GCSEs: Qualifications Wales urges exams to be kept in reforms

By Bethan Lewis
BBC Wales education and family correspondent

Image source, Ysgol Gyfun Garth Olwg
Image caption,
GCSE performance across Wales improved this year, with 62.8% of pupils getting A*-C grades

GCSEs should not be ditched as part of major reforms to the school curriculum in Wales, the exams watchdog has urged.

Qualifications Wales is launching a consultation on the future of GCSEs and other qualifications taken by 16-year-olds.

It said there would need to be changes to fit the reforms but the GCSE brand was "valued and widely recognised".

The Future Generations Commissioner wants GCSEs to be scrapped and a move to other forms of assessment.

Qualifications are being looked at because of changes to the curriculum which will see a move from narrow subject areas to six areas of learning and experience.

The changes will be introduced in primary schools and Year 7, the first year of secondary school, in September 2022.

The year 7 pupils will be the first to take qualifications under the new system, reaching 16 in 2026.

Image source, Kritchanut/Getty Images
Image caption,
The new curriculum for Wales will based be around six areas of learning

Qualifications Wales says it believes there is still a strong case for having qualifications at 16 but they should evolve to meet the needs of young people, the economy and society.

It is asking for views on its proposal to keep GCSEs as a central part of the qualifications offered to 16-year-olds.

"The GCSE name is well-established and offers a considerable degree of flexibility," it said.

"We believe that keeping the GCSE name enables us to make all the necessary changes to the design of qualifications, while also reaping the benefits of retaining a name that is valued and widely recognised," it added.

The regulator believes developing an entirely new qualification could detract attention and resources from the new curriculum.

But a discussion paper published last month by Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe said GCSEs were "no longer fit for purpose", and there was "a strong rationale for their replacement with narrative based assessment that tells employers exactly what learners are all about".

The consultation also raises questions about the future of the Skills Challenge Certificate (SCC) which is the core element of the Welsh Baccalaureate.

The regulator believes that the SCC provides a good basis for a new skills-based qualification, but leaves open the question of whether or how it would fit into the Welsh Baccalaureate

Other proposals include streamlining the 1,600 qualifications currently available to 16-year-olds.

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