A teaching union has raised fears that Wales could create an “isolated” exam system as a consultation begins which could see GCSEs and A levels scrapped.
The major review into qualifications for 14 to 19-year-olds has been launched by the Welsh government to “simplify” the system and improve it for pupils and the economy.
The review asks a variety of questions including whether Wales needs new qualifications, whether A levels and GCSEs are fit-for-purpose and whether the Welsh Baccalaureate should be graded.
Wales’s deputy minister for skills, Jeff Cuthbert, said: “The Welsh government wants to simplify the qualifications system, and ensure it delivers for our learners and the economy.
“We must ensure that (pupils’) hard work and achievements are rewarded with qualifications that remain relevant, valued and fit-for-purpose in the 21st century.” The board behind this first-ever review of qualifications in Wales has been gathering evidence for the past six months.
It identified many key areas to tackle and noted that, with a shrinking jobs market for young people, it was “essential” that they gained the knowledge, skills, understanding and qualifications that would best equip them to enter the increasingly competitive worlds of employment or higher education.
Iestyn Davies, from the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, said he hoped that any new qualifications would ensure the basics, such as literacy and numeracy, are taught well.
“What we need to do is get the core skills right, the basic skills right, and make sure we have rounded individuals in schools,” he said.
But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, warned it was important that an isolated exam system was not developed “which has no currency outside Wales.” She added: “New exam syllabuses have already been introduced for several subjects in the last two years and the prospect of further change will cause massive turbulence for schools and pupils.”
Dr Philip Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, acknowledged the review was “the starting gun for an exciting debate about the future of education in Wales”.
He said: “There can be no more ducking of the difficult issues that surround things such as growing divergence from England, the suitability and value of external testing at 16, and the rigour of A-levels to name but a few.”
Teachers can submit responses via the Welsh government website or apply to give evidence to the in person on July 11. The closing date for responses is September 1.