The radical shift comes in the wake of the GCSE English marking fiasco and follows a review of the workings of the education system in Wales.
The review, led by former college head Huw Evans, recommended that the regulation of qualifications in Wales should be “strengthened and separated” from government. It is the first recommendation of the report to be agreed with a series of changes to the qualifications system likely to follow.
Announcing the implementation plans, education minister Leighton Andrews said the work ahead offers “exciting opportunities” but it would not be “without its challenges”. Its success, he added, was “vital for businesses in Wales, vital for educators in Wales and vital for learners in Wales”.
In the next six months a business case will be set out for the new body and a task and finish group has been set up to “steer the delivery” of Qualifications Wales.
And discussions are now underway to find a way forward for the WJEC. Part-owned by each of Wales’s 22 local authorities, the Cardiff-based exam board provides around 80 per cent of GCSE and 70 per cent of the nation’s A level entries
In a statement to the Welsh Assembly, Mr Andrews said: “Our aim is that from September 2015, Qualifications Wales will take responsibility for awarding qualifications including the majority of general qualifications. Clearly this will have implications for the WJEC. So we are engaging with them.
“I am also engaged in discussions with local government leaders on this issue and will be continuing this dialogue. Meanwhile, WJEC will continue to be a key and valued provider of qualifications in Wales and in other nations as these discussions progress.”
As part of the overall shake-up of the education system, the education minister and government officials have been looking at systems in other countries and have been on a visit to Scotland to talk to education chiefs including Graham Houston, chair of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, and Michael Russell MSP, the Scottish minister for education and lifelong learning.
It is expected that the Welsh government will announce decisions on the remaining 41 recommendations from the Review of Qualifications later this month.