Joining forces to bring new Made-for-Wales GCSEs to life

Following our announcement in June 2023 of the outcomes of our Made-for-Wales GCSE consultation, Emyr George – Director of Qualifications Policy and Reform – reflects on the collaborative work with stakeholders that led to these exciting decisions and looks ahead to the next stage of our GCSE reform in Wales working in partnership with WJEC and Welsh Government.

The GCSE journey so far

We’re refreshing qualifications for young people in Wales to reflect the modern world we live in. Innovations in technology and the way we live are shaping the jobs market of the future. So, young people need up-to-date knowledge and skills to thrive in their careers, and we want to lead the way with qualifications that are fit for the future.

The response to our 2022 consultation on Made-for-Wales GCSEs provided us with a wealth of feedback on the proposed reforms, giving us an in-depth insight into your views on proposals for new GCSEs.

This rich information helped us to finalise the design requirements for new GCSEs which will enable schools to bring the Curriculum for Wales to life. We’ve designed the new GCSEs to support the curriculum’s purposes and principles for progression and to reflect its six areas of learning and experience.

Our decisions reflect what learners told us they want and need from qualifications, recognising their importance in progression to post-16 education and in their future careers. The new GCSEs will bring in elements like digital technology, diversity and inclusion, and cynefin – the Welsh word for the place where we feel we belong - and include a broader mix of assessment methods to ensure the qualifications cater for future learners.

Your feedback highlighted themes such as:

  • flexibility, choice and emphasis on locality
  • qualification content and assessment arrangements
  • the impact on private candidates
  • the use of digital technology
  • maintaining standards
  • accessibility
  • learner progression, wellbeing and preparedness
  • manageability and resources
  • availability of other 14-16 qualifications
  • wider educational policy questions

Throughout these reforms, we’ve engaged extensively with teachers, learners, subject experts, learned societies, employers, parents and more. All your views combined helped shape our final decisions, and we’re excited about what this means for the future of 14-16 qualifications in Wales.

I’m particularly excited by how these new GCSEs will include a focus on the experiences that learners will gain as they develop their knowledge and skills, and by the opportunities for learners to explore and engage with diverse perspectives and contributions across the different subjects they study.

The transition to new GCSEs

As we continue the reform journey, we’ll continue to draw on the rich evidence gained from your feedback, to make sure we concentrate our efforts on what matters most. This will be especially important as we shift our focus to supporting schools and learners to prepare for the changes ahead.

We continue to work with Welsh Government and WJEC on joint plans to make sure that schools have the bilingual professional learning and educational resources they need to help transition to the new GCSEs with confidence.

The collaborative approach to reform will continue over coming months, and between now and November, WJEC will be seeking your views on draft outlines of the new GCSEs. The feedback received will help shape the detail of what the new qualifications will look like.

Meanwhile, Welsh Government is co-creating guidance for schools, to help them develop their Curriculum for 14-16-year olds. A consultation on a draft of the guidance is planned for the end of the year.

The bigger picture

Our GCSE reform work is just one important cog in our work to reshape14-16 qualifications to help bring the new curriculum to life, and to give all learners inclusive, coherent and fully bilingual choices that will meet their needs.

We’ll say more about these wider reforms in early 2024, when we’ll be announcing the outcomes of our latest consultation.

These are exciting times for education in Wales, and next month we’ll be launching a new resource to bring together all the latest news on the reform of qualifications for learners aged 14-16, to help you stay abreast of the latest developments.