Look to Wales to bring value to Baccalaureate

10th September 2010 at 01:00
ASCL leader says neighbour's qualification is `just another performance indicator'

The proposed English Baccalaureate qualification will be worthless unless it becomes more like its Welsh equivalent, a teaching union leader has warned.

Westminster Education Secretary Michael Gove announced the new qualification this week to recognise the achievements of GCSE students who complete a broad course of studies.

The English Bac would be awarded to pupils who pass at least five GCSEs, including English, maths, one science, one foreign language and one humanities subject.

In Wales, the Assembly government has been developing the skills-led Welsh Bac qualification to complement A-level and GCSE courses since September 2003.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders and former head of St Cyres School, Penarth, said Mr Gove should look to Wales for inspiration. He said: "We want the secretary of state to be even bolder in his proposals. We hope he will have a look at the Welsh Bac and the range of things it includes before proceeding.

"As it stands the English Bac is just another performance indicator rather than a new qualification. All it does is recognise a certain set of GCSEs, and you can do that in any way. In its current form it lacks any added currency in terms of employability."

Mr Lightman has first-hand experience of the Welsh Bac, having piloted the qualification at St Cyres. He said: "The Welsh Bac is an extremely successful model and we would very much like to see it influencing the shape of the English Bac. It is widely accepted by universities who can see that the students who have got it have got a much rounder education and set of skills."

The Welsh Bac programme is made up of core and options. The core has five components - key skills; the individual investigation; Wales, Europe and the world; work-related education; and personal and social education.

The options are the subjects and courses such as A-levels or equivalent vocational qualifications. From this month, 212 schools, colleges and training providers are offering the Welsh Bac to some 50,000 students.

Leighton Andrews, the education minister, said: "Wales has recognised for some time the need for broader-based qualifications and since the Welsh Baccalaureate pilot scheme began back in 2003 the qualification has had an extremely positive impact on pupils' learning experiences.

"The results published in August were excellent and with the number of students achieving the award increasing year on year it is quickly becoming embedded as the pathway of choice in Wales. It is interesting to see that this message is now being heard elsewhere."


Broad view: Bac facts

- Designed to provide students with a broad, balanced range of experiences and promote parity of esteem between vocational and academic choices.

- The advanced diploma is equivalent to an A-level A grade and recognised as a qualification by all Welsh universities and a growing number of English institutions.

- This year, a record 81 per cent of entrants were awarded the advanced diploma, up from 79.7 per cent last year.

  • Original headline: England told to look to Wales to bring value to its Baccalaureate

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