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Written Statement - Future direction of the Regulation of Qualifications in Wales

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

The Review of Qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds in Wales submitted its final report and recommendations to the Welsh Government on 28 November 2012. As the Deputy Minister for Skills indicated at that time the Welsh Government will respond in full to the report and recommendations by the end of January 2013.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister and I are keen to provide Assembly Members and stakeholders with some clarity by announcing the direction we intend to take in relation to the regulation of qualifications.

Firstly I would like to thank Huw Evans and the Board for their excellent work in reviewing qualifications for 14- to 19-year-olds in Wales and for producing an extremely thorough, well considered and valuable report.  I very much welcome the report and I am excited by the opportunities it presents.   It is the first Welsh report on qualifications for this age group, and I am confident that the action we take in response to the Review will mark a point of departure and set the direction for Wales in developing a world class qualifications system over the years to come.  

The members of the Board had between them a huge wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience in delivering, designing, regulating and assessing qualifications across the school, further education and work-based learning sectors, through Welsh and English.  The employers and higher education practitioners brought front-line knowledge of how qualifications are perceived and what makes a qualification relevant and valued.  Their report is an independent report to the Welsh Government. However I was pleased to note that its recommendations recognise the wider policy context. For instance, they build on and fit with the work we are driving forward in relation to literacy and numeracy.  In relation to grading the Welsh Baccalaureate, Members will be aware that during the course of the Review we decided to grade the Welsh Baccalaureate at Advanced level for teaching from September 2013, to enhance its rigour and value. This was done on advice from the Review Board, whose report supports the decision.

The inclusive and evidence-based approach taken by the Review has received compliments from commentators in Wales and beyond.  The fact that the review is firmly based on evidence and on discussions with the full range of stakeholder groups, means that we can have confidence that the changes they recommend could be implemented.

While the Welsh Government will be analysing the report over the coming weeks,  I can today confirm that the Welsh Government can already agree one of the Review’s findings -the proposal in Recommendation 5 that the regulation of qualifications in Wales should be strengthened and separated from government. I am committed to strengthening regulation and quality assurance arrangements, for instance by improving the gate-keeping process for approval of qualifications with more emphasis on relevance, purpose and value.  

The Review recommended the establishment of a new Qualifications Body responsible for both awarding qualifications and regulating them. We accept this recommendation and will move towards establishing this new body, “Qualifications Wales”, to regulate and assure the quality of all non degree level qualifications in Wales.

As recommended by the Review, we will study and learn from the model that has been in operation in Scotland for some years and that has built a strong reputation for rigour and quality.  As the Review acknowledges, considerable thought will need to be given to the governance, remit, structure and operation of Qualifications Wales.  I have asked officials to commission a due diligence review as a matter of urgency and, on the basis of its findings, to develop detailed proposals and a business case in the first half of 2013 to ensure the viability and value for money of our proposed new approach.

I am also delighted to announce today that Huw Evans OBE, the Chair of the Review of Qualifications, has agreed to chair a task and finish group, which we will establish early in 2013, to steer the early delivery of Qualifications Wales. The group will advise on issues relating to timing, governance, structures and due diligence. Huw’s expertise will be invaluable in supporting this change programme. Clearly the creation of Qualifications Wales will have implications for the WJEC. We have already commenced discussions with the organisation and with local government leaders on this issue and will be continuing this dialogue. The WJEC will continue to be a key and valued provider of qualifications in Wales and in other nations as these discussions progress.

The Deputy Minister for Skills will provide the full Welsh Government response to the remaining 41 recommendations of the Review in January 2013.