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.”
Young person celebrates kickstart job and overcomes several obstacles
22-YEAR-OLD Lee from rural Ceredigion found it challenging to secure permanent employment. Having no mode of transport as well as his diagnosis of autism and depression meant that Lee has experienced significant barriers with finding and maintaining employment. Communities For Work Plus (CFW+) provided Lee with the right tools and opportunities to find the right role for him. He now has a job at ASN Watson (Savers), with a more positive future ahead.
Lee was struggling financially with increasing debt and although he had been working in the past, the nature and environment of the work was not practical for Lee’s abilities; he was often misunderstood by employers.
After being referred to CFW+ from Job Centre Plus, Aberystwyth, Lee received support with job searches, applications, cover letters, cv writing, and interview skills. He’s now in paid employment, secured through the Kickstart Scheme. The UK Government Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.
Lee said: “The project helped me a lot as I struggle to know where to start when it comes to finding jobs, but this definitely helped. Communities for Work+ has got you covered!”
Communities For Work Plus is a Welsh Government funded project, delivered by Ceredigion County Council which supports individuals in or at risk of poverty, aged 16 or over, across Ceredigion and throughout Wales. Participants may be experiencing in-work poverty, unemployment, living on minimum wage, or struggling to pay basic monthly outgoings on sporadic zero-hour contracts.
Misha Homayoun-Fekri, CFW+ Mentor said: “Lee has been a pleasure to support. He was always very responsive, and we worked together every step of the way. I am so pleased for Lee that he has found a job that he can be happy in.”
Since starting his new role, Lee has become a lot more independent, his mental health has improved, and has started to save money for the future.
Councillor Wyn Thomas, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: “One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. A report released by the Office for National Statistics shows that only 21.7% of autistic people are in employment; meaning that businesses are missing out on the opportunity to benefit from the strengths that autistic people can bring to the workplace. So, it’s great to hear that Lee has found an autism-friendly employer through the support provided by CFW+ and I encourage more employers to be more inclusive to all abilities when considering employees.”
If you think the project may be able to help you or if you would like more information, contact the team on 01545 574193 or email TCC-EST@ceredigion.gov.uk.
Wales’ first law department celebrates 120 years at Old Bailey
Wales’ oldest university law department has marked its 120th anniversary with a celebratory event at London’s top criminal court.
Law has been taught at Aberystwyth University since 1901, and in the 120 years that have followed more than 9,000 students from almost one hundred countries have graduated and launched their careers from the department.
The Central Criminal Court of England and Wales provided an illustrious setting for the first of two prestigious events held to mark the 120th anniversary of the longest-established law department in the country.
Alumni of the department include several Ministers of State, politicians and leaders, many who have gone on to develop distinguished legal careers, and those who have achieved success in other professions.
Held at the ‘Old Bailey’ in London, the celebratory event was attended by alumni, staff students and other special guests, including Ceredigion MP Ben Lake. The Guest Speaker was The Rt Hon Lord David Lloyd-Jones FLSW, Honorary Fellow of Aberystwyth University.
The special anniversary will be celebrated at a second event to be held at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in Cardiff on the evening of Friday 10 June. Alumni wishing to attend can find more information on the University website: www.aber.ac.uk/en/development/newsandevents/law-anniversary-dinners
Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, The Rt Hon. Lord Thomas of Cwmgïedd, said: “The history of the teaching of law at Aberystwyth is an inspiring story of dogged determination by a small number of indomitable individuals who laid the foundation for the highly-respected department you see today. In 1899 when it became clear that there was widespread support for the ambition to establish a law department in Wales to provide a broad education in legal principles, funding was raised through the generosity of members of the Bar circuits of north and south Wales, and amongst London Welshmen, with many firms of solicitors and individuals making contributions and pledging recurrent annual support.”
Professor Emyr Lewis, Head of Aberystwyth University’s Department of Law and Criminology said: “From its embryonic foundations at the beginning of the twentieth century, the teaching of law at Aberystwyth has flourished. Today, as well as excellent teaching which has always been a hallmark of the Aberystwyth approach, the department offers numerous opportunities for students to develop practical skills and hands-on experience.
Students have the chance to undertake casework in our Family Law Clinic, acquire and practise advocacy skills through our Mooting Society, volunteer with ground-breaking research projects such as Dewis/Choice and the Veterans Legal Link Project, and benefit from our new Law in Practice modules which are designed to begin filling the gap between the traditional core knowledge gained through a law degree and practice.”
