Students like the new qualification but still have reservations
SIXTH-FORMERS who were sent on a PR exercise to sell the Welsh baccalaureate in England have given more of a mixed verdict back home.
Eight bac students praised the qualification at a conference held at the University of Central England in Birmingham, in May. They claimed its skills base gave them the edge over English students. But now some are saying it is still not fully recognised in Wales - let alone England.
Their responses back up findings in a report by Nottingham university last year that claimed existing scepticism needed to be attacked with widespread promotion of the qualification's merits.
Sian Williams, one of the student bac ambassadors from Ysgol Morgan Llwyd in Wrexham, said: "Some students I know found out their courses don't accept it after doing all the work. By contrast, I was made an offer at Aberystwyth of one A and a B for geography because I was a bac student."
Jane Owen, Welsh bac co-ordinator and head of sixth form at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, admitted that departments at both Cardiff and Bangor universities had not made offers that included the bac.
She said Oxford and Cambridge universities were "woolly" in their response to it. However, she claims to be a convert since the school became a bac pilot three years ago.
The school expects 60 more pupils to join the school this September - double the initial take-up - meaning its appeal is reaching students. "Hand on heart, the first two years I was worried. Now I know it works," said Ms Owen. "And it is gaining more street cred among pupils."
Mark Anderson, another of the party from Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, received offers to study maths from Manchester and Cardiff universities which both included the bac. He said suggestions it was too work-intensive were unfounded, with not one student in his cohort dropping an A-level.
The Welsh bac has been allocated 120 UCAS tariff points at level 3 (advanced level), equivalent to an A grade at A-level. Each student at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd is taught how to work independently, solve problems and organise their own learning.
St Cyres comprehensive, in Vale of Glamorgan, was one of the first places to offer the bac in September 2003. It is also one of the first to pilot the intermediate and foundation levels for young pupils.
Mr Ross Thomas, St Cyres's head of sixth form, said at the conference that the programme had transformed the learning culture of its senior pupils, preparing them for university and work.
The Assembly government intends 25 per cent of students to follow by 2010.
Evaluators recommended the staggered roll-out of the bac after endorsing it.