Huw Lewis, Minister for Education and Skills
The public consultation on the proposals to establish a new qualifications body for Wales was published on 1 October 2013. It closed to responses on 20 December 2013.
The consultation posed 9 questions relating to the proposal to establish an independent regulatory body in Wales at arm’s length from Government. 62 responses were received to this consultation. The questions sought feedback on the evidence supporting the proposals, on the vision outlined in the proposals, and on the proposals for implementing that vision.
In addition to the formal consultation, engagement activity with children and young people in Wales in relation to the proposals to establish the body was undertaken in December 2013 and January 2014. 124 children and young people participated in facilitated consultation workshops, which posed questions in relation to the proposal to form the new body.
I am today issuing a summary of the responses to the consultation and engagement events which will be published on the consultation pages of the Welsh Government’s website.
I have carefully considered all responses, and these are informing the development of plans for the national qualifications body for Wales and the Bill which is due to be introduced to the Assembly before the end of this year.
I remain committed to ensuring that qualifications in Wales are understood and valued and meet the needs of our young people and the economy. The creation of a new body, Qualifications Wales, will strengthen both the regulation of awarding bodies and the quality assurance of qualifications.
I was pleased that the vast majority of responses broadly supported my vision for the new body and that so many offered to help with its development. My officials will continue to engage with stakeholders as we move forward.
The consultation responses raised some important points and I would like to take this opportunity to explain how these are being addressed.
Reservations about the ‘awarding’ function were expressed, particularly by Awarding Bodies, and a strong message given on the need for transparent demarcation between regulation and ‘awarding’. I would like to make clear that my intention is for the new body, in the first instance, to secure the development, delivery and award of its own suite of qualifications for Wales through commissioning one or more Awarding Bodies to deliver services on its behalf. These Awarding Bodies will, of course, be subject to the same regime of regulation and quality assurance that will be applied to Awarding Bodies delivering their own qualifications in Wales, including vocational qualifications. In the longer term, I remain convinced of the merits of one single body for Wales, but this will be a consideration for the future.
The message regarding the importance of the portability of qualifications and the need to safeguard learner interests was clearly received. Equally apparent was the need for collaboration, both within Wales, with other regulatory bodies and benchmarking with other countries. I can confirm that portability, learner interests and engagement with stakeholders are principles which underpin our reforms. In particular it is my intention that the new body will have a strong policy and research capability and use its evidence to actively encourage innovation.
I was pleased that the majority of respondents recognised the positive impact that independence, simplification and strengthening of regulation will have on public confidence. I was particularly struck by the Young People’s responses where the concerns were less about the introduction of new qualifications but rather that these might cause employers to under-value those currently in place. I will be launching a programme of communication for parents and learners in the autumn and will take the opportunity to address this point.
Finally, I noted the requests for clarity over the role of the new body in relation to apprenticeship frameworks and national occupational standards. I can confirm that the new body will have a role, but that further work is being under-taken to explore how this will work in practice.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who responded to the consultation and participated in the consultation workshops.