Frequently Asked Questions – Welsh language qualifications
Since Welsh Government announced the new Curriculum for Wales, which aims to give learners more opportunities to succeed through a broad and balanced education, we knew we had to start a wider conversation on how qualifications for 14 to 16-year-olds should now look.
We wanted to speak to everyone who would be impacted by this – learners, teachers, parents and carers, employers, universities and the public. In our consultation and decisions report, we set out our vision for future qualifications and asked what should happen to GCSEs and the Skills Challenge Certificate.
We didn’t include Welsh language qualifications in our published decisions report. We decided to reserve our decision and review the qualifications available at GCSE level together with the Welsh Government’s current Welsh language policy intentions.
Following that review, a trio of qualifications will be created:
- Welsh Language and Welsh Literature will be combined into one GCSE for pupils in Welsh-medium and bilingual schools, centres and settings.
- GCSE Welsh Second Language will be discontinued, and a new GCSE in Welsh will be created for learners in English-medium schools, centres and settings.
- A new, additional qualification for pupils in English-medium schools, centres and settings will be created for those who are ready to progress further in their Welsh language skills.
We’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions about the three qualifications, or you can watch our short animation.
If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for, or you have a question not listed below, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, if you want to share feedback and ideas on these new qualifications or would like to be involved in one of our stakeholder groups, please let us know by emailing the address above.
You can also read the decisions report on Welsh language qualifications.
Why has Qualifications Wales decided to offer three Welsh language qualifications instead of just one?
Our aim is to have one overarching Cymraeg qualification for our learners in all settings, but we are not there yet because learners have varying levels of exposure to the language. Also, the new Curriculum for Wales sets out two different sets of expectations for learners in English-medium and Welsh-medium schools, as learners will develop their Welsh language skills at different speeds.
We want to encourage all learners to be confident users of the Welsh language, supporting Welsh Government’s ‘Cymraeg 2050’ language strategy.
So, by offering these three qualifications, learners will have a fair and equal opportunity to achieve in Cymraeg, regardless of which type of school they attend.
What do people think of the three qualifications?
We know that qualifications may receive mixed reviews, but we have worked closely with teachers, subject experts, and the Welsh Government over recent months to ensure this offer best meets the needs of learners so they have the skills and confidence to use Cymraeg in their learning, work, and everyday lives.
For example, Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said: “Welsh Language qualifications should support all learners on their Welsh Language journey and provide a route towards a shared goal. I welcome the new Welsh language qualifications, which remove the concept of Welsh being a second language and will reward the hard work of those studying Welsh across the whole spectrum of Welsh language experience and ability.
“I have been clear that changes to qualifications must be radical and ambitious and support the new Curriculum, as we move to a continuum for Welsh learning, from those with little or no language experience, right through to those working towards proficiency.
“There is a real opportunity to work with Qualifications Wales to help shape these new qualifications and I encourage everyone with an interest to engage with the process over the coming months.”
We also spoke to Dr. Alex Lovell, Senior Lecturer in Welsh, Swansea University who stated: “There is no doubt that much more work needs to be done in order to close the gap between Welsh and English-medium schools in relation to Welsh language provision. Nevertheless, Qualifications Wales’ decision to create a new Welsh GCSE qualification which will once again increase the challenge and expectations for learners in the English-medium sector is to be broadly welcomed. And their decision to create an additional qualification to bridge between the two new GCSEs in particular is an important first step towards supporting the ambition of Cymraeg 2050 and enabling those Welsh learners who wish to move more quickly and further along the continuum to do so.”
What will happen to the existing Welsh language GCSEs offered by schools and centres?
When these qualifications are introduced into schools in 2025, the current GCSE Welsh language qualifications will no longer be available to new learners. Those learners who have started one of these GCSEs will be able to finish their study and have the opportunity to resit if needed.
What will the three new Cymraeg qualifications look like?
As part of our work with teachers and advisors, we’re looking at the purposes, content, assessment, and the relationship between all three qualifications and how they support one continuum of teaching and learning.
By this summer, we aim to have proposals for each of the three qualifications and will be asking for feedback. For more information on the feedback process, read the question below.
Will you be going out to further consultation about this?
Everyone will have a chance to feedback on how the new Cymraeg qualifications will look, along with changes to other subjects, in the autumn term.
Once the feedback process ends, we will work with teachers and advisors to review the points raised and consider how they can be integrated into our proposals. We’ll explain how we have addressed your feedback when we publish the final qualification requirements in summer 2023.
How will you keep people updated about GCSE Welsh?
We will update this webpage with the most current information on Cymraeg qualifications, as well as share timely updates on our social media channels. If you have a question, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
Combining Welsh Language and Welsh Literature
Why is language and literature being combined into one GCSE?
Language and literature are interconnected within the Languages, Literacy and Communication Area of Learning and Experience (LLC AoLE). Therefore, by combining language and literature into one qualification, it makes it easier for learners to create links between the two.
Assessing language and literature together is a positive way for learners to develop linguistic skills, starting with the premise that literature is made of language, which is key to understanding how language works.
What happens to learners who want to study literature as a separate subject?
Our data shows that not all learners who take Welsh Language GCSE also take Welsh Literature GCSE (Source: Welsh Examinations Database). By integrating both language and literature into one qualification, this gives more learners exposure to literature as a subject, as well as offering them the opportunity to study additional subjects at GCSE level.
