VCSEs and Employers

2. Questions to the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language – in the Senedd at on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Labour

(Translated)

5. How is the Welsh Government involving employers in the development of VCSEs? OQ60675

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 2:59, 21 February 2024

Qualifications Wales consulted on their full offer proposals in spring 2023, and responses were received from a range of different organisations including employers, but also education professionals, parents and carers. I am publishing our consultation on 14-16 learning very soon and we have also engaged closely with employer groups in developing that.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Labour

Thank you, Minister, for that answer. It is crucial that employers are intimately engaged in the development and implementation of these exciting new qualifications. Now, the development of the new VCSEs in Wales is a major step forward in putting technical, vocational and professional routes of learning at the same status as GCSEs, allowing students, under these new qualifications and the new curriculum, to really shape the right learning and career pathways for them, including, I have to say, mixing and matching from options in the VCSE and the GCSE pathways. Does he believe, as I do, that parity of esteem of the VCSEs and GCSEs is, indeed, a desirable aim in itself, as it will give learners the confidence to make the most of their own skills and their talents by choosing their own pathway, best suited to their own dreams and aspirations, and a tangible outcome of that will be seeing the achievements of learners in VCSEs and GCSEs given equal prominence and equal cause for celebration in the award ceremonies of schools and colleges up and down the land throughout Wales?

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 3:00, 21 February 2024

I do agree entirely with what Huw Irranca-Davies has said. We speak a lot, don't we, about parity of esteem between vocational and academic qualifications? I think having sister brands, if you like, of GCSE and VCSE is part of how that can be communicated, that parity, that sense of them being, as they are, equivalent. So, I think that is really important, and I agree with him, I would hope to see people mixing and matching, as he says. With the newly expanded range of GCSEs in new areas that feel more applied, perhaps, than some of the traditional GCSEs, I think there's a really exciting opportunity for a learner to have a portfolio of qualifications that really does reflect their particular delight and, maybe, their future career path. Actually, employers were telling us that the plethora of vocational qualifications that VCSEs are designed to be a more streamlined version of is sometimes confusing to employers, just because of the breadth of them, as much as anything. So, having that more focused offer and that sense of clear parity is really, really important.

Photo of Darren Millar Darren Millar Conservative 3:01, 21 February 2024

Thank you for that response to Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister. I too am a great fan, actually, of the introduction of the VCSEs. I think that they're an opportunity to put that parity of esteem with academic qualifications. But, of course, the important thing is that many people will not just live and work in Wales once they leave a place of education—some of them will want to go on to study vocational qualifications further in England, Scotland or other parts of the UK, and, indeed, into the world of work in those places too. So, what work is the Welsh Government doing with employers to make sure that people across the United Kingdom are aware of the value of these new qualifications, once they're rolled out, and that they're not just something that Welsh employers recognise?

Photo of Jeremy Miles Jeremy Miles Labour 3:02, 21 February 2024

The Member makes an important point, and it is important both when reforms happen in Wales and also when reforms happen in England, as with the T-levels most recently, that the particular nature of vocational qualifications, and GCSEs in this context as well, is recognised and portable, in that sense; it is very, very important. So, I know that, as the qualifications regulator, Qualifications Wales itself has very, very detailed and regular engagement with the other examination regulators across the UK to ensure that people understand, in all parts of the UK, the parity and the portability of the qualifications. But in the work of design and the work that we've done as a Government around the 14-16 offer more broadly, as well as engaging with employers, we've engaged with UK-wide employers' organisations, such as the Federation of Small Businesses or the Confederation of British Industry, who are able to make sure that there is a wider audience for the thinking, both in Wales, and, I think, also in England.