Hamilton urges Welsh Government to back away from ‘universal’ Baccalaureate

11 May 2018

The Welsh UKIP leader Neil Hamilton has sparked a row over the Welsh Baccalaureate.

Mr Hamilton told Assembly members that elite universities were “not terribly interested” in the qualification.

His comment drew heckles from the government benches during First Minister’s Questions at the Senedd.

“The top three universities don’t require it at all,” Mr Hamilton added. “Does the First Minister not see that in the circumstances, this is a distraction from a more useful use of time in schools?”

Carwyn Jones said the Welsh Baccalaureate gave “breadth” to the curriculum.

The qualification prioritises developing students’ skills over more traditional forms of assessment.

What do students think?

The Welsh Government is aiming for “universal rollout” of the Welsh Baccalaureate by 2020.

Data from Oxford and Cambridge universities revealed that of the 153 conditional offers made in 2017 to Welsh students, none included the Welsh Baccalaureate.

Neither Durham nor Warwick accept the Welsh Baccalaureate in place of an A-level, while the LSE says the qualification is a “non-preferred” subject.

Research by Cardiff University, which accepts the Welsh Baccalaureate, found that students who achieved it did worse academically when at university than those who did not.

Other Russell Group universities such as Bristol and Exeter accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as an A-level equivalent.

In a report released last month, exams watchdog Qualifications Wales said Welsh Baccalaureate taught “highly relevant skills” – but that its structure is too complex, with some aspects “over-assessed”.

Roath-based Lynne Phillips is a piano teacher. Many of her students study the baccalaureate in school.

“The biggest criticism I hear from students is it’s one big checkbox exercise, and it impacts on A-level choices. They see it taking up a large amount of time that they could productively use elsewhere,” said Ms Phillips.

“As a non-compulsory subject I think it’s actually probably rather good, but as a compulsory one it’s a waste of space,” she added.

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