The latest on the Welsh Bacc’s Skills Challenge Certificate
Last year we published an independent review of the Welsh Bacc Skills Challenge Certificate. The review made recommendations for how the delivery and design of these qualifications could be improved. In this blog we give a quick roundup of where we’ve got to with implementing the recommendations and our plan for the months ahead.
Over the past few months, we have been busy shaping our proposals for changes to the Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate (SCC) in preparation for a public consultation in the autumn, the culmination of extensive stakeholder engagement over many months.
We understand that the Advanced SCC needs to ensure a good fit between learners and a host of different stakeholders, including (not exclusively) employers and universities, as well as being a robust and widely valued qualification that Wales can be proud of. To better understand what that means in practice, we met with learners and members of the business community across Wales (prior to lockdown). We have also been talking to representatives from universities in Wales and the UK and working with assessment experts.
For example, we held a series of business breakfasts across Wales with a range of employers to improve understanding of the current SCC model, establish the type of skills employers want school leavers to have and to determine what types of experiences are best for developing these skills. This type of employer input is essential to ensure the SCC stays relevant to the changing demands of the workplace.
We captured the learners’ voice by visiting a number of schools across Wales just before lockdown. This engagement was designed to better understand the experiences of learners who had completed the SCC at KS4 and who had almost completed their Advanced SCC. This is the first year we have learners in this position as the SCC was approved for first teaching in September 2015. We gained an understanding of how the qualification progresses between KS4 and Advanced from learners’ perspectives, and how they have benefited from the experiences the SCC provides.
It was also encouraging to see how important the SCC has been for learners’ university applications, with learners using their experience from the Individual Project and the Challenges for their personnel statements and interviews, and to learn how the SCC is being included in their university offers.
We have been furthering our engagement with universities in recent weeks by speaking to admissions officers and academic staff about the specific aspects of the SCC that are most valued for preparing learners for higher education. This is to ensure that any reform of the SCC is in line with HE expectations. Recent meetings with Welsh and English universities have been extremely positive in this regard.
March also saw the plenary session of the Welsh Bacc Practitioners Group where we summarized the significant contributions the group has made and outlined the important next steps for the project which includes our public consultation on the Advanced SCC this autumn.
The KS4 SCC was included as part of the Qualified for the Future consultation that closed in February. The feedback is currently being collated and processed, with a report on the findings due to be published shortly. Any changes to the KS4 SCC will need to consider the whole curriculum offer.
We would like to express our huge gratitude to all the learners, practitioners and other stakeholders who have given up so much of their time to play a part in helping us to shape our proposals. It has been inspiring to see how much skill, dedication and enthusiasm has gone into delivering and completing the SCC.
As we all know, there has been considerable disruption caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus. We are fortunate at Qualifications Wales to have the opportunity to continue to work remotely but we understand the impact it has had on all those in education and beyond. So, from all of us at Qualifications Wales, we hope you and those close to you stay safe and well.
Future Skills Set for a Boost
Over recent months we’ve been working with stakeholders to consider how we can improve the Advanced and Foundation/National Skills Challenge Certificate (SCC) qualifications. We’ve also been thinking about the range of Skills Challenge Certificates (the qualifications at the heart of the Welsh Baccalaureate) that are available.
Something many people aren’t aware of is there are currently four different Skills Challenge Certificate qualifications available. This can make it harder to explain what the Welsh Bacc is and how the Skills Challenge Certificate fits into it, especially as the SCC is only one of a number of qualifications that make up a Welsh Bacc award.
The four SCC qualifications currently available are:
When and where studied (typically)
Alongside GCSEs, by learners in years 10 and 11 in schools.
Foundation (Post-16) SCC
Alongside other level 1 qualifications by post-16 learners in sixth forms and colleges.
National (Post-16) SCC
Alongside other level 2 qualifications by post-16 learners in sixth forms and colleges.
Alongside A levels and other level 3 qualifications in sixth forms and colleges.
There is a big difference in the numbers of learners that take each of these four qualifications. For example, the Advanced SCC is taken by around 12,000 learners each year, that’s about three quarters of all the learners studying A levels and other level 3 qualifications in colleges and sixth forms. The Foundation/National SCC is taken by more than double the number taking the Advanced, with nearly all Year 11 learners in Wales completing the qualification in schools. That’s why we are taking the time and effort to make them as good as they can be.
On the other hand, the Foundation (Post-16) SCC and National (Post-16) SCC are taken by very few learners. There may be many reasons for this, but one could be because learners are now able to re-sit components of the key stage 4 version when in post-16 settings.
We have decided, with agreement from WJEC and Welsh Government, that the Foundation (Post-16) SCC and the National (Post-16) SCC will be discontinued next year (from 31 August 2020). This means that the learners who started on their courses for these qualifications in September this year will be the last cohort to take these two qualifications. We have written to key stakeholders to notify them of this decision.
