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Minister amenable to Welsh bac trial

Peter Hain, the minister responsible for education in Wales, this week signalled the Government's intention to consider replacing A-levels with a Welsh baccalaureate.

Speaking at a meeting in Cardiff Mr Hain said he was open to persuasion on the merits of a qualification broadening the current narrow academic focus of most post-16 education.

"My door is open. I share with the authors of the Welsh bac the belief that far too many students are coming out of our schools with arts A-levels who are less than numerate and that too many sciences students are less than literate when they leave," he declared.

He will want to be satisfied: * that most Welsh schools and colleges would back the introduction of a Welsh bac; * that Welsh students with a bac would be as likely to obtain places at English universities as holders of A-levels; * that funding of a trial run would be acceptable in the prevailing financial climate.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of the examining body Edexcel, formerly BTEC and London Examination Board.

The cost of the pilot scheme, likely to involve between six and 10 schools and colleges, is estimated at Pounds 1.2 million. The bill splits three ways - Pounds 300,000 to the awarding body, Pounds 600,000 to schools and colleges for examination costs, staffing and material costs and training, Pounds 300, 000 for administration and promotion.

Fifty bodies - business organisations as well as schools - had been consulted on the project and most had expressed support, said John Osmond, director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs.

Dr Elizabeth Haywood, director of the CBI in Wales, called for the Government to set up a pilot study to measure support for the bac and its likely impact.

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