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Bac pilots taken to different levels

Eighteen schools and colleges will pilot a new foundation-level Welsh baccalaureate course for the 14-19 age group from September.

And more students starting new pilot bac courses in the college sector will have the opportunity to study in Welsh as well as English.

So far, the Welsh bac has been piloted at intermediate (GCSE) and advanced level for post-16 students only, with these schemes now in their third year and involving 31 schools and colleges.

The new pilots will trial a new foundation level bac for post-14 students, plus a modified intermediate level course for the same age group. Jane Davidson, education, lifelong learning and skills minister, announced the new pilots at last week's Wales education show in Cardiff.

She told delegates: "The Welsh bac brings breadth and a common core - recognised by UCAS as equivalent to an A-grade A-level. It develops the key skills that employers and higher education institutions tell us they want.

"One of the major characteristics of the bac - and one that I am very proud of -is that it is not an elitist qualification. Our partners in the WJEC (the Welsh exam board) have developed a foundation-level model, which will be piloted alongside the intermediate model in key stage 4, as well as in post-16 provision."

In three of the eight colleges running the new pilots, students will be able to study for the bac bilingually, or in Welsh only.

A spokesperson for fforwm, which represents Welsh FE colleges, said: "This is an important development, because of the emphasis the Assembly government is putting on extending Welsh-language provision."

Meanwhile, 111 students from four schools and two colleges have completed the "core" bac certificate early, leaving them free to concentrate on their A-level and GCSEGNVQ exams.

The bac core includes key skills, personal and social education, work-related education, and study of Wales, Europe and the world.

The WJEC has been encouraging candidates to complete it early, to help reduce drop-out rates. Last summer, less than half of those registered for the bac in February collected the full award.

Keith Davies, Welsh bac project director, said schools and colleges had "appreciated the flexibility offered by a spring award in helping them to plan their curriculum effectively". An independent evaluation of the bac is due out shortly, after which a ministerial announcement is expected on when the qualification will be rolled out nationally.

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