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.”
Aberystwyth Vice Chancellor pays tribute to community-wide efforts to control COVID-19
ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY’S Vice Chancellor has paid tribute to local organisations and workers for efforts to control cases of COVID-19 in the area.
Marking the anniversary of the initial lockdown, Professor Elizabeth Treasure said that the actions of organisations such as Ceredigion County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board had saved lives and she offered her heartfelt thanks.
Professor Treasure said: “I wanted to take this opportunity to outline my gratitude to those local partners who have worked so hard to combat COVID-19 transmission locally. Their efforts have saved lives over the past months, and we will no doubt need to continue to support them over the coming weeks and months.”
Following the Welsh Government’s decision to allow all students back to university campuses after the Easter break, Professor Treasure thanked the wider community for its support over the course of a difficult year since the start of the pandemic.
Professor Treasure added: “I am very pleased that the Government has decided that students can return for in-person teaching after the Easter break. I have received a great deal of positive feedback about the responsible actions of our students over recent months from other sections of our community.
“We are all helping to make a difference – contributing in our own ways to those life-saving efforts.
“We are fortunate to live in a community which is inclusive and welcoming, and I am so grateful for the wide support for all our work.”
On Monday 15 March 2021 the Welsh Government announced that students could return to universities after Easter for in-person teaching. Further practical details are expected to be released by the Welsh Government over the coming weeks.
As has been the case from the outset of the pandemic, Aberystwyth University is adhering to Welsh Government guidance as it plans for the return of students to Aberystwyth and to a COVID-secure campus.
In addition to initial significant contributions of PPE for healthcare workers, since the start of the pandemic the University has provided locations in Aberystwyth for public COVID-19 testing facilities and a mass vaccination centre.
U-turn on compulsory lifesaving lessons in Welsh secondary education
SCHOOLS in Wales will now teach first aid and lifesaving skills as part of the new curriculum.
Wales will join England and Scotland by introducing first aid and lifesaving kills to their national secondary education curriculum.
Kirsty Williams, Education Minister had previously rejected the calls for emergency resuscitation skills to be compulsory in school.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was introduced in the secondary school curriculum in England in September 2020.
Local authorities in Scotland have also committed to introduce lifesaving skills to their secondary education curriculum.
The British Heart Foundation had backed the campaign for CPR to be taught in schools.
In a long fought battle, Suzy Davies, a Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, secured the commitment from the Welsh Education Minister in the course of debating amendments to the new Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, which will make sweeping changes to the way Welsh children are educated.
The new curriculum for Wales is planned to come into force from 2022.
Children, parents, families and medics have long argued that regular teaching of CPR in particular will raise our children to have the skills and confidence to step in and save the life of someone in cardiac arrest if they encounter them outside a hospital setting.
The commitment was included in the Welsh Conservative manifesto for the Assembly election in 2016, and Suzy Davies, the Shadow Education Minister, said:
“After 10 years campaigning for this, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen.
“From securing cross-party support for this in my early days as an Assembly Member, through several debates and pitches to different Ministers, on to my own proposed legislation which found favour among Senedd Members, it was difficult to understand why Welsh Government was so resistant.
“In this country, our chances of surviving a cardiac arrest outside hospital are as poor as 10%. In countries around the world where teaching CPR and defibrillator use is compulsory, those odds improve dramatically. These skills are quick and easy to learn and easy to remember.
“ Alun Davies MS – himself a cardiac arrest survivor – has rightly argued that we should be able to learn these skills at any time in our lives and that defibrillators should be a commonplace feature of our public landscape. I couldn’t agree more – but how simple it is to ingrain these skills from an early age and raise generation after generation of lifesavers.”
Under the new curriculum, teachers must follow statutory guidance made by Ministers to support various aspects of the new way of teaching. After changes guaranteed by the Education Minister, this guidance will now instruct teachers that they should teach lifesaving skills and first aid: It is no longer optional.
The mandatory teaching of life saving skills and first aid (not just CPR) has been supported by the medical profession, including paramedics and fire service co-responders, as well as charities like St. John’s Cymru, British Heart Foundation, Calon Defibrillators, Cariad and the Red Cross.
It is taught through many youth groups, including Torfaen Sea Cadets who trained Aneurin Metcalfe, the young man who saved someone’s life only this week.
Styling their way to the top
FOUR hairdressing learners: Holly Mathias, Jenna Kilgallon, Helaina Thomas and Leah Rees, recently earned themselves a place in the next stage of the Concept Hair Magazine Learner of the Year Competition.
The candidates were invited into the College to show their fully presented entries as evidence and then submitted them remotely to the Concept Hair Magazine judges in December.
The categories for the competition were: Festival Hair, Red Carpet, Old School Barbershop, Celebration of Colour and Safari.
The unique styles allowed the learners to show off their creative hair styling skills from plaits to updos, to bold colour creations.
Charlotte Jones, Hairdressing lecturer was over the moon with the learners’ success; “We were all so impressed with the creativity, dedication and enthusiasm of all the students who took part in the competition. Also, the students who supported the entries during the day and the models who gave up their time to be involved. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved. The results were amazing!”
The students worked to COVID regulations ensuring all the correct PPE and procedures were followed.
Finalist, Holly Mathias entered three categories which included; Styling Level 2 – Festival Theme, Hair Up Level 2 – Red Carpet and Avant Garde – Safari.
Holly shared her experience; “Taking part in the Concept Hair competition, has really boosted my confidence and proved that hard work really does pay off. The support from the staff at Pembrokeshire College is outstanding. I would recommend everyone to take part in this competition as not only is it an amazing experience, but it really allows you to think outside the box and be as creative as you can! I would 100% take part in this competition again.”
Holly plans to go into full-time employment when she completes her course and hopes to one day work on cruise ships or even own her own salon.
The next stage involves the candidates submitting photographic entries on the 12th March where six will be shortlisted for the national finals which is set to take place virtually in April.
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