We are responsible for approving qualifications which may be used on publicly funded programmes of learning for learners under the age of 19.
We also designate certain qualifications for use in Wales. This means that we regulate the awarding body offering the qualification and that we are content that it is appropriate for the qualification to be offered on publicly funded courses for young people.
Monitoring standards and awarding processes is another key part of our regulatory activities.
Qualifications Wales may approve qualifications that have been designed to meet the needs of learners in Wales.
The Priority Qualifications List is jointly prepared between Qualifications Wales and Welsh Government setting out qualifications that have been agreed as priorities for approval at a given time.
These may include qualifications for which specific approval criteria have been developed to meet the needs of Welsh learners. Those needs might, for example, be in relation to the Curriculum in Wales or to the specific requirements of the Welsh economy and employers in Wales
The Priority Qualifications List also aims to identify qualifications that may be included on the list going forward.
This enables early development of approval criteria for these qualifications and may give awarding bodies notice of future priorities.
Restricted priority qualifications
Qualifications Wales has the power to restrict a qualification that is on the Priority Qualifications List.
We may decide that some qualifications on the Priority Qualification List should be restricted to a maximum number of versions which may be approved at any one time.
For example, we may decide that we only intend to approve one version of GCSE English Language. In this case, we would decide to this effect and this qualification would become a Restricted Priority Qualification.
We may only make such a decision if we are satisfied that the intended restriction is desirable considering our principal aims, and the objectives of:
- avoiding inconsistency between different forms of a qualification
- enabling us to exercise choice between awarding bodies who may want to develop a new form of the qualification or between different forms of qualifications submitted for approval
Before deciding to restrict the number of approved forms of a qualification, we must notify each recognised awarding body and any other person we think might be expected to have an interest in our proposal, and we consider any responses we receive.
Further details about our approach to the approval of priority qualifications, and our rationale and processes for the restriction of priority qualifications can be found in our Priority Qualifications List and Restricted Priority Qualifications Policy.
All recent notices can be seen below.
Restricted Priority Qualifications - Published Notices
Advanced Skills Baccalaureate Wales (Level 3)
Health and Social Care
- Intention to Restrict - November 2016
- Determination to Restrict - March 2017
- Variation of a Determination to Restrict - April 2019.
Construction and the Built Environment
Approval of qualifications
Approved qualifications must meet qualification-specific approval criteria that ensure they meet the needs of learners in Wales.
Qualifications Wales’ Approval Process
To ensure that qualifications are fit for purpose and meet the needs of learners and employers, qualifications are reviewed by experts against our Standard Conditions of Recognition and set approval criteria.
The approval process is as follows:
- subject experts are recruited and trained by Qualifications Wales
- an awarding body submits the qualification materials for approval - the specification, rationale and any sample assessment materials
- subject experts review the materials against the approval criteria, write a feedback report and then meet with Qualifications Wales to agree any areas of non-compliance
- Qualifications Wales produces a regulatory feedback report for the awarding body and qualification status is given as either 'compliant' or 'non-compliant'
- an awarding body may re-submit a 'non-compliant' qualification for reconsideration responding to the feedback report - this process may be repeated until the qualification is deemed 'compliant'
Designation of qualifications
Qualifications Wales may also designate a qualification as eligible for use on publicly funded programmes of learning for learners under the age of 19.
Designation means that we regulate the awarding body offering the qualification and that we are content that it is appropriate for the qualification to be offered on publicly funded courses for young people.
Applying for the approval or designation of a qualification
A recognised awarding body can apply to have qualifications approved or designated in Wales. To do so, it must create and submit a qualification on QiW (Qualifications in Wales database).
We will consider a qualification for approval if it is on the Priority Qualifications List or it meets the policy on the approval of non-priority qualifications; otherwise, we will consider it for designation.
For more information on how to create and submit qualifications to QiW, please click here.
Designation rules and policy
Approved or designated qualifications
The list of qualifications that have been approved or designated can be found on QiW.
Designated GCSEs and A levels
In subjects where we have reformed a GCSE or A level specifically for Wales, only that qualification will be eligible for public funding in Wales. In subjects where there is no Wales-specific GCSE or A level available, state-funded learners will be able to choose from the GCSEs and A levels that have been reformed for England – as long as we have designated them as eligible for use on publicly funded learning programmes in Wales.
GCSEs and A levels that have been reformed for England are designed to meet requirements set by Ofqual. They differ in several important ways to the GCSEs and A levels that have been developed specifically for Wales. For example, new GCSEs reformed for England are graded on a scale of 9 to 1, not A* to G; and the new AS and A levels reformed for England are decoupled, so the AS results do not contribute to the overall grade awarded at A level.
You can find more information about the key similarities and differences between reformed GCSEs and A levels in Wales, England and Northern Ireland here.
We will only designate a GCSE or A level in a subject that has been reformed for England once it has been accredited by Ofqual.
You will also find a full list of the designated GCSE and A level subjects that will be available in Wales here.