Reducing the number of Skills Challenge Certificate qualifications from four to two will help make the overall Welsh Bacc simpler to understand and to explain. And it will also allow us to focus our efforts to strengthen the design of the Advanced and Foundation/National Skills Challenge Certificate qualifications.
We are making steady progress on developing ideas for possible changes. This year we will continue to work in collaboration with practitioners and wider stakeholders to further test our thinking. We will consult on proposals for possible changes in 2020. As always, we’ll continue to keep you posted through our regular blog.
Since our last update much has happened in the world of the Welsh Bacc. The National Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee’s (CYPEC) inquiry into the status of the Welsh Bacc was published in April which confirmed that there is ‘clear merit to studying the Welsh Bacc, particularly in terms of the breadth of skills developed by learners for future learning, employment and life’. The report also acknowledges the work we are doing to improve the design of the Welsh Bacc’s Skills Challenge Certificate (SCC).
We are now six months into working with the Design and Practitioners’ groups focusing on the version of the SCC that’s taught in schools alongside GCSEs (the KS4 version). We’ve thought about alignment with the new curriculum, including what skills the qualification should target. We’re of the view that it should still focus on the same skills at present, i.e. the wider skills referred to in the curriculum, but that more could usefully be done to describe those skills more precisely.
We’ve also been busy promoting awareness and understanding of the SCC with stakeholders. We recently ran a seminar for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for HR and people development, to help explain the SCC to employers in Wales. Turnout was great and those attending confirmed the importance of the skills the SCC is designed to develop, for those joining the workforce. Also, Qualifications Wales’ HE Engagement Officer continues to raise awareness of the SCC with universities across the UK.
While there is still significant work to do before we consult on our proposals for changes to the SCC next year, we are confident that there is a clear route to a successful outcome thanks to the many positive contributions made from everyone involved to date.
The start of 2019 has been a busy and productive time for all things Skills Challenge Certificate (SCC). Our work to raise awareness and understanding of the Welsh Bacc’s SCC is continuing apace. In February, we launched a radio campaign across local and national stations and Spotify. We’ve updated our website with personal stories from past students talking about how the SCC has helped them. You can also read testimonies from universities and community groups explaining why they value the SCC.
This spring, we met with our Practitioners’ Group once again. As we reform the design of the SCC, we want to capture how the SCC is working in practice from the point of view of those delivering it. So, we asked the group (which is made up of SCC teachers and coordinators) to discuss examples of the aspects of the SCC that work and those that don’t work from a teaching and learning perspective. There was an encouraging consistency in the feedback on what motivates and engages students and what types of experiences and activities are effective in skills development.
The Design Group’s work has now moved beyond the high-level design considerations to reviewing specific aspects of the SCC in greater detail. The initial focus has been on the definitions of the essential and employability skills. We know that greater clarity about these skills could help to improve teachers’ and learners’ understanding of them, support progression within and across levels, and bring more clarity to the learning outcomes and assessment criteria. The group is also considering how the skills are linked to and assessed in each of the SCC Challenges and the Individual Project.
Our next steps will be to start shaping proposals for changes, based on the outcomes of the work of the Design Group and the Practitioners’ Group.
We have now established and met with the newly formed Welsh Bacc Design Group, whose role is to consider and develop proposals for changes to the SCC. The Group includes representatives from CollegesWales, Estyn, the regional education consortia Welsh Government, WJEC. Four skills-based qualifications and assessment experts that we have commissioned to provide technical advice and guidancealso sit on the group.
The group met for this first time in November. In this meeting, we established the purpose and role of the Group and importantly the context within which we are working with the new curriculum for Wales in development. The Group then began to consider what could be done to refine and develop the SCC further.
Every aspect of the SCC was up for discussion at the meetings. It was interesting to hear a range of viewpoints, all informed by a different relationship with the qualification; from those approaching with fresh eyes to others who have been involved in legacy versions. A constant throughout the discussion was the acknowledgement of the merits of the SCC and an appetite to build upon that to improve and strengthen it. At the heart of each discussion was the consideration of the experience of students and teachers.
Sitting alongside the Design Group is the Welsh Bacc Practitioners’ Group. This Group comprises around 25 teachers who deliver the SCC from a broad range of schools and colleges across Wales. They have a wealth of experience of the rewards and challenges of delivering the qualification and what it takes to engage students, inform parents and organise resources making it the perfect forum to test the Design Group’s proposals and to provide feedback to inform developments.
The first meeting of this Practitioners’ Group took place in mid-Wales in November. Ideas on how to support the current model of the SCC were discussed, before considering what could be done to refine and strengthen it. We will be meeting again in February.
The outcomes of the discussions of both Groups have been shared with each other. We feel that this is an important part of the process as any changes that are introduced must be considered thoroughly following careful planning and engagement, whilst being mindful of the wider education context. Encouragingly, there was a significant commonality between the areas the two Groups identified for improvement as well some new suggestions.
Both groups will meet again in January and February to firm up proposals for how the design of the SCC could be improved. In our next update we will share some of the ideas coming out of those discussions.