Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg - Y Bumed Senedd

Children, Young People and Education Committee - Fifth Senedd

14/11/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Dawn Bowden AM
Hefin David AM
Janet Finch-Saunders AM
Julie Morgan AM
Lynne Neagle AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Michelle Brown AM
Sian Gwenllian AM
Suzy Davies AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Gavin Jones Ysgol Gyfun Caerllion
Caerleon Comprehensive School
Hannah O'Neill Undeb Addysg Cenedlaethol Cymru
National Education Union Cymru
Jane Harries Ysgol Uwchradd WR Hwlffordd
Haverfordwest High VC School
Neil Butler Swyddog Cenedlaethol Cymru NASUWT
NASUWT National Official Wales
Rebecca Williams Dirprwy Ysgrifennydd Cyffredinol a Swyddog Polisi UCAC
UCAC Deputy General Secretary and Policy Officer
Roger Vaughan Llywydd Cenedlaethol UCAC
UCAC National President
Tim Pratt Cymdeithas Arweinwyr Ysgolion a Cholegau Cymru
Association of School and College Leaders Cymru

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Gareth Rogers Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Siân Hughes Ymchwilydd
Researcher

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. We've received no apologies for absence. Can I ask Members whether there are any declarations of interest, please? No. Okay, thank you.

2. Ymchwiliad i Statws Cymhwyster Bagloriaeth Cymru: Panel Tystiolaeth 1
2. Inquiry into the Status of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification: Evidence Session 1

Item 2 this morning is our first oral evidence session for our inquiry into the status of the Welsh baccalaureate qualification. I'm very pleased to welcome representatives of the teaching unions today: Hannah O'Neill, Blaenau Gwent branch secretary for the ATL section of the National Education Union; Neil Butler, NASUWT, national officer for Wales; Rebecca Williams, who is Undeb Cenedlaethol Athrawon Cymru deputy general secretary and policy officer; and Roger Vaughan, who is UCAC national president. Thank you all for coming. We're looking forward to hearing what you've got to say, and if you're happy, we'll go straight into questions from Members. The first questions are from Siân Gwenllian.

Diolch yn fawr. Bore da. Yn mynd yn syth i drafod i ba raddau mae athrawon yn gwerthfawrogi bagloriaeth Cymru—hynny yw, y rhai sydd yn ei ddysgu fo, neu'n addysgu'r fagloriaeth, a'r rhai sydd dim ynghlwm yn benodol efo fo. Efallai cychwyn efo'r NASUWT, achos rydych chi wedi dweud nad yw timau arweinyddiaeth a llywodraethwyr yn deall y cymhwyster, ac mae hynny'n cynnwys rhieni, wrth gwrs.

Thank you very much. Good morning. To go straight into discussing to what extent teachers value the Welsh bac—that is, those who teach the Welsh bac and those who aren't tied in specifically with it. Perhaps let's start with NASUWT, because you have stated that leadership teams and governors don't understand this qualification, and that includes parents, of course.

Yes, thank you. Well, I think it entirely depends upon the school, and I think what we've got is a mixed pattern all the way through Wales. Where a school, and indeed the headteacher of the school and the governors of the school, have taken the Welsh bac seriously and they've appointed a Welsh bac co-ordinator and there is a stable and strong team to deliver the Welsh bac, I think the Welsh bac, now in its present form—I don't think that was true in its previous form—is actually being well delivered. Unfortunately, even though the Welsh bac became an indicator, a lot of schools in Wales—and you'll see that from the evidence that we've presented—are still basically using the Welsh bac as a filler. The staff being asked to teach the Welsh bac are those with a little bit of spare space on their timetables, they have a cast of thousands in terms of those delivering it, and I think where that happens, the Welsh bac is not well respected and understood, either within the school, within the management of the school, or within the governing body of the school. But it's a different picture from school to school throughout Wales.

I would agree as well. It does vary across the schools. There are many different ways it's delivered. Sometimes it's delivered through form teachers during the mornings, and then there are drop-down sessions through the timetable through the year. Other times it's actual lessons, and you've got a range of teachers teaching it from across the whole curriculum, or you've got subject-specific teachers in one area focusing on it. So, it does vary. It does work better when there is obviously a co-ordinator in charge of delivering it, and where there is support and continuing professional development available, but it does vary across Wales.

Buaswn i'n cytuno. Mae o'n bwysig bod yna sefydlogrwydd tîm, a bod hefyd y tîm rheoli yn gefnogol. Lle mae hynny'n digwydd ac mae yna strwythur pendant, mae o'n llwyddiannus. Lle nad ydy o, mae'n anodd iawn wedyn.

I would agree. It is important that there is stability in the team and that the management team is supportive. When that happens and there is a definitive structure, it is successful. When it's not, it's very difficult.

A Rebecca, o ran dealltwriaeth yr athrawon efallai sydd ddim yn dysgu'r fagloriaeth, a ydy hynny'n broblem?

And Rebecca, in terms of the understanding of teachers who maybe don't teach the Welsh bac, is that a problem?

Mae hi'n amrywio lot o ysgol i ysgol ac o athro i athro, ond rydw i'n credu ei fod o'n gymhwyster anodd ei ddeall yn ei hanfod. Mae yna bethau y gellid eu gwneud i'w symleiddio o ran strwythurau a chynnwys ac asesu, fel y mae adroddiad Cymwysterau Cymru wedi dweud, a fyddai efallai'n hwyluso dealltwriaeth a gwerthfawrogiad, wedyn, ymhlith athrawon a dysgwyr a rhieni fel ei gilydd.

I think that it does vary from school to school a great deal, and from one teacher to another, but I think that it is a qualification that's essentially difficult to understand. There are things that could be done to simplify it in terms of structures and content and assessment, as the Qualifications Wales report has stated, that perhaps would facilitate understanding and appreciation amongst teachers and learners and parents similarly.

Felly, yn gyffredinol mae o'n anghyson—dyna beth rydych chi'n ei ddweud. A ydych chi'n gweld bod yna wahaniaeth yn dibynnu ar y lefel sy'n cael ei haddysgu? Hynny yw, yng nghyfnod allweddol 4, a oes yna lai o ddealltwriaeth ynglŷn â'r fagloriaeth yng nghyfnod allweddol 4, neu fwy, o gymharu efo ôl-16?

So, generally it's inconsistent—that's what you're saying. Do you believe that there is a difference depending on the level that's being taught? That is, in key stage 4, is there a difference in terms of the understanding of the Welsh bac, or more, compared to post-16?

09:35

Buaswn i'n dweud bod yna lot o sylw yn cael ei roi i ôl-16, yn enwedig yr uwch, gan fod myfyrwyr yn defnyddio hwn fel rhan o gais ar gyfer y brifysgol, wedyn mae yna lot o sylw yn cael ei wneud o hynny. Ond pan rydych chi'n sôn am gyfnod allweddol 4, maen nhw'n ei weld o hwyrach fel rhywbeth maen nhw'n ei wneud a hwyrach ddim yn deall pam maen nhw'n ei wneud o. 

I would say that a great deal of attention is given to post-16, especially the higher level, because it's used by learners to apply to university, so a lot of attention is given to that. But when you're talking about key stage 4, perhaps they see it as something that they do but they perhaps don't understand why they're doing it.

Wel, ie, yr athrawon, plant, rhieni—pawb. Ac rwy'n meddwl mai hynny sy'n bwysig: i gael y neges drosodd, achos mae'n meithrin sgiliau defnyddiol iawn i blant i'w defnyddio yn y dyfodol. 

Well, yes, the teachers, pupils, parents—everyone. And I think that that's what's important: to get that message across, because it does develop very useful skills for pupils to use in the future. 

I think just one extra point is that children are not as mature in key stage 4. When they go into key stage 5, obviously post-16 education, they are much more mature and they do respond to Welsh bac a lot better. And I've had past pupils who have come back to me and said, 'We're doing the Welsh bac in college and we understand why we're doing it now. We get why you were talking to us and explaining it to us. We've matured, we understand it more.' And they come back and ask for support and are working with our children for community challenges. So they do see the benefit when they're in college, because they are more mature. 

Ac rydych chi, yn eich tystiolaeth chi, yn dweud nad ydy Llywodraeth Cymru ddim wedi gwneud prin unrhyw ymdrech i hybu a chlodfori rhinweddau bagloriaeth Cymru'n llawn i randdeiliaid, a bod hynny'n effeithio yn negyddol, mewn ffordd. A fedrwch chi ymhelaethu ychydig ar hynny?

And in your evidence you state that the Welsh Government hasn't done almost anything to promote and praise the qualities of the Welsh bac fully to stakeholders and that that has a negative impact. Could you say a bit more about that?

I think the negativity is around about the fact that there hasn't been enough information out to schools, enough for members. There isn't enough exemplar material, either, for the delivery of it, and there isn't enough CPD available. Where there has been CPD, it has been exceptionally good. It has been down to schools sharing their exemplar material with other schools, but it hasn't been done across the whole of the board yet—not to the standard that we would expect from other subjects in the same way. 

I think also there was a concern from, certainly, our members who do not teach the Welsh bac about the impact of the Welsh bac on their subject areas, both in terms of children opting to do their subject areas—there's been certainly a shortfall in non-core as there's been a movement over to the Welsh bac—and also in terms of those learners who do the Welsh bac being removed from classes to catch up with aspects of the coursework. I have to say, though, that that's not particular just to the Welsh bac, that's also in terms of the core areas. That happens all the time. That wouldn't be such a big problem if it wasn't for the extremely rigorous accountability regimes that operate in schools, and it's very difficult to teach a child that actually is not in front of you. And there were great concerns from our members in terms of the impact of the Welsh bac in that respect. 

Rydych chi hefyd, fel undeb, wedi dweud nad ydy'r fagloriaeth yn darparu llawer o brofiad i ddisgyblion sydd yn dilyn llwybr mwy galwedigaethol. 

As a union, you've also said that the Welsh bac doesn't provide much experience to pupils who follow a more vocational pathway.

