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Keep IT standard at right level

My subject, information and communications technology, is also a key skill.

It is one of six subject areas in which a student can achieve a key skill at four levels.

However, there are exemptions. If students have grade C or above at GCSE in ICT, they are automatically entitled to key skills level 2 in the subject.

Those who have A-level computing are automatically entitled to a level 3.

Two years ago, several sixth-formers who had A* at GCSE wanted to have a go at key skills level 3 ICT - and since they were hot stuff on computers, I thought I would let them do it. They would need a portfolio and have to take an examination. We came unstuck. The exams for key skills level 3 were more demanding than we realised.

If you really want to know what the standards are you should become an examiner, which I did. I gained immensely by the experience and I can tell any employer that if a youngster comes to you with key skills level 3 ICT, they are worth employing.

However, in Wales as of this year, students only need to submit a portfolio, they no longer have to sit an exam. And, if I am honest, the skills sought for in the portfolio are not as demanding as the skills tested in the exam. If they were, the post-16 student would have to attend IT lessons.

At present, portfolios are supposed to be achievable from across a range of subjects: no need for discrete IT key skills lessons.

The examination boards will undoubtedly do their best to maintain standards. But their guidelines for the portfolio standards do not compare with their ability to test skills under examination conditions.

I went out and campaigned for devolution in Wales. I believe passionately in Wales's ability to govern her own affairs well. I did not knock on all those doors just to see our standards become lower than those in England.

This is an area we must re-visit. If we are only to examine by evidence from the portfolio, then we need to specify that the candidate must show evidence of the IT skills that are tested in England by examination.

The IT standard in Wales must be the equivalent of or, better still, higher than that in England. Anything less is letting our youngsters down and makes a mockery of all that door-knocking in the pouring rain.

Helen Yewlett is head of computing at Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera, Neath Port Talbot

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