Wales politics

Qualifications review to find 'most relevant' courses

Apprentice bricklayer
Ministers want to encourage courses that prepare people for work

Funding for qualifications which offer little or no advantage in the jobs market could be cut under plans from the Welsh Government.

A review of qualifications for 14-19-year-olds was launched by the deputy skills minister Jeff Cuthbert.

It will look at GCSEs, A-levels and the Welsh Bac, particularly how the exams are graded. But the main focus is expected to be on vocational qualifications.

An interim report is due in May.

The Welsh Government funds more than 10,000 different types of qualifications.

Value

Mr Cuthbert said he wanted to identify the best value and most relevant qualifications.

He said: "We often hear it said that some qualifications are more useful to learners than others.

"Likewise, we hear that some vocational qualifications prepare young people more effectively for employment than others.

"We want to find out which qualifications have greatest value; which qualifications are most relevant and should be encouraged."

He added: "I want to ensure public money is focused in the right direction to help provide the skilled workforce our economy needs.

"And equally, I want to make sure that the choices available to learners will actually make a difference in allowing them to progress to work or higher education."

Mr Cuthbert said they would also be reviewing the way they fund post-16 education.

Ongoing problem

"Our second theme will be to ensure that our qualifications are trusted and understood. As part of this, we need to ensure that the assessments which form part of our qualifications are appropriate," he said.

Iestyn Davies, of the Federation for Small Business in Wales (FSB), said employers had reported an ongoing problem with young recruits lacking basic numeracy and literacy skills, regardless of whether they had followed an academic or vocational route to work.

He said: "It's a question that does crop up with members employing school leavers and FE (further education) leavers.

"The general feeling is that often it's a question of skills and knowledge, and they can be two different things.

"There's a need for what we could term the softer skills of being able to cope in a work environment, and that's something that's not addressed.

'Unacceptably low'

"It's hard to teach someone what it's like to get up in the morning and get to work."

John Graystone, chief executive of Colleges Wales, said: "Fundamentally, we urgently need to raise literacy and numeracy across all ages.

"Literacy and numeracy rates are unacceptably low in Wales. We need a standard measure to assess learners' starting point and to track progress.

"A single, common literacy test used in schools and by all post-16 learning providers would be a step in the right direction."

College Wales said it had responded to the Welsh Government's announcement by organising a conference on qualifications for February next year to "feed into the consultation process".

Assembly members are due to debate the review on 18 October.

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