No. I think there were issues in terms of both the vocational side, in terms of the complexity of the skills challenge certificate, in terms of those following a vocational pathway, but also in terms of those at the top end as well. A great worry of ours is those schools close to the border have a flight over the border to escape the Welsh bac so that they don't get distracted by the Welsh bac in terms of, say, following four A-levels in colleges over the border. Certainly it's been mentioned by many of our members who teach in schools over the border that that's an issue as well. So both at the top end academically and at the vocational end as well there are issues with regard to the Welsh bac. 

No, I don't think it's about perception, but perhaps reality in terms of numbers. In terms of, as I said, the academic end, I think there's numbered evidence to show that—not just from our members, but from other organisations. I think it's in our evidence there as well that there is an issue with flight over the border, yes. 

A jest i gloi ar y darn yma, rŵan, yn gyffredinol, rydym ni wedi sôn am athrawon, ond beth am y disgyblion eu hunain? A ydyn nhw'n deall ac yn gwerthfawrogi'r fagloriaeth? A oes yna ganfyddiad yna neu a oes yna realiti yna nad yw'r fagloriaeth yn addas i bwrpas? Rebecca.

And just to conclude this part, in general we have talked about teachers, but what about the pupils themselves? Do they understand and value the Welsh bac? Is there a perception there or is there a reality there that the Welsh bac isn't fit for purpose? Rebecca.

Rwy'n credu yn aml fod y gwerthfawrogiad, efallai, yn dod yn hwyrach, fel y dywedodd Hannah. Maen nhw efallai wedi'u gorfodi i'w wneud e ac efallai ddim wedi deall na gwerthfawrogi ei werth e ar y pryd, ond nes ymlaen efallai eu bod nhw wedi gweld, 'O, reit', wrth weld eu hunain ochr yn ochr â'u cyfoedion, efallai yn y brifysgol neu ble bynnag maen nhw wedi mynd—’O, mae gen i’r sgiliau yma’n barod; rydw i wedi cael y profiadau yma’n barod'. Ond lle mae’n fwy problematig yw yn y fan a’r lle, rydw i’n credu, a deall, ‘Ocê, mae hwn yn cymryd lot o amser, a lot o egni, a lot o ymdrech—a ydy e werth e?’ Ac nid ydyn nhw wastad, efallai, yn teimlo’i fod e, neu’n cael y negeseuon allanol ei fod e.

I think that, often, that appreciation comes later, as Hannah said. They've had to do it, perhaps, and maybe haven't understood or appreciated its value at the time, but later on, maybe they've seen, 'Oh, right', in seeing themselves alongside their peers, in the university or wherever they've gone—'Oh, I have these skills already; I've had these experiences already.' But where it's more problematic is at the time, I think, and understanding, 'Okay, this is taking a lot of time, and a lot of energy, and a lot of effort—is it worth it?' And maybe they don't always feel that it is, or maybe are not getting the external messages that it is worth it.

09:40

Ond onid yw hynny, efallai, yn gyffredinol, yn wir am y byd addysg beth bynnag? Bod yna ddiffyg engagement efo’r byd addysg—pobl ddim yn deall pam eu bod nhw’n gorfod mynd i’r ysgol ac yn y blaen—a bod y fagloriaeth yn symptom o hynny, mewn ffordd, felly. Jest i gloi.

But isn't that, perhaps, in general, true about education anyway? That there's a lack of engagement with education—people don't understand why they have to go to school and so forth—and that the Welsh bac is a symptom of that, in a way. Just to conclude.

Buaswn i'n dweud hefyd mai prifysgolion hefyd rŵan, a hyd yn oed prifysgolion yn Lloegr, yn dod i ddallt cynnwys beth sydd yn cael ei gyflwyno fel rhan o’r fagloriaeth, yn enwedig ar y lefel uwch, achos maen nhw’n troi rownd at fyfyrwyr ac yn dweud, ‘Mi fyddwch chi wedi gwneud hyn yn y fagloriaeth. Rŷm ni’n dallt beth sy’n digwydd.' So, mae hi, erbyn hyn, yn gwreiddio, ac yn fantais i ddisgyblion, rydw i’n meddwl, fel maen nhw’n mynd ymlaen.

I would also say that universities now, even those in England, are coming to understand the content of what's being presented in the Welsh bac, particularly at the higher level, because they are turning round to students and saying, 'Well, you will have done this in the Welsh bac. We understand what's happening.' So, by now, it is an advantage for pupils, I think, as they proceed.

How do you perceive the views of school leadership teams in promoting and enabling the Welsh bac?

Well, I think it ties into the first question, really. Where a school leadership team takes the Welsh bac seriously, it is well resourced, it's well staffed, it's well presented. In a sense, if I could pull into the last question as well, by the way, when that is done, you bring the children along as well, because in terms of—. I think you're right, by the way, in terms of all subject areas. It's about the quality of the teacher standing in front of them and they can sell that subject, you can sell the Welsh bac, as long as you've got that quality standing in front of you. So, it just goes back to where it's taken seriously. And I'm just surprised that that's not more schools in Wales, considering it became an indicator, but there are still schools out there where it's basically just a filler.

Can you give us some idea of the consistency of that?

Not statistically in terms of data, no. But it's an interesting question, certainly, and we will go back and look at it.

And you believe that it would, then, have an impact on learners and parents and—? The whole system would be reliant upon the culture of school leadership teams. Okay.

Mae Cymwysterau Cymru ar hyn o bryd yn gwneud ymchwiliad i’r ffordd mae hi'n cael ei chyflwyno mewn ysgolion gwahanol. So, buaswn i’n gobeithio mi fydd yna dystiolaeth o beth rydych chi’n ei ofyn rŵan. Bydd yna ystadegau i ddangos sut mae hi’n cael ei chyflwyno mewn gwahanol ysgolion.

Qualifications Wales is currently undertaking a study into the way in which it is introduced in different schools. So, I would hope that there will be evidence of what you're asking now, that there will be statistics to show how it is presented in different schools.

Mae wedi cychwyn ers dydd Llun. Mae’n agored rŵan o ddydd Llun tan 14 Rhagfyr: o 12 Tachwedd tan 14 Rhagfyr.

It started on Monday. It's open now from Monday until 14 December: from 12 November till 14 December.

Right. Okay. That's interesting to know. And what about employers and their perceptions of the Welsh bac? Do you get the impression that they are falling over themselves to recruit pupils who've studied it over A-level pupils? Do you think they value it more than those kinds of qualifications, or is that just not right?

Buaswn i’n dweud mai angen bod yn ofalus fel rŷm ni’n edrych ar hyn—a ydym ni’n edrych ar y fagloriaeth ynteu'r dystysgrif her sgiliau? Achos fanna mae’r sgiliau mae’r cyflogwr yn mynd i fod eu heisiau. Mae’r fagloriaeth fath â’r ymbarél, onid ydy, dros yr holl gymwysterau ychwanegol hefyd. Y sgiliau, hwyrach, mae’r cyflogwr yn mynd ar eu hôl ydy’r dystysgrif her.

I would say that we need to be careful in looking at this—are we looking at the Welsh bac or the skills challenge certificate? Because that's where the skills will be that the employer will want. The Welsh bac is a kind of umbrella over all these additional qualifications. The skills the employers are looking for are the skills challenge certificate.

So, do you think—? So, employers are focused on skills. Do you think that employers might feel that it doesn't matter what their qualification is, it's about how rounded and how skilled the individual is? And the kind of employers you'd go to after leaving school, straight from school, for example, would value skills more than the name of a qualification.

Buaswn i’n meddwl bod sgiliau’n bwysig, bod y disgybl yn gallu cyfathrebu’n dda, defnydd o rif ac yn y blaen, pob peth—technoleg gwybodaeth, cymhwysedd digidol, bob peth maen nhw’n datblygu trwy’r dystysgrif her. Hynny sy’n bwysig.

I would imagine that skills are important: the skills of good communication, application of number and so on, IT, digital competence—everything they learn through the skills challenge certificate. That's what's important.

Yes. So, the success of the Welsh bac will lie in demonstrating to employers that the skills outcomes are being met, more than any label or name of qualification. 

Buaswn i'n meddwl, ie.

I would think so, yes.

I think, as well, there needs to be more information to employers, parents and the community about this qualification and its value as well, because, if you get them all on board with it, I think it does change the perspective from the children; they valuate it a lot more, and I think—. It's a good qualification, there's a lot of merit within it, but I don't think it's as widely understood as other qualifications out there at the moment, because it is a newer qualification. 

09:45

Okay. Yesterday, at First Minister's questions, the leader of the UKIP group put to the First Minister the view that universities don't value it at all. Is that fair?

No. It depends on the university. Again, I think you've got a very mixed bag with regard to the universities. There will be a number of universities that will accept it, other universities that won't accept it as an A-level but look upon it positively as creating a more rounded candidate; there are some universities that reject it out of hand. So, again, it's a mixed bag, but I do think, by the way, that that is an issue and that's a problem, because if just one, if you like, of the top universities entirely rejects the Welsh bac, that's going to be a matter of concern to a student who might be looking at that particular university as a place that they want to go to to study. So, there's a lot of work to be done there, I think, with regard to persuading the universities of the quality and the importance of the qualification. 

Mae anghysondeb yn gallu bod tu fewn i brifysgolion hefyd, ac mae'n gallu amrywio o adran i adran a phwnc i bwnc. Felly, mi fydd un adran ac un pwnc yn derbyn y fagloriaeth a'i chroesawu hi, ac adran arall yn ei gwrthod hi neu ddim yn ei chymryd hi i ystyriaeth. Mae'r anghysondeb yn fawr iawn.

Inconsistency can occur within universities too, and it can vary from subject to subject and department to department. So, while some departments will accept it and welcome it, another department will reject it and won't take it into consideration. So, there is great inconsistency.  

So, what I'm trying to do, then, is understand the reason for that, and why there's that disparity. Can you reflect on why the disparity might occur?

Nid wyf yn gwybod ai mater o gyfathrebu yw hi a dealltwriaeth, neu a ydy'n ymwneud mwy â natur y sgiliau a bod natur y sgiliau yn fwy perthnasol, efallai, i rai pynciau a llwybrau nag eraill. 

