THE QUALIFICATION at the heart of the Welsh Baccalaureate offers a valuable learning experience and gives students the skills they need for their future, according to a research report published this week.
The report was produced for Qualifications Wales by Wavehill Social and Economic Research in partnership with University College London’s Institute of Education. The research looked at the design of the Skills Challenge Certificate and gathered views from teachers, lecturers and students to see how it’s working on the ground.
“This report found that the Skills Challenge Certificate is a valuable qualification that helps learners to develop crucial skills. The skills that employers consistently say young people need to succeed in the workplace,” said Philip Blaker, Chief Executive of Qualifications Wales.
“It is positive that many teachers say the Skills Challenge Certificate is rewarding to teach and that students say they enjoy gaining new skills and the chance to focus on what they’re interested in.”
While noting the importance and value of the Skills Challenge Certificate for young people in Wales, the report finds that:
- Some aspects of its design and assessment are more complex than they need to be;
- There is some duplicated content and assessment across its components;
- There are inconsistent levels of understanding amongst teachers and students about it and how it links to the Welsh Bacc.
- Teachers and students find it difficult to describe the Skills Challenge Certificate and the Welsh Bacc to others.
“Any critical review of this kind will always find areas for improvement, especially when looking at a qualification as innovative and as new as the Skills Challenge Certificate,” said Mr Blaker.
The report makes eight recommendations for addressing the issues it identifies. Some of the recommendations focus on the current delivery of the Skills Challenge Certificate, for instance by doing more to explain what it is, how it fits in the Welsh Bacc, and its benefits. Other recommendations suggest how, in the future, the design and assessment of the Skills Challenge Certificate could be simplified.
In considering any future changes, the report cautions against making any rapid changes and advocates involving others to consider whether and when any proposed changes should be introduced.
Responding to the recommendations, Mr Blaker said: “Qualifications Wales supports the findings from the research. We are setting up a working group to look in detail at how to put the recommendations into practice. We will also convene a panel of teachers, learners, employers and universities to test and refine any proposals for change. We’ll report on our progress by the end of the year.“
“The Skills Challenge Certificate is a new and exciting way of developing and assessing important life skills. We always expected that further refinements would be needed after a period of bedding-in. The findings from this review give us a sound foundation for gradually evolving the qualification so that it continues to go from strength to strength.” said, Mr Blaker.
Responding, Shadow Education Secretary, Darren Millar, said: “The Welsh Baccalaureate is certainly a valuable qualification, but we need to see action to reduce the pressure on teachers and students engaged in it.
“Clearly there needs to be some kind of streamlining, because the qualification is almost universally seen as too complex.
“We believe that the Welsh Baccalaureate should continue to be offered to all students in Wales but it should not be a compulsory subject.”
Rebecca Williams, UCAC’s Policy Officer said: “UCAC welcomes Qualifications Wales’s report, which acknowledges the conflict between the value of the Skills Challenge Certificate on the one hand, and the confusion and misunderstandings surrounding it on the other.
“The report’s recommendations resonate with what UCAC members have been reporting for some time, which is that elements of the design and assessment are unwieldy and unmanageable – both for learners and teachers. The emphasis on clearer communication and on better training opportunities for teachers – including in initial teacher training courses – is very much to be welcomed.
“UCAC urges all relevant partners to take action on the report’s recommendations in order to ensure that the Skills Challenge Certificate element of the Welsh Baccalaureate is made as appealing and beneficial to as many learners across Wales as possible.”
Kirsty Williams announces online PGCE
A NEW part-time PGCE that combines online study with tutorials and seminars could soon make Wales a world-leader in Initial Teacher Education (ITE).
The addition of this new alternative route into teaching, announced today by Education Secretary Kirsty Williams, is the latest in a series of reforms designed to revolutionise the way ITE is provided in Wales. These also include new full-time ITE programmes.
The new part-time PGCE would provide a high quality alternative to full-time study and remove the need for students to travel just to attend their chosen course.
