whether and how it could be improved.  The qualifications  available  should relate to and support the new curriculum for Wales, offering all learners a breadth and depth of learning across a balance of knowledge and skills. Qualifications are an important way for young people to show the world what they have learned, what they can do and what they are ready for next – their passport to a brighter future.

How will we decide which qualifications will be needed for the new curriculum?

We’ll be working with a range of stakeholders to make sure any proposed changes to the qualifications available are thoroughly tested and make sense for learners, teachers, parents, carers and employers.  

How will the transition from the existing qualifications to the new qualifications happen? Will there be some overlap, and how will that be managed?

We will make sure that any new or updated qualifications are available in plenty of time before learners begin to study towards them. There needs to be enough time for schools and teaching staff to prepare for the new qualifications, and for support, training and resources to be available for the new qualifications. 

We will confirm in summer 2021 what the future range of qualifications will look like, so that schools can get on with planning and introducing the new curriculum with confidence.

When will any new qualifications be ready?

We know that teachers need enough time to prepare for new qualifications, so we’re planning to get changes finalised well ahead of first teaching. After a period of engagement, design and further consultation, individual qualifications will then go through a formal approval process while training and resources are developed. 

Will learners still study for GCSEs?

Our first consultation established that there is strong support for retaining the GCSE brand, which is why GCSEs will continue to have a place in the new curriculum. But individual GCSEs will need to adapt to reflect the changing curriculum, so may look quite different from today’s GCSEs. During 2021, through research and engagement, we will be considering how the design and assessment of GCSEs could change in future. 

Is the current range of qualifications in Wales fit for purpose, and if so, shouldn’t we keep them?

We want qualifications that are fit for the future, and the new curriculum offers an opportunity to rethink possibilities. The new curriculum will bring a different approach to teaching and learning for learners in Wales aged 3 to 16. This is an exciting time, with an ambitious and innovative curriculum on the way, and new technology and ideas changing how schools teach and students experience their learning. We have a chance to look at how new and different qualifications – trusted and recognised in Wales, the UK and internationally – could help make the new curriculum a success. But we are not assuming that everything will need to change. We won’t be making changes for the sake of it. We will carefully consider the case for any changes to make sure that they will bring benefits to learners and to the system. 

What will happen to A levels and other post-16 qualifications?

Although our focus is on qualifications for 14 to 16-year-olds, we know that any changes to GCSEs and other entry level, level 1 and 2 qualifications could have a knock-on effect for the qualifications that learners go on to study next. Any changes we propose will be aimed at improving progression opportunities for all learners moving into post-16 education. Where necessary, we will look at specific changes to post-16 provision as part of our work on the pre-16 offer, if we consider this will bring the most benefit to learners.  

Will learners still take the Welsh Baccalaureate and National/Foundation Skills Challenge Certificate (SCC) alongside the proposed new qualifications? 

One of the proposals we are consulting on is whether skills-based qualifications, like the Welsh Bacc Skills Challenge Certificate, should continue to be available to learners aged 14 to 16 alongside GCSEs. If we agree this proposal, we will work with teachers and learners to agree on the detail of how the qualification could be updated and improved. Until the new qualifications are in place, learners will continue to take existing qualifications, including the Skills Challenge Certificate. 

Will learners still be able to take vocational qualifications alongside new made-for-Wales GCSEs?

Through this consultation, we want to put in place a more inclusive set of GCSEs that include subjects and assessment approaches which are sometimes described as vocational. Schools and learners will be able to choose from a range of other qualifications (such as BTECs) which: 

  • are different to any made-for-Wales qualification, 
  • support the curriculum, 
  • are offered bilingually, 
  • meet the needs of learners.   

What else would you like to know?
Email your question to reform@qualificationswales.org