I'm not sure whether it's an issue of communication and understanding, or more to do with the nature of the skills and that the nature of the skills is more relevant, perhaps, to some subjects and some pathways than others. 

Okay. And any other views across the board why universities—

We are going to do—we've got a section, really, on universities, so if we leave that now, please. Thank you. Suzy.

Just very briefly, to follow up on something Hefin was asking about—the nature of the skills challenge in particular and the understanding of the qualification as a whole—would disaggregating the skills challenge from the academic end of the qualification, if you like, actually help or hinder understanding, or would it be an additional thing for universities to get confused about? [Laughter.] Because if it's being treated as a sort of Duke of Edinburgh equivalent, that's got a value, but it's not necessarily one that's equivalent to an A-level.

So, any views on that? So, it's not necessarily the content, it's how it's packaged. 

O brofiad personol, rydw i wedi gweld enghreifftiau lle mae prifysgolion wedi rhoi cynnig tair lefel A neu ail opsiwn lle maen nhw'n rhoi tair lefel A hwyrach â graddau ychydig bach yn is ac yn derbyn y fagloriaeth yn ychwanegol—

From personal experience, I've seen examples where universities have given an offer of three A-levels or a second option where they give three A-levels at slightly lower grades and they'll accept the bac in addition to that—

Rwyf wedi gweld hynny hefyd.

I have seen that, too. 

—ar y cyd ac yn derbyn disgyblion. Felly, maen nhw'n cael y cynnig ymlaen llaw, so maen nhw wedi deall cynnwys y fagloriaeth ac yn ei gweld fel rhywbeth positif, nid fel rhyw fath o—

—together and accept pupils. So, they have the offer beforehand, so they've understood the content of the bac and see it as something positive, and not—

Ie, ac yn rhoi'r gwahanol opsiynau, lle mae yna brifysgolion eraill sydd wedi ei derbyn fel lefel A. Wedyn, mae'n anodd gwybod.

Yes, and give those different options, where other universities have accepted it as an A-level. So, it's difficult to know. 

Na, na, rwy'n deall hynny. Diolch yn fawr, beth bynnag. 

Yes, I understand that. Thank you very much, anyway. 

Okay. Thank you, Chair.

We'll go on to some questions now about how it's viewed in terms of being an equivalent, rigorous qualification. Dawn Bowden. 

Thank you, Chair. Good morning. Can I ask you, really, the views, initially, of teachers and whether teachers are of the view that the bac is as rigorous as other qualifications? And perhaps the difference between teachers who deliver the bac qualification and those who don't, and if there's a different view around that. I know, NASUWT, you've made some comments that you felt that the advanced level SCC had improved that, but your members seem to have a slightly different view. 

Yes. We do think the SCC has improved that, but in terms of we still—the overwhelming response from most of our members is that there's no parity in terms of the Welsh bac and A-levels. However, I do have to say that is mixed and, obviously, there's a different picture I think that comes from those—again, going back to the initial point—schools that have kind of taken it more seriously and those who are, if you like, embedded in it; they're more positive. But certainly the majority of the members speaking to us would say there is no parity between the Welsh bac and A-levels, no. 

And is that the view of other organisations as well? Anyone?

Members' views do vary, and some members of staff, they absolutely love teaching it, and I think it's down to their skill set as well as a teacher that really enhances the learning of it, whereas the teachers who don't teach it, they're quite scared of it because it's something completely and utterly different. There are so many components to it, so not all teachers teach every component, so they don't see the big picture of it. So, it is hard to look at it and how to assess it and develop these skills with the children. But it does vary—some absolutely love this qualification and some teachers feel like it is the bane of their lives, because the training they've had for it does vary, and it's down to the individual schools.

09:50

Yes, because I think you've said that it had been introduced without clear parameters in terms of the expectations, and you talked about some teachers creating their own marking schemes, as well.

Yes. It was in the past, when they first brought out the new one: staff were looking at it and at how they could assess it. Now the Welsh Joint Education Committee has looked at this and there are stronger assessment criteria.

And I've personally assessed it as well and it does work alongside—. Where I deliver art, it's the same way that it's been done across a lot more subjects, so it is becoming more fluid and easier for teachers to understand.

Ie. Hynny yw, mewn ffordd, fan hyn rŷm ni’n siarad am y dystysgrif her sgiliau, onid ydym ni, ac nid y fagloriaeth ehangach. Mae hi’n gymhwyster hollol wahanol i lefel A, neu BTEC neu unrhyw beth arall, ac, mewn ffordd, mae gofyn a ydy hi mor rigorous â’r lleill bron yn dod at y peth o gyfeiriad anghywir, oherwydd nid yw’n fater o ddysgu gwybodaeth. Mae’r pwyslais yn hollol wahanol, onid yw e? Mae e ynglŷn â rhoi mwy o ryddid i’r unigolyn a chreu unigolion mwy crwn ac maen nhw’n gwneud penderfyniadau ynglŷn ag i ba gyfeiriad maen nhw eisiau mynd ar gyfer y prosiect, a datblygu sgiliau—mae lot mwy o bwyslais ar ddatblygu sgiliau. Felly, tra bod angen rhyw fath o gyfatebolrwydd o ran parch a statws, nid yw hi byth yn mynd i fod yr un fath; mae hi, yn ei hanfod, yn rhywbeth—mae'n greadur hollol wahanol.

Yes. That is, in a way, we're talking about the skills challenge certificate, and not the wider baccalaureate. It's a very different qualification to A-levels or BTECs or anything else, and, in a way, asking whether it's as rigorous as the others is coming at it from the wrong direction, because it's not an issue of learning information. The emphasis is very different, isn't it? It's about giving more freedom to the individual and creating more rounded individuals who make decisions about which direction they want to go in in terms of projects and so forth, and developing skills—there's more emphasis on developing skills. So, while we need some kind of parity in terms of respect and status, it's never going to be the same; fundamentally, it's a different animal.

Yes, I take that point. And what about the learners themselves? I think I've got a clear picture of what your members are saying, but what's the kind of feedback you're getting from learners in terms of their perception of the qualification as an equivalent to A-levels, for instance?

Well, I would agree in the sense that you're not comparing like with like, but, in terms of the learners, again, it goes back to the point I was making about the issues of flight over the border. There are going to be those who are aiming for, if you like, the top universities, wanting four straight As, who will see it as an extra burden that they can well do without whilst they concentrate on making sure that they get those academic results for those universities. And, for those, I think it would be seen as a problem.

Sure. Okay. My final question is really about whether the study for bac is just becoming too onerous for teachers and students. Is that the feeling that you get, or, again, is it a mixed picture?

The study for it in terms of the—. Well—

The whole process of going through the Welsh bac—is that considered to be too onerous, generally? I mean, I know we are generalising, so there might be a mixed picture, but are you getting the feedback from your members and from learners that it's too onerous, given everything else that they're doing at that level of their education?

Buaswn i'n meddwl ei fod i gyd yn dod yn ôl at sut mae’n cael ei chyflwyno o fewn yr ysgol a faint o amser sy’n cael ei roi iddi hi. Mae rhai ysgolion yn rhoi amser penodol ar yr amserlen bob wythnos lle mae hi’n cael ei dysgu’n dda, mae yna gydlynu ac mae yna gyfeiriad iddi hi, lle mae yna rai eraill wedyn sy’n trio ei stwffio hi i mewn i amser cofrestru’r bore neu 'collapse-io' amserlen am ddiwrnod neu ddau i drio’i gwneud hi mewn ffordd artiffisial yn hytrach bod y peth yn datblygu’n naturiol, a bod plant wedyn yn ei gweld hi fel cryfder ynddyn nhw ac yn datblygu sgiliau. Mae e i gyd yn dod nôl at sut mae’n cael ei chyflwyno.

I would imagine that it all comes back to how it's presented within schools, and how much time is allocated to it. Some schools allocate a specific time on the timetable each week, where it's taught well, there is co-ordination and there's a direction to it, whereas others try to stuff it into registration time or collapse the timetable for a day or two to try to do it in an artificial way, rather than it developing naturally and then the children see it as a kind of strength in themselves and develop the skills. So, it comes back to how it's presented.

Sure. Okay. Okay, that's fine. Any other comments? No?

Ie, roeddwn i jest eisiau mynd tipyn bach yn ddyfnach i mewn i'r anghysondeb yma rydych chi'n sôn amdano fo ar draws ysgolion a'r ffaith ei fod yn dibynnu ar yr arweinyddiaeth i raddau helaeth, os ydy o'n rhaeadru i lawr. Mae hynny'n wir yn gyffredinol yn y byd addysg, beth bynnag. A ydych chi'n gweld bod yr ysgolion hynny sydd yn 'engage-o' efo'r fagloriaeth yn ysgolion llwyddiannus mewn meysydd eraill hefyd? A ydy'r arweinyddiaeth yna'n gref o gwmpas gweddill y cwricwlwm hefyd? 

Yes, I just wanted to drill deeper into this inconsistency that you're talking about across schools, and the fact that it depends on the leadership to a great extent, in terms of whether it cascades down. That's true generally in the sphere of education, isn't it? Do you think that those schools who do engage with the Welsh bac are successful schools in other areas as well? Is the school leadership strong around the rest of the curriculum? 

09:55

Beth sy'n anodd, rydw i'n meddwl, ydy, fel mae rhai pobl wedi dweud yn barod, nid ydy rhai disgyblion yn gwerthfawrogi'r sgiliau maen nhw wedi eu datblygu tan ymhellach ymlaen, so mae beth maen nhw'n ei ddysgu yng nghyfnod allweddol 4 hwyrach ddim yn dwyn ffrwyth go iawn tan maen nhw'n cyrraedd ôl-16 ac maen nhw'n gweld ei werth o, ac maen nhw'n defnyddio'r sgiliau yna unwaith eto.  

