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New bac is up and running for the Welsh

Mike Tomlinson's brave new world of education is already a reality in some Welsh schools. The Welsh Assembly launched the Welsh baccalaureate, a qualification which welds together academic and vocational education, in 18 schools last September.

Students can take the baccalaureate at intermediate or advanced level, depending on whether they are studying for their GCSEs or A-levels. As well as getting passes in these exams, students at both levels must complete a core certificate involving community work, work experience, a unit called Wales, Europe and the World, a foreign language module, key skills such as numeracy and information technology, and opportunities to explore political, social, economic, cultural and moral issues.

Ucas awards 120 points for the central core of the baccalaureate at advanced level, which means a top grade has the same currency as a top-grade A-level when it comes to university admissions.

Coleg Meirion Dwyfor was one of the centres to be chosen. The sixth-form college is based on three sites, at Dolgellau, Pwllheli and Glynllifon. The baccalaureate is being piloted at Pwllheli.

Tony Rees, vice-principal at the college, said: "The new qualification is better because it provides students with a wider study. It covers things that wouldn't have been covered in the A-level syllabus.

"All the reports we've had from students have been positive, and it hasn't been too difficult for teachers to adapt because the A-level syllabus was already in place.

"It was more of a problem delivering the key skills through the A-level syllabus. The baccalaureate provides a better vehicle for learning the skills."

Six more schools will begin piloting the baccalaureate this September, and another six in September 2005.

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