All power to the mighty Welsh bac

9th March 2007 at 00:00
The sudden announcement, be it one line, that the Welsh baccalaureate is to be married with new work-led diplomas in England has been widely welcomed (see page 1). It has not come as a shock. But, while it is accepted that the qualification needed some UK perspective to broaden its appeal to industry, it has been a clear winner in the world of academia.

Inboxes at TES Cymru have been jammed with teachers from schools and FE colleges, proudly telling us of their latest advanced bac students to be given a great offer from Oxford or Cambridge.

We all worried the qualification would be sniffed at. "It's not good enough for this institution, dear boy," one could hear. However, far from being an easy option, the advanced bac has been acclaimed for preparing sixth-formers for university and adult life far better than the traditional A-level route ever did.

All power to the elbow of Jane Davidson for the bac coup. The minister for education, lifelong learning and skills has already admitted that the introduction of the diploma was a bit of a gamble. But we were clearly ahead of the game.

Ms Davidson, keen to keep the bac her baby, has insisted the qualification will remain Welsh at the core. But let's hope that developers of the new work-led diplomas over the border can iron out reported "unresolved issues", so that the sterling Welsh effort is not compromised as it is rolled out across Wales. The diploma is our pride and joy.

We also need to stand back and heed the advice of those who warn against qualifications becoming too employer-led. Sir Adrian Webb, who is leading a major review of FE in Wales, talks a lot of sense when he says learning to cut hair will not give a 14 to 16-year-old a broad enough range of skills for life.

Developers over the border have been accused of rushing into the new specialised diplomas. Perhaps we should be taking a step back, too.

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