What's difficult, I think, as some people have already said, is that some pupils don't appreciate the skills that they have developed until further on, so what they learn in key stage 4 perhaps doesn't bear fruit properly until they get to post 16, and they see the value of and they use those skills again. 

Ond mynd ar ôl yr arweinwyr ydw i, rŵan—yr arweinwyr yn yr ysgol. A ydyn nhw'n arweinwyr da ar draws yr ysgol? A ydy Estyn yn canmol yr ysgolion hynny sydd yn dda efo'r bac yn gyffredinol, beth bynnag, felly? Rydw i'n meddwl bod hwnnw'n gwestiwn digon teg i'w ofyn—ond efallai nad ydych gallu ei ateb o—achos rydw i'n meddwl ei fod o'n bwysig. 

But I'm pursuing the leadership—the school leaders. Are they good school leaders across the school? Does Estyn praise those schools who are good with the bac generally, anyway? I think that's a very fair question to ask—but maybe you can't answer it—as I do think it's important. 

I think it's a very difficult question to answer, because, in a sense, doing the maths on that, a head and a senior leadership team that recognise the importance of the Welsh bac and the importance of actually building a strong team sounds to me like a good head and a good leadership team, so you'd have thought that would have a knock-on effect in terms of the way the school was run and in terms of the outcome on that. I have no evidence to back that up, but that's certainly the way I would be thinking. My experience of areas where I know the Welsh bac works well is that, certainly, those schools are good schools, but I have no evidence. 

I think one other point is that it's down to the quality of the co-ordinator as well, not just the leadership, but the Welsh bac co-ordinator, how much time they've got for planning, preparing, delivering and supporting their members who are doing the qualification with pupils, and whether they're the right person as well doing it, and whether they've been supported enough as well to get everything done. It is a very robust qualification and a lot of time needs to go into that, and if that co-ordinator doesn't have enough time, then certainly the members of staff are not going to have the time either. So, it does take a while to embed, and where it's being embedded well, there has been success in those schools.  

And that's down to leadership again, though, isn't it—making sure that they do have enough time and, of course, it's the leaders that appoint those co-ordinators. 

Apologies for jumping back in, but to support Hannah on that as well, because I think we spend an awful lot of time looking at headteachers and seeing their leadership teams, but, actually, your key workers, certainly in secondary schools, are your middle leaders—they're like your captains in the trenches, basically; they're the ones who are actually co-ordinating at that ground level, and the quality there will certainly lead to quality in terms of the Welsh bac; that's true. 

Thank you. I think we've covered some of the university questions, but I was going to ask to what extent universities and employers consider it as equivalent to GCSEs and A-levels, and I think we've covered that in terms of universities. But have you anything more to say, or anything about employers? Nothing to add. No. Okay, fine. 

So, I'll go on to the skills. Do you think that the skills that are learnt in the skills challenge can be learned in other general or vocational qualifications? 

To be honest with you, I think there's, in a sense, cross-fertilisation in all subject areas where there are things that are strong in a particular area and are also covered in other particular areas. So, certainly, you could look at the Welsh bac and take it apart and say, 'Yes, that's covered here, there and everywhere', but I think that's also true of other qualifications as well.  

Oherwydd ei bod hi mor wahanol, nid wyf yn credu efallai fod y sgiliau sy'n cael eu meithrin yn her sgiliau Cymru ar hyn o bryd, fel mae TGAU ar hyn o bryd a safon uwch ar hyn o bryd—. Nid wyf i'n credu bod y sgiliau yna o reidrwydd yn cael eu meithrin mewn llefydd eraill. Felly, ar hyn o bryd, rwy'n credu mai yn yr her sgiliau maen nhw'n eistedd. Hynny yw, wrth edrych i'r dyfodol, a phetai yna ddiwygio'r cymwysterau eraill—TGAU a safon uwch—efallai yn sgil y cwricwlwm newydd, er enghraifft, mi fyddai rhywun yn gallu dychmygu mwy o'r sgiliau sy'n cael eu datblygu ar hyn o bryd yn her sgiliau Cymru yn dod mewn i'r cymwysterau eraill. Rydw i'n credu bod yna gwestiynau eithaf diddorol i'w gofyn ar hyn o bryd ynghylch sut mae'r cwricwlwm newydd yn mynd i bontio mewn i gyfnod allweddol 4 a chymwysterau, ac efallai ei fod yn werth inni fod yn meddwl am her sgiliau Cymru fel rhywbeth sydd eisoes yn fwy cydnaws â'r cwricwlwm newydd sydd ar ei ffordd, ac fel rhywbeth fyddai'n gallu hwyluso'r broses yna o bontio o le'r ydym ni nawr o ran cwricwlwm a chymwysterau i le rydym ni eisiau bod ymhen pum mlynedd. 

Because it is so different, I don't think that those skills that are developed in the skills challenge currently, as GCSEs and A-levels are at the moment—. I don't think that those skills are necessarily developed in other areas. Currently, I think that it is in the skills challenge that they sit. And in looking to the future, if there were some reform of other qualifications—GCSE and A-level—as a result of the new curriculum, for example, then you would imagine more of the skills that are currently developed as part of skills challenge Wales coming into these other qualifications. I think that there are quite interesting questions to be asked at the moment regarding how the new curriculum will bridge into key stage 4 and qualifications, and perhaps it's worth us starting to think about skills challenge Wales as something that is already better matched with the new curriculum that's on its way, as something that could facilitate that process of bridging from where we are now in terms of the curriculum and qualifications to where we want to be within five years.

10:00

That's a very interesting point. But, at the moment, you think that the skills are unique to the Welsh bac.

Rydw i'n credu eu bod nhw, oherwydd bod yna ddim pwysau i ddysgu cynnwys ar gyfer her sgiliau Cymru gymaint, mae'n rhoi'r rhyddid yna ar gyfer datblygu sgiliau, a hefyd mwy o ryddid i'r unigolion i benderfynu ar eu trywydd eu hun. Mae e jest yn rhoi tipyn bach yn fwy o ofod a chyfleoedd sydd ddim wir yn bosib pan ŷch chi'n dysgu cwricwlwm llawn cynnwys ac mae'n rhaid ichi fynd drwy bopeth sydd ynghlwm wrth bwnc penodol. 

I do think that they are, because there's no pressure to learn content for skills challenge Wales as much, it gives that freedom to develop skills, and also more freedom for individuals to decide their own journey. So, it gives a little more space and opportunities, which perhaps aren't as possible when you're learning a curriculum that's full of content and you have to go through everything that's connected with a specific subject.

I think what is interesting is a lot of schools now are looking at creating a 'baby bac' so they're developing the skills in key stage 3 in anticipation of them going on to the Welsh bac in key stage 4. So, they've started to embed those skills at a much younger age, so by the time they get to key stage 4 they value them and they have a much stronger understanding of it and they're more mature with it, whereas we're seeing them more mature in key stage 5. So, they're trying to nurture that in the younger years already. That is starting to show success and the younger ones are enjoying it as well. 

So, you'd reject the idea of Cambridge university, which said the skills learnt in the SCC are most effectively evidenced in the minimum three A-levels they require. From what you've said, you would reject that, what Cambridge university is saying. 

I think I would. The Welsh bac is an entirely different creature. I would also say, by the way, an interesting sideline to this is that Wales is embarking on a very interesting journey in terms of curriculum reform and that's going to have a major impact over the next five years or so. The terms of the Welsh bac seem to me to certainly be closer to the philosophy that governs the curriculum reform than the present qualifications are. Indeed, there's going to have to be a wholesale change in Welsh qualifications so that they dovetail into the curriculum reform. So, we're looking at and we're studying the Welsh bac. What we agree with here is it is different, it is unique, but it is closer to that ethos that's coming through in terms of curriculum reform than the present qualifications system, which we'll have to change. 

Yes, thank you. I think we've already discussed the fact that the way that universities regard the Welsh bac does vary. Does that actually cause problems, the fact that their views vary?

Have you got any observations on the variation? For instance, the young people that we met told us that they thought that universities like Bath and Bristol were quite keen on the Welsh bac, and that possibly may be because of proximity to Wales. Is that something that you've observed—a better understanding?

I've been to university open days and questioned people about do they accept the Welsh bac, and it varies, as we've said, from course to course. 

Sori, rydw i wedi newid i'r Saesneg yn syth.

Mae'n amrywio o brifysgol i brifysgol, o gwrs i gwrs. Rydw i hyd yn oed wedi cael sefyllfa lle maen nhw'n dweud eu bod nhw'n derbyn y fagloriaeth, ond erioed wedi gorfod gwneud y penderfyniad hwnnw achos bod y disgyblion wedi cyrraedd y disgwyliadau efo'u lefel A. Nid ydyn nhw erioed wedi gorfod gwneud y penderfyniad. Ond, o ran prifysgolion Lerpwl ac yn y blaen yn y gogledd, maen nhw hefyd yn derbyn y fagloriaeth.

Sorry, I've changed to English immediately.

It does vary from university to university, from course to course. I've even had a situation where they say that they accept the Welsh bac, but have never had to make that decision because the students have reached the expected grade via their A-levels. They've never had to make that decision. But, in terms of Liverpool universities and so forth in the north, they also accept the Welsh bac.

Thank you very much. By next year, the bac is supposed to be universally adopted in all our schools. I can see three different views from three different unions here. First of all—

Rwyf i eisiau gofyn i Rebecca pam ydych chi'n dweud y dylai'r fagloriaeth fod yn orfodol, er y ffaith bod—rwyf i jest yn mynd i'r dystiolaeth yma:

I'd like to ask Rebecca why you say that the bac should be mandatory, despite the fact—I'm just going to the evidence here:

Workload for pupils is 'excessive' and too 'burdensome'. Then, for Neil, why this should just be optional, no question, and then, Hannah, there are concerns, but you're not particularly coming down on either side about whether it should be compulsory or not. Is this inconsistency between the three of you down to the inconsistency of views of your members, pretty much? I've listened to all the evidence so far. It seems like there is no clear train of direction—or whatever you call it, yes, train of direction from where we are at the moment. There's just so much inconsistency that it's almost impossible to get a clear picture of universal adoption. Is that a fair assessment?

