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Mixed fortunes for Bac

The new Welsh Baccalaureate is proving a hit with students - but some universities are ignoring it when making degree course offers.

And the Bac still has yet to achieve one of its major aims - convincing students and teachers that vocational and academic routes should be equally regarded, Assembly members were told this week.

Keith Davies, the Welsh Joint Education Committee's project manager for the Bac, told the Assembly's education committee: "One girl told me that she'd had an offer of three Ds, for a course that would normally have required three Bs -on condition that she also got her Welsh Bac."

But he conceded that other universities are not giving the new qualification similar weight.

The Bac project team has set up the Higher Education Advisory Team, which includes representatives from a number of English universities, to push for recognition of the qualification in their contacts with other educational bodies.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service has given the Bac advanced diploma 120 points - equivalent to an A grade at A-level. Meanwhile, the WJEC team wants schools and colleges to offer Bac pupils a wider range of course options.

Mr Davies said: "We're trying to give the same value to vocational courses as academic ones, but few students are studying vocational courses in schools, and in colleges very few follow academic courses."

Even in colleges students are opting for mainly social care, public services, and business and tourism courses, he said.

"We don't have a single college where there's a pupil following an engineering course. We're trying to encourage colleges to introduce the Bac in this area."

The Bac was launched as a pilot in 2003, and 2,500 students are now studying it. The first students to complete the full two-year programme will sit their A-levels and equivalent exams this summer.

Students studying at this advanced diploma level are making good progress, according to Susan Lewis, chief inspector of education and training. But in her annual report, published last week, she notes that those on the intermediate diploma (equivalent to GCSE grades A*-C) have too much work to do and few are completing the course successfully.

Overall, the Bac has attracted fewer students than planned, and a small number have dropped out early, often because of poor tutorial support or tutors not monitoring workload carefully enough.

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