Sceptics still wary of the Welsh Bac

21st March 2008 at 00:00
Selling the made-in-Wales Bac over the border was always going to be a tall order (see page 1). But after some of the comments made by admissions tutors in England, it seems attempts at marketing this great qualification have fallen on deaf ears.

The Assembly government says the bac has been rebranded to give it a more "consistent" message across the UK. Does that mean it has undersold previously, or that some universities are simply not accepting it, no matter how hard the government tries?

The website of the Welsh exam board, the WJEC, boasts of growing acceptance from some of Britain's elite universities. But despite industry crying out for graduates who can hold their own in the "real world", and glowing praise for the Welsh Bac from external evaluators in English universities, there is still resistance.

Ucas, the university admissions regulator, says a pass in the Welsh Bac is the equivalent of an A grade at A-level, but still there are sceptics. Yet the same backward thinking is not at work in Scotland, where there is a high level of awareness of the qualification's advantages - the major one being its breadth.

Schools in Wales could also be accused of not jumping aboard the 14-19 Learning Pathways and the vocational revolution it brings. There should be more sympathy for them not wanting to leap too quickly into this brave new world (see page 5). The fact is, cash-strapped schools can ill-afford this well-meaning strategy, and they have major difficulties ahead - not only in the staffing, but also in the everyday administration of these huge changes to the daily lives of schools.

Until a national funding formula is found that gives schools more direct cash control and allows collaboration between them and colleges - rather than competition - the 14-19 pathways initiative will seem built on a wing and a prayer. Until that formula is found, struggling schools will, quite understandably, look after number one.

Competition triggers a survival instinct, and the sooner the Assembly government realises that, the quicker learners will reap the rewards of wider vocational choice and brighter futures.

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