10:05

Well, there's certainly inconsistency in the views of our members, but our view on this comes down straight in terms of our role as a trade union in protecting our members' jobs. We are concerned at the moment, given the Welsh bac, given the non-universal acceptance from the universities, given the fact that that gives rise to possible flight over the border, that there's therefore a jobs threat to our members, because of, obviously, fewer students. And, so, we're concerned about that, and, therefore—. Also, I would say the majority of our members are concerned about the Welsh bac and its impact upon their subject areas as well, certainly those, obviously, who don't teach the Welsh bac. So, overall, we think, at the moment, given all of those issues, that it should be optional. 

Okay. Thank you. Hannah, have you got anything to add to just that it's worrying?

It is worrying because people are worried about jobs, and because, in some schools, it is imposed and it has to be delivered, it is taking choice away from pupils, which means that curriculum areas are impacted and timetables are reduced. It does mean redundancies for some members of staff, and it is a big, big worry, or they're teaching outside of their specialisation. So, there are concerns. There is merit to it, but there are concerns, and I think time will tell how it carries through. 

Ie, wel, yr hyn sy'n ein poeni ni yw'r anghysondeb mewn ffordd. Ac rwy'n credu mai un o'r llefydd lle mae'r anghysondeb yn tarddu yw'r ffaith bod Llywodraeth Cymru yn dweud eu bod nhw eisiau ac yn disgwyl iddi hi gael ei mabwysiadu'n gyffredinol—yr universal adoption yma, ond yn gwneud dim i hyrwyddo hynny wir. Hynny yw, mae disgyblion yn mynd dros y ffin yn un agwedd ohoni, ond mae'n digwydd o fewn Cymru hefyd. Felly, mae yna ysgolion sydd yn ei gwneud hi'n orfodol, ôl-16, ac ysgolion sydd ddim. Mae yna golegau addysg bellach sydd, ar y cyfan, ddim yn ei wneud e'n orfodol. Ac, wedyn, oherwydd y sefyllfa ariannu hefyd, ôl-16, hynny yw, mae'n frwydr am fyfyrwyr ôl-16; mae pawb eisiau nhw, ac mae pawb yn gwneud popeth y gallan nhw i gael y disgyblion yna atyn nhw, boed yn ddosbarthiadau chwech, neu'n golegau addysg bellach. Ac mae'r fagloriaeth yn cael ei defnyddio yn y frwydr. Mae hi'n arf yn y frwydr. 

Yes, so, our concern is the inconsistency, in a way. I think that one of the places where the inconsistency derives from is the fact that the Welsh Government say that they want and expect it to be universally adopted, but then do nothing to promote that. Pupils do go across the border, that's one aspect of this, but it happens within Wales as well. There are schools who do it on a compulsory basis, post 16, and schools that don't. And there are further education institutions who, on the whole, don't do it on a compulsory basis, but because of the funding situation as well, post 16, it is a battle for post-16 students. Everyone wants them, and everyone is doing everything they can to attract those students, whether they're in sixth forms or in FEIs. And the Welsh bac is used in that battle. It's a weapon in that battle. 

Yn negyddol, yntau mewn ffordd bositif?

Negatively, or in a positive way?

Drwy ddweud, 'Dewch atom ni, does dim rhaid i chi wneud y fagloriaeth neu cewch chi ddewis; cewch chi ei gwneud hi os ŷch chi'n moyn, ond does dim rhaid i chi ei gwneud hi.' Ac mae'n mynd yn arf recriwtio. Wrth gwrs, mae'n gymhleth, onid yw e, achos mae'r holl bethau rydym ni wedi’u trafod yn barod ynglŷn ag a yw myfyrwyr yn gweld ei gwerth hi neu beidio, ac ydyn nhw'n gweld ei gwerth hi yn y foment yna pan maen nhw'n gwneud eu dewisiadau, yn chwarae mewn i'r frwydr yna hefyd. Ond rydym ni'n gwybod bod hynny'n digwydd. 

Ac, nid wyf i'n gwybod pam, ond yn gyffredinol, mae ysgolion uwchradd cyfrwng Cymraeg wedi bod yn frwd iawn o blaid y fagloriaeth ac, ar y cyfan, yn ei mabwysiadu hi ac yn ei gwneud hi'n orfodol. A'r pryder ar hyn o bryd yw bod yna ysgolion cyfrwng Saesneg cyfagos sydd yn denu'r disgyblion hynny drwy ddweud, 'Nid yw hi'n orfodol, dewch atom ni', neu'r colegau, ac rydym ni'n colli disgyblion o addysg cyfrwng Cymraeg oherwydd hynny hefyd—

Well, they say, 'Come to us, you don't have to do the Welsh bac or you can choose to do it if you want, but you don't have to do it.' And it is a recruitment tool. It's complex, isn't it, because everything we've discussed already, in terms of whether students see its value or not, and whether they see its value in the moment when they are making their choices, plays into that battle as well. But we do know that that is happening. 

And I don't know why, but, generally, Welsh-medium secondary schools have been very keen and been in favour of the Welsh bac, and, on the whole, have adopted it and made it compulsory. And the concern at present is that nearby English-medium schools attract those pupils by saying, 'It's not compulsory, come to us', or the colleges, and we're losing Welsh-medium pupils because of that. 

Felly, mae'n unintended consequence mewn ffordd, ie?

So, it's an unintended consequence.

Hollol unitended ydy, hollol anfwriadol. Ond mae e'n digwydd, ac mae'n fater o bryder mawr i'n haelodau ni o ran colli niferoedd o fewn eu hysgolion, wrth gwrs, o safbwynt hunanol, gallech chi ddweud, ond hefyd, o safbwynt colli disgyblion o addysg cyfrwng Cymraeg, hynny yw, a goblygiadau hynny o ran yr unigolion, ond polisi Llywodraeth Cymru hefyd, a'r filiwn o siaradwyr erbyn 2050. 

Felly, dyna'r cefndir i'n safbwynt ni. Os yw'r Llywodraeth yn dweud eu bod nhw eisiau i hon gael ei mabwysiadu'n gyffredinol, mae'n rhaid gwneud rhywbeth am hynny, a pheidio â gadael i bob un sefydliad unigol wneud y dewis heb unrhyw fath o naill ai gosb neu gymhelliad. Un siomedigaeth yw bod y mesurau perfformiad newydd wedi cael eu cyhoeddi ar gyfer y sector ôl-16 ac, am y tro cyntaf, maen nhw'n gyson rhwng colegau addysg bellach a dosbarthiadau chwech. Mae yna fanteision i hynny, wrth gwrs, o ran ymchwil ac ystadegau, ond nid oes yna ddim byd yn y mesurau perfformiad newydd yna sydd yn mynd i gymell unrhyw sefydliad i wneud y fagloriaeth. Felly, mae yna rôl i'r fagloriaeth, ond maen nhw'n mynd i fesur y cyflawniad o blith y rhai sydd wedi cofrestru i wneud y fagloriaeth. Nid oes yna ddim byd yna sydd yn mesur faint o'r cohort cyfan sydd yn gwneud y fagloriaeth. Felly, mae yna gyfle euraidd fanna wedi'i golli i nid ei wneud e'n orfodol, ond rhoi cymhellion i sefydliadau i hyrwyddo'r fagloriaeth ac annog disgyblion i'w wneud. 

Yes, totally unintended. But it is happening, and it is a great concern for our members, in terms of losing numbers within their schools, of course, from a selfish perspective, so to speak, but also, from the perspective of losing Welsh-medium pupils, and the implications of that, in terms of the individuals, but also the Welsh Government's policy, and the million Welsh speakers in 2050. 

So, that's the backdrop for our position. If the Government says that they want this to be universally adopted, well, they have to do something about that, and not just let every institution make that choice without any kind of sanction or incentive. One disappointment is that the new performance measures have been published for the post-16 sector and for the first time they are consistent between FEIs and sixth forms. There are advantages to that, of course, in terms of research and statistics, but there's nothing in the performance measures that's going to incentivise any institutions to do the Welsh bac. So, there is a role for the Welsh bac, but they're going to measure the attainment among those who've registered to do the Welsh bac. There's nothing there that measures how many of that entire cohort are doing the Welsh bac. So, there's a golden opportunity that's been missed there not to make it compulsory, but to put incentives in place for institutions to promote the Welsh bac and encourage pupils to do it. 

10:10

Well, actually, this leads to me to a quick question. I'll just finish these two off quickly. 

Okay. Well, the first one is, if we're looking at universal adoption—good or bad—have Welsh Government done all they can to make it clear as to why it should be universally adopted? Obviously, you have one argument for it. And the second—and we've touched on the Welsh-language side, so if you can answer it in other ways—is there a distinction between particular geographical areas and different types of school about the views of universal adoption? Underneath the inconsistency, is it all one type of school that thinks it's a great idea or one type of school that thinks it's not a great idea, and is that affected by other schools around it, which you've touched on a little bit there? 

Rwy'n credu bod yna batrymau daearyddol. Nid oes gen i ystadegau. Bydd rhaid gwneud ymchwil fanna ac efallai y bydd Cymwysterau Cymru yn ei wneud, ond rwy'n credu bod yna. Rwy'n credu'n gyffredinol fod y gogledd yn fwy tebygol o'i wneud e'n orfodol ond mae yna bocedi—

I think that there are geographical patterns. I don't have statistics. Research would have to be done in that area and perhaps that will be done by Qualifications Wales, but I think there are patterns. In general, I think that north Wales is more likely to make it compulsory but there are pockets—

Rwy'n chwilio 'pam' hefyd o dan hynny.

I'm looking for why that is as well.

Nid ydw i'n siŵr pam—arweinyddiaeth efallai, consortia; nid ydw i'n siŵr iawn. Mae'n werth edrych i mewn iddo fe'n fwy, rwy'n credu. 

Well, I'm not sure why—leadership perhaps, consortia; I'm not sure. But it is worth looking into it in more detail. 

So, urban schools versus rural schools—that type of thing is what I'm looking for.

