Bacc to the Future – what do people think of the Welsh Bacc?

On Wednesday 3 July 2019, Plenary will debate the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s report, Bacc to the Future, the Status of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification (April 2019).

Estimated reading time: 3 Minutes

01 July 2019

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

On Wednesday 3 July 2019, Plenary will debate the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s report, Bacc to the Future, the Status of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification (April 2019) (PDF 718KB).

What is the Welsh Bacc?

The original Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification (Welsh Bacc) was first piloted in September 2003 and made available to all schools and colleges in Wales in September 2007.   The Welsh Government’s Review of Qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds in Wales(PDF 293KB) (November 2012) recognised a number of strengths in the Welsh Bacc, but recommended it should be revised and made more rigorous. The new Welsh Bacc was introduced in September 2015.

This new Welsh Bacc is considerably different from its predecessor. It is an overarching qualification that aims to help prepare students between the ages of 14 and 19 for employability, further study and life.

The Welsh Bacc is awarded at Foundation, National and Advanced levels.

The Skills Challenge Certificate

To be awarded the Welsh Bacc, a student must achieve the Skills Challenge Certificate (SCC), and qualifications in:

  • English or Welsh Language, and
  • Mathematics or Mathematics-Numeracy; and
  • a choice of supporting qualifications such as GCSEs, A levels or vocational qualifications. 

The SCC is central to the Welsh Bacc. It has four components: the Individual Project; the Enterprise and Employability Challenge; the Global Citizenship Challenge; and the Community Challenge.

At the Advanced level, the SCC is equivalent in size and demand to an A level. It is also graded in the same way, and carries the same UCAS tariff points.

In 2017, a review of the SCC was commissioned by Qualification Wales, the independent organisation responsible for regulating general and vocational qualifications.  The report, Review of the design and assessment model of the Skills Challenge Certificate, and its place within the Welsh Baccalaureate, (PDF 1,103KB) was published on 23 April 2018.

As a result, Qualifications Wales have established Design and Practitioner Groups to help develop and consider proposals for change to the SCC. This work is ongoing.

The Committee’s inquiry

The Committee were aware of negative perceptions about the Welsh Bacc and wanted to learn how well the it is understood and valued by learners, parents, schools, colleges, universities and employers.  They also wanted to understand whether the Welsh Bacc is having an effect on other subjects in the curriculum, and on education provision more generally.  

The Committee heard a range of views from learners, including that the Welsh Bacc is time consuming and students don’t see the value of the qualification.  Other learners thought that it was beneficial to their future learning or employment, although some only appreciated this in hindsight.

The Committee found that universities treat the Welsh Bacc differently when making admissions decisions.   Some treat it as an equivalent to A level, while  others recognise its usefulness for the personal statement that supports a student’s university application. Some universities  reduce the grades required in other A level subjects if a student is also studying the Welsh Bacc.

The Committee also found that the Welsh Bacc is delivered inconsistently. Some schools have dedicated co-ordinators, but in others it is taught by teachers who have spare capacity in their time-tables.

The Committee heard that there is confusion as to whether the Welsh Bacc is compulsory for all learners, given the Welsh Government’s policy of universal adoption. This means that all schools and colleges must be in a position to offer the Welsh Bacc, and that it should be an entitlement for students.

Overall, the Committee reported that while there is clearly merit to studying the Welsh Bacc, the way it is currently delivered and publicised is having a detrimental effect on its actual, and perceived, value.

Responses to the Committee’s report

The Committee made nine recommendations to the Welsh Government.  The Welsh Government accepted eight of the recommendations and accepted one in principle (PDF 410KB). 

The Committee recommended that Qualifications Wales should urgently consider whether their only higher education liaison officer is sufficient to establish a picture of the higher education landscape in relation to the Welsh Bacc, and raise awareness of it across the sector. In response, Qualifications Wales (PDF 141KB) said that the liaison officer is a relatively new post and that it is too soon to consider an additional appointment, but it will keep this under review. 

The Committee wants to see a clearer statement from the Welsh Government about its vision for the Welsh Bacc, and on the expectations and resources needed to deliver it. The Committee also recommended  a campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of the qualification among businesses and higher education institutions.

Article by Sian Hughes, Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales

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