Students could instead interact with their lecturers and fellow students online, just as they would in the soon-to-be accredited full-time ITE programmes. This would remove any barriers that might be caused by their location or distance from a university.
In addition to the new PGCE, the Education Secretary also announced a new Employment Based Route (EBR), which would see a student teacher employed by a school from the outset. This would be targeted to help regional consortia address teaching shortages in schools region by region.
Both the part-time PGCE and EBR would enable student teachers to maintain their current commitments, including employment and income, whilst studying to be a teacher.
The students would also be able to take advantage of opportunities afforded by Wales’ new student finance arrangements. From the 2018-19 academic year, all Welsh students – whether studying undergraduate full or part time – will receive support for their living costs equivalent to the UK national living wage.
Announcing the changes today, Kirsty Williams said: “An education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and our new curriculum cannot be delivered without a well-supported, aspirational teaching profession.
“The new part-time PGCE has the potential to completely transform the way Initial Teacher Education in Wales is delivered, complementing our equally high quality full-time ITE programmes.
“New students who may previously never have considered a career in teaching or been put off by costs or their location will have access to an academic qualification and programme that is of the very highest standard while also being flexible and easily accessible.
“It’s by harnessing technology in this way that we’ll attract highly-talented, experienced people with the higher level skills needed by both the teaching profession and our wider economy.
“I am confident that along with the step change in our soon to be accredited full-time ITE programmes the new part-time PGCE and EBR, together with new Professional Standards for teaching and accreditation criteria for initial teacher education, will allow us to raise standards across the board and make Wales a world-leader.”
The Education Secretary also confirmed today that an HE provider, or partnership of providers, will be procured to deliver the proposals by working with schools and education consortia across Wales.
Yale to unlock students’ potential
THIS summer, 16 of Wales’ brightest sixth-formers will join students from across the world for a life-changing summer programme held at one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions.
The pupils, all part of the Seren Network, will join over 1500 other students from 126 countries and 50 US states on Yale’s Young Global Scholars Programme (YYGS), at Yale University’s New Haven campus in the US, as part a new scholarship opportunity made possible through the Seren Network.
Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, will join the first group of pupils from Wales to travel to Yale’s New Haven campus as she looks to build on links already made with the university through Seren.
The Education Secretary will also travel to both Harvard University and MIT in Boston to discuss new opportunities and collaborations.
This opportunity has been made available to Welsh students thanks to a jointly funded scholarship between Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) and the Welsh Government. The flight costs have been supported through sponsorship by businesses in Wales who are all rooting for the Welsh students.
The students will each spend two weeks at Yale’s New Haven campus, where they will take part in a rigorous academic programme led by world-leading academics in one of six areas, including International Affairs & Security, Frontiers of Science & Technology and Politics, Law & Economics.
The partnership has been established to broaden the academic horizons of Welsh students, giving them a taste of university life in the States and the opportunity to make strong university applications when they return.
Kirsty Williams said: “It is a huge success story for Seren that we’ve been able to broker a partnership which will see Yale’s renowned Young Global Scholars programme made accessible to students across Wales.
“I’m proud to be joining our first ever group of students to take part in this life-changing summer programme and look forward to making new links with other universities as we try to open new doors for many more of our students.
“I want every pupil in every school in every part of Wales to know that if you work hard then no academic opportunity is off-limits. I think this is a perfect example of what is possible and I want to thank all the sponsors involved in making this happen.”
This partnership has been made possible through Liam Rahman, a Yale University alumnus born and raised in Carmarthenshire. A Co-Director at E-Qual Recruitment Education in Cardiff and West Wales, Liam is an avid supporter of The Seren Network and has been the driving force throughout the partnership. E-Qual Recruitment Education is a headline sponsor of the partnership, having raised in excess of £10,000 to fund the cost of students’ flights to and from the US.
Liam said: “Since returning to Wales last year, it’s been a real privilege to work with high potential Welsh students through the Seren Network and to be an interviewer for Yale’s Undergraduate Admissions Office in Wales through Yale’s Alumni Schools Committee.