I think one extra thing you could add is that there are, obviously, secondary schools but there are also PRU environments as well, pupil referral units. There's also home tuition going on as well. It's more difficult for them to access the provision as well because there are elements of community groups, working groups, and so these learners are not able to work in teams and not able to work in community environments. So, for them, it's going to be much more difficult for them to access them, particularly if they are home tutored. How can they complete all those elements if they're one person at home with their tutor when they need to work in teams for quite a number of the pieces?

Just quickly, we're back to school leadership and individuals are key—

We are. And the trouble is there's a bit of a hostage to fortune in terms of answering your question because there's certainly no data or evidence on this; it's just in terms of what I would think would be the pattern. It just goes back to what I've been saying in terms of those border schools as well—I don't think they would like to see a compulsory element simply because of the issue of those students making that choice of going over the border. So, I think there would be probably a pattern there, but I've got no evidence. 

But, essentially, we're not ready for 100 per cent take-up. Would that be fair?

Rwy'n credu ein bod ni'n bell iawn o hynny ac mae posibilrwydd y byddem ni'n mynd am yn ôl, rwy'n credu, oherwydd mae'r ysgolion sydd wedi bod yn ei hyrwyddo fe, nawr, oherwydd eu bod nhw'n colli disgyblion i ysgolion sydd ddim, efallai yn ei wneud e ddim yn orfodol ble mae e wedi bod yn orfodol hyd yma. Felly, mi allai pethau lithro am yn ôl. 

I think we are a long way from that and there's a possibility that we'll go backwards, because those schools that have been promoting it are now perhaps, as a result of losing pupils to those schools who don't, not making it compulsory when it had been compulsory thus far. So, I think things could slip backwards. 

Right, okay. Do you think the Welsh bac should be optional for certain groups, such as those following vocational routes or more able and talented pupils, or would that devalue it? 

I think that would devalue it. It's either optional or it's compulsory and I don't think you should be dividing it up into different types of students because then it would just devalue it.  

I would agree, but I think the learners would differ on that one as well, having heard their views on many occasions. They would prefer it to be an option that they could choose because they think it takes away from their other options as well. But that's the learners not my members. 

Ie, buaswn i'n cytuno. 

Yes, I'd agree with that. 

Okay, fine. Is there an effect for pupils studying the Welsh bac on non-curriculum activities, and is that a concern?

In terms of the responses we got when we asked our members, we had one example of that, and that was, in a sense, the same type of impact it has on other subject areas, in terms of children being removed from activities so that they can catch up in terms of work. And we had one example of that. But I don't think that's a broad picture. I don't think that's a general picture. But I think there is an impact in some institutions for short periods.

10:15

I know, when I took evidence at a school in Bangor, the non-curricular and going out and working in the community—. The pupils themselves felt that that was really great value, because it rounded them as an individual and actually taught them quite a lot of skills. Would you agree that's a really good part of it? 

Are there any issues relating to the way that the Welsh Government provide funding for the Welsh bac? I know teachers at the round-table event suggested that there were inconsistencies, and the NEU said that it should be funded in the same way as other qualifications.

Yes, just to say, we would agree with that—it should be funded in the same way as other qualifications.

Okay, thank you. And we're moving on now to some questions from Michelle Brown.

Just moving on a little bit from funding, given the Welsh Government’s emphasis on the Welsh bac, do you think it's been adequately resourced?

Mae'n anodd iawn pan fydd ysgolion yn wynebu toriadau cyson ac wedyn mae diffyg arian yn arwain at anghysondeb wrth ariannu'r fagloriaeth o ysgol i ysgol. Hyd yn oed hyfforddiant—a oes gan ysgolion bres i yrru pobl ar hyfforddiant ac yn y blaen? Allan nhw ddim gyrru'r tîm cyfan ar hyfforddiant, a hwyrach fod yna un person yn mynd, ac wedyn yn gorfod rhaeadru gwybodaeth yn ôl. Nid ydy o cweit yr un fath â mynd yno eich hun a chael yr hyfforddiant, sy'n ei wneud o'n anodd wedyn. A hefyd mae'r staff yn newid o flwyddyn i flwyddyn. Mae angen yr hyfforddiant cyson, sy'n mynd yn ddrud, ac mae'n bres a fuasai'n gallu cael ei ddefnyddio i ariannu adnoddau ac yn y blaen o fewn yr ysgol ar gyfer cyflwyno'r fagloriaeth. Felly, mae'n anodd iawn i dimau rheoli gael y cydbwysedd.

It's difficult when schools are facing regular cuts and then a lack of funding leads to inconsistency in terms of funding the bac from school to school. Even training—do schools have money to send people on training? They can't send the whole team on training, and then, perhaps, there will be one person who'll go and have to cascade information back. It's not quite the same as going there yourself and having the training yourself, which then makes it difficult. And also staff turnover—the staff change from year to year. We need that regular training, which becomes expensive, and it's money that could be used to fund resources et cetera within school for presenting the baccalaureate. So, it's very difficult for management teams to achieve that balance.

There is a bigger element as well, which is that learners have to use computers to actually produce their coursework. When this happens, because there are so many learners at one time taking part in Welsh bac, it means that other areas have to have all their computers and things taken off them and then they're given to the Welsh bac pupils as priority. But what's happening is that there are also GCSE subjects that need their computer provision. They don't have it any more because computers have to go to the Welsh bac learners. So, there clearly isn't enough funding for equipment.

I think the problem is, again, it goes right back to the beginning, in terms of that it depends on how it's delivered in schools. But in those schools where it's not being well delivered, we've certainly had a lot of evidence from a lot of our members in terms of totally inadequate training, support and resources, to nightmare scenarios of turning up and being told, 'You're teaching the Welsh bac. There's the class, get on with it', which has happened and does happen. So, in that sense, again, it's a mixed bag as well. But, the problem, of course, is that, it being relatively new, it's not as though many teachers have actually had detailed and in depth training in any of this. So, we range from a smattering of support to none whatsoever.

Thank you. Moving on to the teachers allocated, the comment's been made in the evidence that staff with surplus contact time are often drafted in to teach the Welsh bac. To what extent are the best teachers for the Welsh bac being actually allocated to the role?

Buaswn i'n dweud, yn y sefyllfaoedd gorau, mae'r tîm rheoli’n eistedd i lawr hefo cydlynwyr ac yn gofyn, 'Pwy ydych chi eisiau i gyflwyno’r fagloriaeth?' Hwnnw ydy'r byd delfrydol. Rydw i'n gwybod nad ydy o'n digwydd ym mhob man, ond rydw i wedi bod yn ffodus, fel cydlynydd—rydw i wedi cael y sefyllfa yna. Ond nid ydy o'n bosibl bob blwyddyn i gael staff sefydlog, ac mae yna newid. Ac mae hynny wedyn yn mynd yn her ynddi'i hun, yn trio hyfforddi rhywun o'r newydd yn flynyddol i gyflwyno rhywbeth nad ydyn nhw erioed wedi ei gyflwyno o'r blaen, a thrio sicrhau wedyn eu bod nhw’n gyfforddus cyn eu bod nhw'n sefyll o flaen dosbarth. Mae'n anodd.

In the best scenarios, the management team would sit down with co-ordinators and ask, 'Who do you want to present the Welsh bac?' That's the ideal world. I know it doesn't happen everywhere, but I've been fortunate as a co-ordinator to have had that situation. But it's not possible every year to have a staff stably in place and there is change. And that then becomes a challenge in itself, trying to train someone new on an annual basis to present something that they've never presented before, and to ensure that they're comfortable before they stand in front of a class. It's difficult.

Why do you think that the schools are actually doing this? You've mentioned a lack of continuity in the teaching of the Welsh bac. What's pushing them down that route? Normally, surely, with a subject area, a teacher would teach that from year to year. Why is that not happening with the Welsh bac, do you think?

10:20

Buaswn i'n dweud ei bod hi'n ddibynnol hefyd ar faint yr ysgolion. Mewn ysgolion llai, achos bod y toriadau nid yn unig yn cael effaith ar y fagloriaeth ond yn cael effaith ar bynciau yn gyffredinol, mae gennych chi athrawon yn dysgu y tu allan i'w maes yn is i lawr yn yr ysgol, yng nghyfnod allweddol 3. Felly, nid wyf i'n meddwl bod hyn yn benodol ar gyfer y fagloriaeth; mae'n effeithio ar bynciau eraill hefyd. Yn yr ysgolion mwy—grêt—mae gennych chi fwy o hyblygrwydd ac mi allwch chi gael staff mwy sefydlog. 

I would say that it's also reliant on the size of schools. In smaller schools, because of the cuts, they not only have an impact on the bac but they have an impact on subjects in general, where you have teachers teaching outside of their subject areas lower down in the school at key stage 3. So, I don't think this is specific to the bac; it does also impact other subjects. In bigger schools, you have more flexibility and you can have a more stable pattern of staffing.

Okay. There are just two final questions, then. Based on what you were saying in answer to Michelle Brown, do you think there's a leadership issue here that we need to be, maybe, making a recommendation about to the Welsh Government?

Rwy'n meddwl bod yr arweinyddiaeth mor ddylanwadol y byddai'n braf gweld argymhelliad yn dod o'ch ymchwiliad chi, ac efallai ei bod hi'n fater o hyfforddiant, hefyd, i arweinwyr ysgol ac o gyfathrebu gwell. Yn sicr, mae'r arweinyddiaeth mor ddylanwadol ar sut y mae'n cael ei chyflwyno a'r flaenoriaeth y mae'r fagloriaeth yn ei chael, a wedyn y gwerth y mae pawb yn teimlo sydd i'r cymhwyster. Mae'n allweddol.

Yes, I think leadership is so influential that it would be good to see a recommendation emanating from your inquiry, and maybe it is an issue of training as well for school leaders and of better communication. But, certainly, leadership is extremely influential in terms of how it's presented and introduced, and of the priority that the Welsh bac is given, and then the value that people feel that the qualification has. It's a key part of this.

