The ‘Full Offer’ – re-thinking qualifications for 14-16-year olds in Wales

We’re currently holding a public consultation on the range of qualifications available to learners aged 14 to 16 in Wales, and you’re invited to have your say.

We’re currently holding a public consultation on the range of qualifications available to learners aged 14 to 16 in Wales, and you’re invited to have your say. Cassy Taylor, Director of Qualifications, Policy and Reform at Qualifications Wales, discusses proposals for the new ‘Full 14 to 16 Qualifications Offer’ and the reasons behind this important piece of qualifications reform work. 

“When you hear the word ‘qualifications’, what immediately springs to mind?  

For learners aged 14 to 16, you probably think of GCSEs. Yet there are actually as many as 1,200 other non-GCSE qualifications that 14 to 16-year olds take every year, which have traditionally been known as vocational qualifications.  

At the moment, with the help of a wide range of stakeholders, Qualifications Wales is creating a brand-new set of Made-for-Wales GCSEs to help realise the ambitions of the Curriculum for Wales and meet the requirements of future learners. However, we recognise that GCSEs alone will not fully meet the needs of young people in Wales. So that begs the question – ‘What else do we need in this space?’ 

Over the past couple of years, we’ve talked to schools, colleges, universities, awarding bodies, parents and carers, employers, training and local education providers, and more, to find a solution to this. 

Following our stakeholder engagement, a picture began to emerge suggesting that many stakeholders perceive the existing 14-16 qualifications offer as a two-tier system, with a distinct choice between GCSEs and everything else. Some stakeholders felt that non-GCSE qualifications for 14-16-year olds simply weren’t valued or recognised in the same way as GCSEs, which really saddened me. 

So, whatever qualifications offer comes next, it’s vital that it is consistent and compatible with the Curriculum for Wales, while also preparing those outside the GCSE stream for life, learning and work. After all, besides preparing young people for A levels and university, we should also teach about aspects of our lives which aren’t covered by traditional subjects and qualifications, like how to manage personal finances and buy a house, how the law works, and understanding mental health. 

And this brings me onto an exciting project that Qualifications Wales calls the ‘Full 14 to 16 Qualifications Offer’, which is a proposed range of new qualifications for 14 to 16-year olds consisting of three different dimensions, that will help learners become qualified for the future. 

Firstly, we’re looking at a Skills Suite, covering skills for life and work in all sorts of interesting subjects, such as mental health, gardening, exercise for leisure, and future career pathways. Learners will also be able to take an Integrated Skills Project qualification to demonstrate skills such as critical thinking and creativity, in a subject entirely of their own choice. 

Then, we’re proposing a range of Pre-vocational qualifications focusing on broad areas of work such as health and social care, environmental conservation, and creative media. This will give learners the opportunity to learn about areas of work and to experience some practical, hands-on learning and assessment. 

Finally, we’re thinking about a range of Foundation qualifications to complement the range of Made-for-Wales GCSEs, for learners who may be at a different stage in their learning to others. 

The ‘Full Offer’ will be more streamlined, offering around 100 qualifications, rather than the multitude of non-GCSE options that currently exist. We believe it‘ll enable all learners to make better-informed choices and develop skills for life and their future careers. Available through the medium of Welsh, it’ll be more inclusive, offer more variety, and inspire creativity and innovation by delivering skills that can be applied in daily life. It’ll explore career pathways, broaden horizons, enhance personal development, and help learners overcome barriers. Overall, we hope it’ll ensure that non-GCSE qualifications are valued for the breadth of skills they can deliver for all learners. 

We believe that simplifying the choice of qualifications will create more interest among centres and education providers. The accessibility, range and value of these qualifications will be an incentive for schools to offer them to learners, thereby offering more consistency for learners in Wales.  

Our public consultation on our ‘Full Offer’ proposals runs until 14 June 2023 and we’re keen to hear from anyone who has an opinion on qualifications for learners in Wales. Alongside this, we’ll continue talking to important stakeholders such as employers and training providers, schools, colleges and awarding bodies too.  

To find out more and to have your say, visit