Jeremy Miles, Minster for Education and Welsh Language
Today, Qualifications Wales have published the design requirements of the new GCSEs, for first teaching from 2025. The result of extensive engagement with the sector over the last three years, this represents an important next step in both their Qualified for the Future reform programme and in the roll-out of the Curriculum for Wales.
The announcement provides certainty to practitioners, learners and parents alike, on the GCSEs that will be on offer from 2025 under Curriculum for Wales. Learners and parents, in particular, should be reassured these new GCSEs will retain the same currency as their predecessors. They will continue to be portable, so that learners’ achievements are fairly rewarded and that they can use these qualifications to progress further in education or employment, wherever they choose to do so: this has always been a key aim of Qualifications Wales’s reforms. For areas like science, learners and parents should feel reassured that the significant majority of learners in Wales will still be taking the same route to a double award which will provide a strong platform for progress to science careers. As with the current Applied Science (Single Award) GCSE (which will be discontinued), the new single award is intended to provide access for a very small proportion of learners who may not be able to enjoy the full double award. The next step is WJEC’s work, which they have committed to undertake in an engaged and transparent way, as they develop qualifications which reflect the expectations of the new curriculum.
During Year 10 and Year 11, qualifications will be an important part of learning, but they won’t capture everything that learners will gain from experiencing the Curriculum for Wales. This will include mandatory elements of the curriculum, such as Careers and Work-Related Experiences, and participation in a range of other experiences and learning. Subject to the outcome of Qualifications Wales’s recent consultation on the Full 14-16 Qualifications Offer, learners will also be able to engage in a suite of skills-based qualifications, including an integral skills project, as well as foundation and pre-vocational qualifications. Through this range of opportunities, young people in Wales will become more rounded, competent and prepared for a range of different pathways post-16, including vocational or general education, employment or training. This will inform my thinking on how we adapt the future scope and focus of the Welsh Baccalaureate.
Schools already provide many of these skills, knowledge and experiences, and I am keen to ensure that we fully recognise and value this. Over coming months, the Welsh Government will work with employers, further education providers and schools, higher education institutions and, importantly, practitioners, to develop specific guidance on the requirements for schools’ offer to 14-16-year-old learners under the Curriculum for Wales. We will publish the guidance for consultation during the autumn term and will finalise it before September next year, so that the guidance is available to support schools’ planning for new qualifications throughout the 2024/25 academic year.
Critical to achieving our vision, and to supporting learners to become engaged and responsible citizens of Wales, will be the role schools play in supporting learners to make informed choices about their futures, facilitating their successful onward transitions to further education or to employment. I have therefore asked my officials to develop proposals for a Learner Portfolio: a tool which could support both learner progression under Curriculum for Wales at 14-16 and, crucially, learners’ individual pathways. A Learner Portfolio would provide a digital platform to support learner self-reflection and evaluation, completion of which could become an important part of learner engagement in their progression journey. I am also interested in exploring how learners could use a Learner Portfolio to be able to identify their strengths and interests, reflect on their progress and achievements, set future goals and plan for next steps. Proposals for a Learner Portfolio will be included in the consultation in the autumn, informed by a full assessment of their potential impact on teacher workload.
Work underway to support schools in realising the curriculum in the context of reformed qualifications is not being undertaken in isolation. Our expectations in the guidance will inform our proposals on what could be included in the new school information landscape. The work is also taking account of the wider Post Compulsory Education and Training reforms, to ensure learners are supported to make the right choices so that they can thrive. I am committed to working with practitioners over the coming months and beyond to build an education system that supports everyone in Wales to develop the knowledge, skills and experiences relevant to their lives today and into the future.