Okay. A final question: to what extent are you concerned that the Welsh bac is actually leading to a narrowing of the curriculum, both at pre 16 and post 16? We've heard that some subjects are falling out at pre 16, and we know that it's a common complaint from young people that, maybe, they can't do their four A-levels or whatever.

I think it is leading to a narrowing of the curriculum. If you take any subject and you shoehorn it into the school curriculum, other subject areas are going to lose out. So, I think they lose out in that sense. They also lose out in terms of the staffing that is being used to teach the Welsh bac, which, to a certain extent, falls into the previous question as well, because it will be the leadership that decides who is going to teach this and where they're going to be taken from. So, in that sense, I think it's inevitable that there's going to be a narrowing of the curriculum.

Ie, ond, wedyn, y cwestiwn yw—. Mae yna lot o wahanol ffactorau sydd yn arwain at wneud y cwricwlwm yn fwy cul a llai o ddewisiadau unigol, ac mae'r fagloriaeth, efallai, yn un ohonyn nhw. Felly, mae'n gofyn y cwestiwn faint o werth ydyn ni'n rhoi ar y fagloriaeth—ydy hi'n werth e ai peidio?

Yes, but the question is—. There are different factors, of course, that lead to making the curriculum narrower, with fewer individual choices, and the bac is, perhaps, one of those. That raises the question of how much value you give to the bac—is it worth it or not?

Okay, thank you very much. We've come to the end of our questions. Thank you very much, all of you, for your attendance and for answering such a variety of questions. We very much appreciate your time. You'll be sent a transcript following the meeting to check for accuracy, but thank you again for attending.

3. Ymchwiliad i Statws Cymhwyster Bagloriaeth Cymru: Panel Tystiolaeth 2
3. Inquiry into the Status of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification: Evidence Session 2

Okay, we will move swiftly on, then, to our next evidence session, which is with school leaders. I'm very pleased to welcome Tim Pratt, who is director of the Association of School and College Leaders Cymru; Gavin Jones, deputy head of Caerleon Comprehensive; and Jane Harries, headteacher at Haverfordwest High School. Thank you for attending. I'm sorry that we've kept you waiting a little while. We'll go straight into questions, and the first questions are from Siân Gwenllian.

Bore da. Fe fyddaf i'n siarad yn Gymraeg. Jest imi ddeall reit ar y cychwyn—dwy ysgol—ydy'r ddwy ohonoch chi'n dysgu'r fagloriaeth, ac ers faint, jest i gael ychydig o'r cefndir—efallai'n dechrau efo Jane?

Good morning. I'll be speaking in Welsh. Just for me to understand at the outset—two schools—do you both teach the Welsh bac, and since when, just to get some background—maybe starting with Jane?

10:25

Well, I'm new to the position at Haverfordwest high, having previously been in both Carmarthenshire and Powys, and have always experienced the delivery of the Welsh bac. Certainly, when I worked in Carmarthenshire, we were one of the first pilot schools. But, yes, in answer to your question, Haverfordwest high does deliver it at both key stage 4 and key stage 5.

Yes, similarly at Caerleon, we were involved in the WBQ pilot level 3, probably from about 2008, and currently deliver WBQ at level 2 for all year 10 and year 11 students, and at level 3 post 16.

Ocê. Buasai'n ddiddorol, efallai, clywed gan ysgol sydd ddim yn dod â'r fagloriaeth ymlaen i ddisgyblion nes ymlaen yn yr ymchwiliad. I ba raddau ydych chi'n teimlo bod athrawon yn gwerthfawrogi bagloriaeth Cymru—hynny yw, y rhai sy'n ei haddysgu, a'r rhai sydd ddim yn ei haddysgu? Efallai gallwn ddechrau gyda Jane.

Okay. It would be interesting to hear from a school who doesn't deliver the Welsh bac to their students later on in the inquiry. To what extent do you feel that teachers value the Welsh bac—that is, those who teach it and those who don't teach it? Perhaps we'll start with Jane.

I think teachers, because they are subject specialists, do have a conflict in their passion for the Welsh bac, but those who have been trained and are adequately prepared for the delivery quickly become converts too.

My experience is similar, I think. Teachers who become part of the team who deliver WBQ are actually very often impressed with what they need to deliver and what the children can get out of the qualification, and that's a surprise to some of them. Those teachers who are not part of the delivery team I think will not be fully aware of the value of the qualification, because they don't deliver it and they won't know about the content and the skills that it does develop—although, actually, their subject may very well benefit as a consequence of some of the skills that are being developed.

A oes yna wahaniaeth rhwng y gwerthfawrogiad o'r athrawon sydd yn cyflwyno'r fagloriaeth yng nghyfnod allweddol 4, o'i gymharu efo ôl-16—yn gyffredinol, rŵan, ydych chi'n teimlo?

Is there a difference in terms of value between the teachers who teach it at key stage 4, compared to post 16—generally, do you feel?

Sorry, what do you mean by 'value'?

Is there a difference in the way that it's valued, depending on where we're talking about—are we talking about key stage 4, or are we talking about post 16? The impression is that post 16 seems to be more with it than the earlier stages.

I think that would be, probably, an oversimplification. I think that, probably, key stage 4 students gain an enormous amount out of doing the Welsh bac, because—

In terms of the teachers, I don't think there's any vast difference between them. One of the things I think you get as a teacher teaching the Welsh bac is you see students developing in ways that they wouldn't develop through the normal curriculum. The development of those skills, in particular, that are so important as they go on into later life are the things that you see develop, and it's as important for students pre 16 to develop those skills, because some of them won't go on to study A-levels, some of them won't go on to university, some of them will go straight into work—and, actually, to have those skills develop before they leave school at 16 is a really important thing.

A oes yna wahaniaeth rhwng y dysgwyr sy'n astudio llwybr mwy galwedigaethol o gymharu efo'r disgyblion sydd yn gwneud llwybr mwy academaidd, o ran y ffordd maen nhw'n meddwl am y fagloriaeth?

Is there a difference between the learners who study the more vocational pathway compared with those pupils who follow a more academic pathway, in terms of the way they think about the baccalaureate?

Initially, I would say 'yes', but they very quickly develop that sense of benefit from the provision, the wider skills that they're developing, and certainly, as far as the staff are concerned, in relaying it to the pupils, as we move forward towards the national mission, I certainly can see an increased benefit. If we are aiming for the independence, and the ambitious and capable learners, the skills that they develop, certainly, are benefiting their other academic or vocational qualifications. I suppose there are more similarities between the style of delivery between the Welsh bac and vocational qualifications than there is between the traditional academic qualifications and the Welsh bac, but I think that's a huge benefit for our pupils, because then they are seeing different styles of teaching, different styles of assessment and the different benefits from the very different routes that they encompass throughout their educational provision. 

10:30

Ocê. Os cawn ni droi jest am un cwestiwn mwy cyffredinol: pa mor gyson ydych chi'n meddwl y mae'r fagloriaeth yn cael ei haddysgu mewn ysgolion? Rydych chi'n ei haddysgu yn eich ysgolion chi, ond yn eich profiad chi o siarad efo penaethiaid eraill ac yn y blaen, pa mor gyson ydy hynny, a sut mae hynny yn effeithio ar y canfyddiadau ynglŷn â'r cymhwyster? 

Okay. Just to turn to a more general question: how consistent do you think the bac is being taught in schools? You teach it in your schools, but in your experience of talking to other heads, how consistent is it, and how does that impact the perceptions of the qualification? 

I think one issue is consistency within the school, which the school has got a lot of control over. I think, when you cascade and look for opinions across other providers, I think there are issues that present in terms of the way schools have resourced the qualification and structured the way they wish to deliver it, because there are differences, and I think that's probably one of the reason why there are differences in outcomes from one institution to the next. I think schools that have strong outcomes at WBQ from a very early part of the design for the resourcing of it will have invested significantly in terms of the leadership and the training that would be required to deliver the qualification. And, I think, perhaps that's not consistent right across all education institutions. 

It is quite noticeable where you've got real commitment from the leadership of a school just how important the Welsh bac is viewed, whereas if you've got lukewarm support, it doesn't have the same impact. Now, what we are finding from our members is that the majority of schools do have that level of support, but there are still schools where it isn't perceived as that important. 

I know it's probably worth mentioning as well, if it's okay, that one of the challenges recently with, for example, the roll-out of a new, more robust level 3 qualification—schools that had established strong features of resourcing were in a far better position to deliver the new course; course materials came out very quickly. So, new schools that were establishing provision were really almost feeling they were cut adrift with very little resourcing available at the time of the start of the course to deliver what needed to be delivered. 

If I may, could I make one comment on that? The lack of consistency sometimes is an advantage because the flexibility of the qualification does offer different regions the opportunity to tailor their provision to their locality as well. So, I can see that your question was about the consistency across, but also I think schools have widely welcomed the opportunity of scheduling their own structure and having that flexibility of being able to design their own programme of delivery that fits in with their locality. So, we all think that lack of consistency, necessarily, is sometimes a negative thing, but as long as the outcomes are positive, the lack of consistency and the variability between delivery models is sometimes a benefit and not just a negative.

Just going back to something that Tim said because I'd like to put it to Gavin and Jane: would you say that the school leadership's views on the value of the Welsh bac are decisive in its value amongst other stakeholders? 

Yes, I would, certainly. I spoke—. We had our secondary heads' meeting yesterday, and all of the secondary heads in Pembrokeshire certainly valued it and portrayed it in that way, and that's why it's becoming increasingly more successful. 

And you could understand where that would extend to teaching staff, because they would be directly under the remit of the leadership team, but what about parents and pupils as well? Does the reach and influence of the school leadership team extent to pupils and parents, particularly, too? 

I think that those audiences are more difficult to convert, and, certainly, our members have stated that they certainly realise the value of it later rather than immediately. So, we have many students who are in university who come back and say, 'Well, actually, I'm really glad that you made me do that and really glad that we stuck to it.' The benefits from it, the widespread—. The development of their skills is certainly really beneficial.

10:35

So, the benefit recognised by parents and pupils is almost after the event.

