Too few schools enter teenage pupils for economy-boosting key skills qualifications, says Estyn.
A survey by the Welsh inspectorate found that most schools don't enter key stage 4 pupils for the qualifications, first introduced in Wales in 2000 to address skills shortages, because teachers find the assessment procedure too time-consuming and bureaucratic.
The results will add credence to the notion that skills led learning is not catching on in some of Wales's schools as quickly as hoped, and there is a growing gulf between schools that teach the vocationally led bac and those that do not.
According to inspectors, only 3 per cent of all key skills qualifications are awarded to pupils at KS4. A third is achieved at schools piloting the bac.
Only one school in Wales enters all its pupils for the three key skill qualifications of communication, application of number and ICT.
Key skills are a requirement of the learning core of the 14-19 learning pathway and complement the secondary curriculum introduced this September.
Despite the low entrance at KS4, 70 per cent of secondary schools are judged to be good or better at key skills. Inspectors admit in the report that Welsh bac schools get extra cash to alleviate pressure and pupils are more motivated to get key skills qualifications because they need them to complete the qualification. The inspectorate recommends schools that do not offer the bac develop strategies with a clear sense of direction for building pupils' key skills. It also says awarding bodies need to cut back on the bureaucracy involved in assessment.
Dr Bill Maxwell, Wales's chief inspector, said: "It would not be reasonable to make entering all pupils for key skills qualifications at key stage 4 an expectation of all schools presently." Inspectors contacted 28 secondary schools in Wales as part of the survey.