Disappointment over the Welsh bac

19th April 2002 at 01:00
Critics say much-vaunted curriculum is not that different from the old A-level system. Adi Bloom reports

THE think-tank which conceived the idea of a Welsh Baccalaureate this week attacked the pilot scheme as a "missed opportunity". It feels the scheme does not provide the broader, European-style education it had wanted.

Members of the Institute of Welsh Affairs were seeking a qualification similar to the International Baccalaureate. They are aggrieved because the pilot bears little resemblance to their original plan for sixth-formers.

John David, joint author of the institute's proposal and a former comprehensive head, said: "We based our thinking on the International Baccalaureate. We felt the IB pattern is applicable at all levels of the upper secondary situation.

"But what came out was a scheme based on A-levels, AS-levels and key skills. So are we really any further forward? I'm extremely disappointed. I do feel that Wales is missing a huge opportunity."

The institute's plan followed the IB pattern of six or seven academic subjects complemented by a compulsory core, but added a number of specifically Welsh elements. It was adopted by the Liberal Democrats, who promoted it to their Welsh Assembly coalition partners. The Assembly then issued an invitation to tender for an official pilot. But Mr David feels that there was a lack of debate.

In the pilot, tendered by the Welsh Joint Education Committee exam board, existing A-levels or GNVQs are studied alongside a large core element.

Colin Jenkins, former head of Atlantic College, near Cardiff, which offers the IB, worked with Mr David on the initial proposals. He also feels that the new scheme is merely a diluted version of the original concept. "The current pilot might work," he said. "But it's like the marathon: completing is a damn good thing, but it isn't the same as winning it. They should have run a little faster."

Keith Davies, project director for the WJEC Welsh Bac, said: "We submitted our proposal responding to the requirements of the National Assembly. If the IWA wants to be supportive and constructive, then fine. But if they want to be destructive, that's their problem."

A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly denied that the invitation to tender ruled out the IWA's model. The paper, she said, merely "drew attention to areas where further development would be needed to meet ministers'

objectives".

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