As you go through it, rather than at the outset of the programme, I would say.

Yes, I think there's still work to be done in terms of getting the message out there. There are still misconceptions out there. I would suggest that we've got groups of parents who are extremely interested in their child's schooling and yet we still have parents who think that the WBQ qualification has elements of the Welsh language, which they do not want in addition to the compulsory Welsh that's already on their timetable. And there are still misconceptions like that that are out there. But I do—

Why are those misconceptions out there? What's causing that?

Well, despite the PR that goes out in terms of the national roll-out, the messaging about what the WBQ award is about, you can't force people to accept the right message, I suppose. So, we do a lot of work to make sure that the right messages are reinforced in school, but that's an audience that is outside of school, and I would argue that there's still work to be done, not just with parents but employers. But we've also seen adverts now for jobs that feature WBQ, which is a really positive step.

That's the real test. What about the compulsory nature of the qualification? Do you think that embeds value or does it do the opposite?

Well, when you say 'compulsory' I think you're opening a bit of a can of worms. I don't think the subject is compulsory, although that can be the narrative. So, when you're challenged on it, the phrase 'universal adoption' is then rolled out, and that's not quite the same as the subject being compulsory. So, this has been a real difficult issue for some schools in certain aspects—

So, should it go further than universal adoption and actually be compulsory?

Well, for me, I think the qualification certainly is a defining feature of Welsh education. I think the skills that it develops will assist all learners, so, yes.

And what about the perception of employers? Do they value and understand it, do you think?

Again, my experience of that is that it's mixed. We bring some employers in to help resource the delivery of aspects of the course, which is tremendous because we benefit and employers get a feel for the skills that they've long been asking schools to develop so that children are ready for the workplace, but it's not consistent.

Okay. And do you have consistent dialogue with employers on it?

Yes, we do. We do, but it's like parents, isn't it? You can only engage with those who are willing to engage with you. And for those who are willing to engage with you, you put a lot of effort and time into delivering that message of how valuable the qualification is, and nine times out of 10 you're very successful in that dialogue.

But any extra publicity and resourcing of it—and that has improved dramatically from the early pilots, but any extra—

Is there anything else that can be done to improve employers' perceptions?

I think it's engaging with the organisations around the different employment categories and sectors—it would all bring added benefit. That would help us tremendously, and I think that, for us, it is very much perceived by most schools as key stage 4 is completely compulsory, and that word is more widely used at key stage 4. I think the difficulty arises with key stage 3 and the conflicts sometimes with some parents and some pupils between valuing the qualification, particularly those very academic students, with their argument of, 'They don't need this because they're doing four or five A-levels; they're heading for Oxbridge or the top Russell universities.' And whilst our argument still is that it's still a very valuable qualification for those individuals as well as all the others, it is sometimes a difficult conversation that you have to have on a one-to-one individual basis with those parents and pupils.

The word 'compulsory' is a very interesting one. We have come across cases of parents who have contacted the Welsh Government and demanded to know why the Welsh bac was compulsory, to be told by Welsh Government officials, 'It's not.'

Yes, we get letters about that as a committee, actually, as well.

And that really cuts the ground under the feet of heads who are trying to do something they think is a really important part of the Welsh education scene—

10:40

Because universality and compulsory are two different things.

And, finally, just coming back to where you left off, Jane: universities, are they improving their knowledge and value of the Welsh bac or—? Is this happening?

From a very, very slow start, we had a very rapid improvement. I would say that's probably plateaued a bit now. So, the change in personnel within universities, maybe that currency of it hasn't been maintained—not so much in Wales, but certainly in England.

I agree. I think the new robust specification for WBQ, with the grades, has been extremely helpful— well, the universities demanded it, didn't they? My personal experience of a 22-year-old, or 21-year-old, who is in university, he actually got his place, I think, on the strength of his WBQ qualification in combination with his other A-levels. So, I've invested in tangible experience of the value of WBQ, and anecdotally too. He's picked up aspects of his courses, in terms of structure of projects that he's needed to produce, that he's been able to structure using skills that he developed through WBQ. 

And I concur. I've a 28-year-old who's now in teaching herself, and, in fact, is a Welsh bac co-ordinator herself in one of our schools. But, you know, a three A offer at Cardiff Law School was changed to an offer of an A and two Bs.

—this understanding and value is expanding, in your views.

It is expanding, yes.

Okay. Thank you. The next questions, then, are about how rigorous the qualification is, and the first ones are from Dawn.

Thank you, Chair. Good morning. You said in your evidence that you did regard the WBQ as an equivalent and rigorous qualification, but there was a mixed view on that. Why was there a mixed view? Was it because it was mixed around those schools, or those teachers, who aren't teaching Welsh bac? Was there a difference between them in terms of the response you had from members?

Yes, I would definitely say that those who have been involved, heavily involved, in the delivery and assessment and promotion of the qualification will see how that robustness has developed over the years, and how now it is really comparable with—albeit different to a traditional A-level, but the robustness is there. Those who are less exposed, and those headteachers who maybe haven't had the exposure to that, maybe perceive it slightly differently.

They wouldn't have the same level of understanding of it, maybe.

Yes. I concur with that, and I would probably add, as well, that one of the big differences that people need to accommodate is the fact that it's not a content-heavy course, and traditional A-levels will be full of subject content, so it's different. But I think those—as Jane has quite rightly said—who are involved in delivery understand how powerful the qualification can be in terms of its skills development, and how, actually, that can assist the aspirations of learners who can deploy those skills in other subject areas too, and beyond.

Can I just ask you, then, because you touched on the equivalence of the qualification, and, again, would it be the same in terms of those involved with the bac and those not—there would be the views around whether this qualification carries the equivalent weight, particularly at key stage 4 and post 16? Would that be—?

Yes, definitely. I think if you've got somebody in a school who is very pro the Welsh bac and the delivery and the value of it, you will still have individual teachers in that school who have had no experience of delivering, no experience of the assessment protocol, et cetera, and therefore will concentrate, as Gavin said, on the high content, say, in an A-level chemistry, for example, and will say, 'Well, there's just no comparison.' But I go back again to the national mission and our whole purpose now in education, which, as Gavin said, from the employers' push, is that of developing those skills that they need in employment, and teachers are beginning to realise the huge value of it.

Absolutely. And you both agree with that. Okay. Just one question I wanted to ask about the onus on teachers and learners. You talked about that the content is currently too onerous in many areas, particularly the level of maintaining records and the work that can be really excessive for both students and teachers. What do you think the potential impact of that is if we don't actually address that particular concern that you've got?

10:45

That's an interesting one, because there's a tension in schools at the moment over the fact that all the work now is required to be submitted digitally, which I think has a lot of logic, of course. We've got digital natives growing up in our schools, who will be familiar with nothing else and will expect nothing else, but the strain that that's put on the schools logistically, when you think about the push that's been given to the amount of curriculum time, both at level 2 and level 3, is significant. So, resourcing those has been a real, real pressure for schools, particularly with the financial climate that the schools are trying to operate in. So, I actually see some real value in the way that the work is being produced and assessed in school in terms of its style, because it's done digitally, but I think that that has been quite a difficult aspect in terms of resourcing for schools.

So, would the answer to that—? Well, what would be the answer to that in terms of how you could reduce that burden, really?

I think there's a lot of duplication, and the current system, with three challenges plus the extended project—actually, there's an awful lot of repetition in there and you could easily take it down to two challenges and make those two, if you like, a little bit more rigorous each, so that you wouldn't lose anything in terms of the quality, but you'd just reduce the volume.

Thank you. Good morning. I think we've already sort of touched on this, about what university and employers think, but do you have anything more to say about whether universities and employers consider it as an equivalent to GCSEs and A-levels?

I think, really, that it's only A-levels that universities would even think about as equivalents. And I think, really—. What I said earlier is that it's certainly improved—the perception of the universities— for quite a while. I think it has now plateaued and I do think we need to re-educate the universities about the change in the qualification and how much the rigour has improved and how much equivalence we can pay to that investigation now, which is substantial, and is of huge benefit to individual pupils to take to universities for interviews, et cetera, very much in the way that the investigations in England and their students are doing the same. So, I think there's still work to be done in that area.

I think there's also some confusion over, particularly, university offers, because I think, when the Welsh bac first came out, there was an expectation that you'd be asked for, say, two Bs and the Welsh bac. But, actually, what tends to happen is that the offer is adjusted because the Welsh bac is there and it isn't specifically mentioned. And then, sometimes, if the student hasn't quite met the grade, but has the Welsh bac, they would be accepted. So, it isn't a picture that is very easy for people to look at and go, 'Oh, well, that's the result.' But, actually, we, in schools, see the result of the Welsh bac in terms of the student's potential for getting a place.

Yes. No question.

Yes. And Jane, you said that universities should be re-educated. Who should be doing that?

Welsh Government, possibly. [Laughter.] I think WJEC are doing their best, but I think they need to—. You almost become a little bit complacent, so I think the re-educating and the re-engagement with universities on behalf of the exam board, Qualifications Wales and Welsh Government—I think it's a three-pronged attack that is needed, really, just that re-engagement with them, which was done a good couple of years ago now, but it's the re-education of the changes of the Welsh bac and how much more rigorous it is. I think our difficulty is exactly as Tim said: you can't quantify for universities the effect of the Welsh bac, because of those very things that Tim said. You can't put a figure on how many universities have offered x number of places based on the Welsh bac, because it's not as we first perceived it might be of, 'Get two A-levels, plus the Welsh bac, and that's your offer.' It's no longer like that. And, even at interview stage, the value of what the candidates can display to the interviewer as a result of what they've done in the Welsh bac—so, it will be a topic of conversation, they can talk about their investigations and the wider things that they've done as a result of the qualification, and that makes a difference to whether or not they gain a place, but that's not easy to quantify. 

10:50

I think the WBQ is a qualification that Wales should be very proud of, so let's be bold about selling that and making a really big push—a reinvigorated push—for it. I suppose one of the tests might be when learners start talking about three A-levels plus WBQ, and then start talking about, actually, WBQ plus three A-levels.