It is a decision for the awarding bodies offering these qualifications in England whether to apply to have them designated in Wales. To encourage awarding bodies to make the widest possible range of subjects available to learners in Wales, we are not insisting that they make these qualifications available through the medium of Welsh. However, we do require that they publish a statement for each qualification confirming whether it will be available in Welsh and, if so, explaining how to request Welsh-medium assessment.
The awarding bodies offering these qualifications in England have confirmed their intended approach to offering them on publicly funded courses in Wales as follows.
- AQA will be offering its reformed GCSEs and A levels on publicly funded courses in Wales - it does not intend to offer any of its reformed GCSEs or A levels through the medium of Welsh
- OCR will be offering its reformed GCSEs and A levels on publicly funded courses in Wales - it does not intend to offer any of its reformed GCSEs or A levels through the medium of Welsh
- Pearson will be offering its reformed GCSEs and A levels on publicly funded courses in Wales - it will offer Welsh-medium assessment for subjects in which there has been a proven demand for it in the past and it is judged operationally viable to offer this provision in future
- Under its Eduqas brand, WJEC offers many of the listed GCSEs and A levels in England - it will also make all those listed qualifications that it offers in this way available on publicly funded courses in Wales and provide Welsh-medium assessment in all of them upon request
Monitoring general qualifications
We carry out an extensive programme of monitoring the reformed GCSE, AS and A levels to ensure they are effectively implemented, fairly assessed and awarded at the right standard. The programme is planned on an annual basis and updated regularly.
The majority of learners in Wales sit general qualifications provided by WJEC, so this is where our focus is. As a routine part of our monitoring, we observe meetings organised by WJEC. These include:
- question paper evaluation meetings – which consider draft versions of question papers and mark schemes
- examiner and moderator standardisation conferences – which consider amendments that might be needed to a mark scheme and ensure examiners have a thorough understanding of how to implement each mark scheme
- awarding meetings – where senior examiners consider sample learner work alongside statistical indicators to propose grade boundaries for each paper
- continual professional development events – which provide teachers with up-to-date training and guidance
We decide on which qualifications are monitored at what level through a risk-based approach.
We also hold an annual questionnaire on the summer exams and assessments series, which gives learners and teachers a chance to share their views and experiences. The intelligence gathered helps to inform our oversight of the awards and to identify aspects of the new qualifications that we will look at in more detail as part of our ongoing monitoring.
We hold regular meetings with WJEC to ensure effective systems are in place in relation to examiner recruitment, assessment security, completion of marking and provision of the post-results service.
Processes related to the setting of challenges, assessment and awarding of the Skills Challenge Certificates (Welsh Baccalaureate) are monitored throughout the year.
Monitoring vocational qualifications
We closely monitor vocational qualifications and focus on qualifications and qualification groups that are not targeted by our sectoral reviews.
Due to the number and variety of vocational qualifications offered in Wales, by a range of awarding bodies, we are proportionate and targeted in our approach to this monitoring. We take a number of factors into account when deciding which qualifications to monitor and focus our work on qualifications that meet one or more of the following descriptions:
- eligible for public funding
- relatively high entries and certifications
- not targeted by sector reviews
- assess areas of work where safety is critical
- meet a requirement for, or licence to, practice
For each monitoring activity we compare and contrast information and evidence from different awarding bodies and focus on:
- the assessment standards that awarding bodies set
- their external quality-assurance processes
- the guidance that they provide to learning providers
We also gather feedback from learners, centres and other stakeholders.
We report on our findings and, if we identify shortcomings with individual awarding bodies, we write to them to highlight our concerns and require them to take action accordingly.
Standards and awarding
The standard-setting process takes place at the awarding meetings and is closely monitored by us.
Statistical indicators are used to produce predictions for GCSEs, A levels and the Skills Challenge Certificate (Welsh Baccalaureate) for each series.
These are based on the prior attainment of a cohort when compared with the performance of previous similar cohorts. This process is outlined in our data exchange documents and our regulatory documents Requirements for setting specified levels of attainment for GCE and GCSE qualifications (A levels and GCSEs) and Requirements for setting specified levels of attainment for the Skills Challenge Certificate qualifications (Welsh Baccalaureate).
For GCE and GCSE qualifications which have not been reformed, we work with fellow regulators, Ofqual and CCEA, to ensure the standard is maintained between qualifications.
For further information about examination series and results see our section for GCSEs and A level and Skills Challenge Certificate (Welsh Baccalaureate).
Welsh-medium qualifications and assessment
Condition D9 of our Standard Conditions of Recognition outlines our Conditions and requirements on recognised awarding bodies regarding Welsh-medium qualifications.
- an awarding body must make Approved qualifications available in Welsh
- an awarding body must make Designated qualifications available to pre-16 learners available in Welsh, in accordance with our Designation Policy, from September 2027 (or any date specified by us)
- all awarding bodies are required to publish a policy statement setting out the extent to which they make qualifications available in Welsh
- where an awarding body makes qualifications available in Welsh, it must promote the availability of, and facilitate access to those qualifications
To support compliance with these regulatory requirements, we have published Guidance for awarding bodies on Condition D9: Welsh-medium qualifications.