Louise Jagger, Aberystwyth University’s Director of Development and Alumni Relations, said: “The long tradition of philanthropic giving at Aberystwyth University continues to this day and was also celebrated and promoted at the dinner. Over recent years we have embarked on our largest ever philanthropic campaign to transform the iconic Old College into a major cultural and creative centre for Wales to mark the University’s 150th anniversary.
“Part of our plans for the Old College include a Law Room and Moot Court to honour and celebrate the rich contribution that the Law department has made to the University through the provision of a space for public engagement and for enhancing the public understanding of the law. The facility will provide a dedicated venue and resource centre for Moots, the Law Society, debates, seminars, exhibitions, public lectures and alumni gatherings. Students past, present and future will benefit from this excellent facility. We are grateful to the alumni and friends who have already donated towards this goal and will be inviting further contributions right up until the reopening of Old College in 2024.”
Professor Tim Woods, Aberystwyth University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning, Teaching and Student Experience, said: “It is a pleasure to join alumni and friends from across the country to celebrate the Department of Law and Criminology’s contribution to Aberystwyth University and its impact on the world over the past 120 years.
“The University itself is celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year, and we look forward to reuniting with alumni and supporters at celebratory events in Cardiff, Aberystwyth and London over the coming year to mark this important milestone.”
Aberystwyth University was awarded University of the Year for teaching quality and student experience (Good University Guide, The Times and Sunday Times 2021) and also University of the Year for teaching quality two years consecutively, and Welsh University of the Year (Good University Guide, The Times and Sunday Times 2020).
Funding for music education trebled to the tune of £13.5m
Every child will have the opportunity to benefit from music education as part of the Welsh Government’s plans for a national music service, which will help ensure no child misses out due to a lack of means.
As the National Plan for Music Education is published, the Minister for Education has confirmed funding will be trebled, with £13.5m being invested over the next three years.
The plan will make access to music education fairer and more consistent across Wales, with a particular focus on learners from low-income households and those with Additional Learning Needs. Support will be available for children and young people to access and progress with music tuition, with learners from disadvantaged and under-represented groups supported to join music ensembles.
The plan includes a number of key work programmes such as:
A review on music tutors’ terms and conditions, to ensure they are treated equitably and are recognised properly.
A ‘First Experiences’ programme to offer children in primary schools a minimum of half a term of musical instrument taster sessions, delivered by trained and skilled music practitioners.
A ‘Making Music with Others’ initiative, including opportunities for children and young people in secondary schools to gain industry experience through working alongside musicians and creative industries
A new national instrument and equipment library to support access to a resource bank to be shared across Wales.
These programmes will be rolled out from September 2022, supporting schools and settings to give all children and young people from the ages of 3 to 16 the opportunity to learn to play an instrument as well as singing and making music in our schools and our communities.
The National Music Service will operate as a ‘hub’, with the Welsh Local Government Association co-ordinating the Music Service’s programmes with a wide range of organisations. It will help schools and settings in their delivery of the Curriculum for Wales and provide more diverse opportunities for children and young people to experience music outside schools and settings.
First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford and the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, visited St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea to see a cluster of primary school children taking part in a ‘Play Along’ session led by Swansea Music Service.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“The establishment of a National Music Service for Wales is an important commitment in our Programme for Government and I’m delighted that we are delivering on this pledge.
“Learning an instrument was a formative part of my upbringing and a lack of money should not be a barrier to any young person who wants to learn to play music. We are fortunate in Wales to have a strong tradition of school, county and national ensembles, and we want to make sure that our children and young people are able to play a full part in these. This funding will support music services in schools and within the community to help nurture our young musical talent.”
The Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:
“Our vision is for all children and young people across Wales, regardless of background, to have the chance to learn to play an instrument. The plan we are publishing today, backed by funding, will help deliver that vision.
“For too long, the chance to learn an instrument and develop musical skills has been for those few whose families and carers who can afford tuition. I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to access music tuition, and that’s why we’re making this significant investment to deliver a range of activities for our children and young people to learn and experience the joy of music.
“The development of the National Music Service will ensure that we nurture our next generation and continue to produce new talent and showcase Wales to the world.”
WLGA Chief Executive Chris Llewelyn said:
“We are proud to work with the Welsh Government on delivering this vital service to children across Wales. Many families in Wales can’t afford an instrument, and this funding will go a long way to opening doors to children across Wales to have the opportunity of learning an instrument.
“Playing an instrument and reading music is a very important skill for a child, and music brings enormous joy to children. Local authorities believe that children across Wales will have better access to instruments, and this plan will develop many future talented musicians, and support pupils to develop their musical skills.”
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