Welsh Bacc teaching standards 'vary widely,' Estyn says

Students sitting exams The Welsh Baccalaureate can be studied alongside GCSEs or A-levels

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Some pupils taking the Welsh Baccalaureate qualification are not being challenged enough, the schools inspectorate, Estyn has said.

It says standards in the qualification, known as the Welsh Bacc, vary widely, although overall it is taught well.

Running in schools since 2007, the Welsh Bacc aims to provide a broader post-16 education than A-levels.

The Welsh government said the "many examples of good practice" in the report need to be shared.

The Welsh Baccalaureate can be taken alongside GCSEs, but this report focused on its impact on more than 8,000 students aged 16-19 studying it alongside their A-levels in 2011.

The Estyn report looks at the "core" section of the baccalaureate, where students learn skills through things like community projects, work experience, and individual investigations.

Estyn said it improves pupils' confidence and knowledge in areas they would not otherwise learn about.

'Skills and understanding'

Overall, it found the teaching was good, but sometimes a lack of planning meant pupils were not challenged enough.

It said standards vary widely from school to school and it believed grading the qualification would reduce that effect.

It went on to say that grading the qualification would also strengthen its position in the curriculum and, crucially, with universities too.

In May, a study found the qualification may be detrimental to Welsh pupils' performance at university.

Estyn chief inspector Ann Keane said: "The Welsh Baccalaureate helps young people to develop their skills and understanding across a range of topics, such as enterprise, politics and current affairs that they might not have studied otherwise.

"However, the wide range of standards being achieved on the core suggests that grading the Welsh Baccalaureate qualification would provide a fairer reflection of the range of student outcomes.

'Future development'

"There is variability in the quality of provision too. The biggest weaknesses are in how essential skills are taught and assessed."

The Welsh government said it is looking to introduce grading for advanced level courses starting in September next year.

A spokesman said: "We welcome Estyn's report, which we commissioned to inform the future development of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification.

"Since its introduction the Welsh Baccalaureate has been broadly welcomed by learners, educators and employers.

"Many examples of good practice by schools are identified in the report and we agree that these need to be shared across Wales to ensure a consistently high standard of delivery of the Welsh Baccalaureate.

"We agree with the need to introduce grading at Advanced Level and work is in hand to introduce that for courses starting in September 2013."

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