“Over the past few months, I’ve worked to build the relationship between Yale Young Global Scholars and The Seren Network, which has culminated in this fantastic partnership and scholarship opportunity.
“This scholarship will deliver life-changing opportunities to some of Wales’s brightest sixth formers and gives Yale the opportunity to access some of Wales’s very best talent.”
Adult learning: Richard’s story
UWTSD has marked Adult Learners’ Week by encouraging its mature students to tell their own stories.
Richard Thomas, a single father of three, graduated last summer with a degree in Sports Therapy.
He recently spoke to UWTSD about his transformational journey from gardener to Sports Therapist:
“In the summer of 2014 I was working as a Gardener and handyman in the quiet village of Bancyfelin. I didn’t see it as a long term career and with three children and no partner, I felt I needed a better career direction so I started to look at returning to education. After realising that UWTSD offered a degree in Sports Therapy I decided this was the area that I really wanted to learn more about.
“I immediately loved the course description – having been passionate about sport, fitness, Crossfit and having also had many sporting injuries in the past – I felt that this course would be fascinating to follow. Because of my family commitments, I wasn’t able to travel long distances to study so the fact that the Sports Therapy course was available to me in Carmarthen was great too! I had no idea of how I was going to work, study and juggle my boys’ commitments too and I can’t deny that there were times during the course where I found it difficult – but those hard times were definitely worth it!
“Following this course has not only helped me to learn about a new profession and to embark on a new career that I’m very passionate about – it has also helped me grow as a person. The course set me academic challenges as well as challenging me to manage my time and to fit in work, study and raising three boys as a single father.
“The course was full of work experiences and volunteer opportunities and by the end of the course, I felt prepared to face the world of work because of those opportunities.
“This past year – the first year after graduation – has been tough but it would have been even more difficult if it hadn’t been for the experience and connections that I made during my time on the course.
“During my studies, I was lucky enough to work with the Welsh Under 20’s Rugby team; the Dragons; Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey; Swansea City FC as well as Bristol City FC – not forgetting the various events that we covered such as the Swansea Triathlon, The Burn, Invncbl and some epic Charity cycle rides.
“Since graduating, I’m really lucky that the list of organisations and events I’m working with continues to grow. I now work with the FAW and the Under 15’s Welsh Girls Football team; Whitland RFC and I have a role with Hockey Wales too. I also work with Gower College Rugby, Llanelli and District Schoolboys Under 15’s and the successful Rugby Sevens team, the Carmarthen Warriors. Alongside this work I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a Hip and Groin Testing team – which I initially started doing during my time on the course – but I’m now also been working with Swansea City as part of their testing team as well as the IRFU as part of their ongoing Injury reduction strategies.
“I am currently still trying to manage my time but am enjoying the challenge. Indeed, enrolling on this course was easily one of the best decisions of my life. It’s helped me immeasurably – not just academically and career wise – but it’s also made a huge difference to me on a personal level. I’ve met friends that I’ll have for life and I managed to complete a BSc degree – something that for many years would have felt impossible.
“I am the first person in my family in living knowledge to complete a degree and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried like a baby at my graduation ceremony. Receiving an award for my academic work was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. The fact that I’ve achieved something that I previously didn’t really believe I could, has helped me to raise my own expectations and has allowed me to really expanded my horizons – both career wise and personally. It’s also had a great positive effect on my children – the eldest of whom is now going to University this year.”
As the only Sports Therapy degree in Wales accredited by the Society of Sports Therapy, the BSc Sports Therapy degree programme is designed to educate competent practitioners in all aspects of Sports Therapy. During their time on the course, students learn in a practical setting with plenty of hands on teaching in a dedicated Sports Therapy Suite and Rehabilitation Centre. All teaching staff are experienced Graduate Sports Therapists who have worked in professional, semi-professional, national and international sports over a number of years.
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