Won’t this decision disadvantage learners who want to study literature at A level?
Progression to A level should not be adversely affected as the current Welsh A level combines language and literature in its syllabus. This is the same for Higher Education if you were to study Cymraeg at degree level.
Is Wales the only country to combine language and literature?
No, other places combine language and literature, including Scotland, Republic of Ireland, New South Wales, New Zealand and Japan.
Is Welsh the only subject where language and literature will be combined?
We have decided to combine language and literature for English GCSE too, as mentioned in our decisions report.
Who will be able to study this new combined GCSE qualification?
This qualification will be available to learners in bilingual and Welsh-medium settings from September 2025.
What will the size of the new GCSE be?
This new combined GCSE would be roughly the size of one and a half GCSEs. This mirrors our approach to creating a new combined language and literature GCSE in English.
Will a reduction in the size of the GCSE mean that schools will have to reduce the teaching time?
The time spent teaching subjects is the responsibility of that school/centre and we know that the time spent on teaching Cymraeg can vary from school to school.
We will be working with others to issue guidance to schools and teachers on teaching provision for these new qualifications to help make the transition as smooth as possible and ease the burden on planning.
A new GCSE in Welsh for learners in English-medium settings
Why is the new GCSE Welsh Second Language being discontinued?
We have decided to discontinue GCSE Welsh Second Language to support Welsh Government’s policy of a single continuum for teaching and learning Welsh (known as the ‘Welsh language continuum’). In its place, we will create a GCSE in Welsh designed for learners in English-medium settings.
How will the new GCSE be different to the current GCSE Welsh Second Language?
Welsh language qualifications for learners in English-medium settings have been developing for the last five years.
In 2017, the current GCSE Welsh Second Language replaced the full and short courses in both GCSE Welsh Second Language and GCSE Applied Welsh. These changes were the first step on a continuing journey of reform and development of Welsh language qualifications.
It was always agreed that the GCSE Welsh Second Language would be reviewed again after 2017 in line with the new curriculum guidance. So, this new qualification will build on the reformed GCSE and include:
- A strengthened focus on developing learners’ speaking and listening skills
- More emphasis on learners’ ability to communicate effectively and converse spontaneously
- Integration of language patterns and skills, as opposed to recall of memorised phrases and vocabulary.
Will the new GCSE have a new title?
Yes, it will. As it will differ to the current GCSE Welsh Second Language, it will need a new name. We will discuss this with teachers, learners, and other subject experts as we look at the content, assessment, and design of the new qualification.
We will let people know the full name of the GCSE once it has been agreed.
Who will be able to study this new GCSE?
The new GCSE will be offered to learners in English-medium schools and centres from September 2025.
How challenging will the new GCSE be?
Our aim is for the new GCSE to be at least as challenging as the current qualification.
We’re mindful of the impact that Covid-19 has had on schools, and teachers have expressed concerns of reduced contact time with their learners and how this could impact expectations and attainment.
Together with teachers, we will review the current GCSE Welsh Second Language to understand what works well and what can be improved. We will apply this learning when developing the new qualification based on the Curriculum for Wales expectations.
Learners who are ready to develop their Cymraeg further will be able to take the new additional qualification as a follow-on from this GCSE (see more details below).
Will future school performance measures impact these new Cymraeg qualifications?
Welsh Government is reforming how school evaluation and improvement will work in the future. This includes rethinking whether school performance measures will continue to exist and how they might be used. We are in regular discussions with Welsh Government about these reforms, as well as its expectations for how Welsh language learning should feature in a school’s curriculum.
We will continue to work with Welsh Government and others to look at how we can help schools to make the most of these new qualifications so that all learners make as much progress as possible with their Cymraeg.
A new, additional qualification for learners in English-medium settings
Who will be able to study this new additional qualification?
This qualification will be offered to learners in English-medium schools, centres and settings who are ready to progress further and more quickly in their Welsh language skills.
For example, learners may wish to study this qualification to practise using Welsh outside of the classroom.
Additionally, it may be offered to learners who want to build their confidence before progressing onto Welsh A level.
Also, teachers may identify learners who feel they are ready to be challenged and stretched even further in their Cymraeg skills and recommend them to take this additional qualification.
What will this new additional qualification look like?
In terms of its size, the qualification will be smaller than a GCSE. We will determine the exact size with teachers, learners, and other subject experts as we look at the whole Cymraeg qualification offer available to learners in English-medium schools.
Themes such as Welsh history and culture were suggested as topics to include for content in this new qualification. We want these Cymraeg qualifications to enrich the experience of the language for our learners in English-medium schools and centres, so we will explore suggested ideas and how they can help us achieve this. If you have suggestions or feedback on these qualifications, or would like to be involved, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
When will learners be expected to study this additional qualification at school?
This additional qualification will be taught alongside the GCSE in the same lesson, so no extra teaching resource or timetabling will be required.
Teachers will use differentiation to identify those learners within the lesson who are progressing faster along the continuum and are ready to study this qualification.
It will be taught in schools from September 2025.
What will the new qualification be called?
We will think of a new name with teachers, learners, and other subject experts as we look at the content, assessment, and design of the new qualification.
We will let everyone know in the autumn.