“The right way to move forward.”

Emyr George, Director of Qualifications Policy and Reform at Qualifications Wales, discusses proposals for the new Made-for-Wales GCSEs and the unseen work that is currently going into shaping the qualifications of the future.

As many of you know, Qualifications Wales has been working collaboratively over the past three years on creating a brand-new set of Made-for-Wales GCSEs. 

These will, in time, help realise the ambitions of the Curriculum for Wales and meet the needs of future learners - ensuring that the qualifications they take at the end of their curriculum journey not only complement their knowledge, skills and experiences, but also prepare them to move forward confidently into the next chapter of their lives. 

Back in the autumn of 2022, we invited people to have their say about the proposed content and assessment of these new qualifications – which will be available from 2025 – as part of a national conversation on the overhaul of GCSEs in Wales. This consultation process, which closed in December 2022, was an entirely open one. Anyone could contribute – teachers, schools, parents, carers, employers, learners, whoever had an opinion.  

And, I’m very pleased to say, a lot of people took the opportunity to share their views, providing a wealth of rich, qualitative feedback on the proposals – what might work, what might not work, what we could do differently, and so on. Just the kind of feedback that we were looking for. 

Before I go on, I want to take this opportunity to say diolch yn fawr. To all of you who shared the consultation and discussed the proposals, and to the over 2,000 of you who responded – thank you. A public consultation only works when it engages the public and on this occasion, with your help, we got there. 

We’re now sharing that feedback directly with the same working groups we’ve been collaborating with over the past year on the proposed content and assessment for new Made-for-Wales GCSEs. And we’re continuing to share the thinking from these groups with others for input, including schools, colleges, universities, employers, learned bodies and our learner advisory group.

Emyr George talking to primary school learners at the Full Offer launch event at Ysgol Glan Clwyd

Together, we’re looking at all the points raised through the consultation process. We will use the feedback to decide how to adapt and refine our proposals to make sure these qualifications are all they can possibly be. For example, we’re aiming to get the detail right on how we balance the different forms of assessment included in these GCSEs and how they will work in practice. We’re also making sure that these qualifications will enable learners to engage with important cross-cutting themes such as diversity, cynefin and sustainability. 

It’s fair to say that the design proposals which attracted the most interest were those in the Sciences, English, Cymraeg and Mathematics, where we are looking to introduce new combined qualifications. 

We are now thinking very carefully about how we take forward the reform of these subjects. We want to make sure that we’ve fully understood and tested the different and sometimes strongly expressed views on these proposals. To do that, we are taking a step back from the detail and taking stock. It’s important that we get these decisions right, and that means taking time to think about different approaches. Working with stakeholders, we are looking again at our original proposals and exploring other options alongside them. 

And that, right now, is where we’re at. There is a huge amount of work going on with hundreds of contributors pulling together to discuss what we’ve learnt from the consultation and what changes we should make. Not only at subject level, but also in the round, so that these new qualifications come together as a package that will work for learners, schools and employers 

While we have a few busy months and some big decisions ahead, we are on track. In the summer term we will publish the final design requirements for the new Made-for-Wales GCSEs, along with a report on the 2022 consultation and the decisions we have taken. 

It may sound like a cliché, but we are on an exciting journey in terms of education and reform in Wales, forging our own unique path in a rapidly-changing world. We have the biggest opportunity in more than a generation to reshape and reimagine the qualifications studied by young people in Wales. We have a responsibility to this generation of learners, and the generations to come, to understand what people have told us and to think really hard about what comes next. And that, as I write, is what we are doing. 

As part of our Qualified for the Future reforms, we have now launched a national consultation on the Full Offer of qualifications for 14-16-year-olds that will sit alongside GCSEs. Have Your Say on our proposals for a menu of inclusive, bilingual qualifications before 14 June.