The Welsh Baccalaureate, in the words of the WJEC is “a qualification for 14 to 19 year old students in Wales.” I am 17 years old, in Year 12, studying for my A levels in Cardiff High School. We are required to study the Welsh Baccalaureate along our usual A levels.
I have serious concerns about the Welsh Baccalaureate qualification. I also have serious concerns about my school requesting that I don’t criticise the Welsh Baccalaureate. This isn’t the first time they’ve attempted to stifle my freedom of speech – that honour goes to the Jesus and Mo issue. However, I’m going to be talking about the Welsh Baccalaureate in this post, not the freedom of speech problem – that’s a discussion for another day (February 11th, if you didn’t already know!)
One of the main problems with the Welsh Bac is that it is not even a proper baccalaureate. In a proper baccalaureate, you are required to study maths, English, science, and a language. With the Welsh Bac, there is no requirement to include science content. The language component is also weak. The people who developed the first draft of the Welsh Bac called the language component “a waste of time”.
In my experience, the entire course is weak – the maths section is nothing more than some scale drawings and basic calculations, and the ICT component is a watered down ICT course involving tedious activities such as capturing screenshots of every little thing you do, using Microsoft Office, laying out an article correctly, using Microsoft Office (Yes, the reliance on Microsoft Office really grinds my gears. There’s better, cheaper software out there!)
Another massive problem with the Welsh Baccalaureate is that, whilst it may be an additional 120 UCAS points, most universities do not consider it the A grade at A level that you are promised when embarking on the course. Cardiff University will only consider it a B grade at A level (personally, I think they’re being very generous), the University of Glamorgan will reduce the entry requirements from 3 Bs at A level to 2Bs and the Welsh Bac for their nursing course, and Aberystwyth Uni have stated that they will consider the Welsh Bac as a “valuable qualification in its own right … [and] we may be prepared to give a slightly reduced offer to Welsh Baccalaureate candidates, provided any course requirements are met.” They haven’t stated exactly how they’d ‘slightly reduce’ the offers though. Other universities such as Imperial College, for the BSc Medical Sciences course, provide a list of alternative qualifications. This doesn’t even list the Welsh Bac.
Most disturbing of all are the comments from Jeff Jones, chair of the WJEC when they bid for the Welsh Bac. He warned student off taking the Bac, saying “No wonder Russell Group universities who can get students from England with four A stars are not that interested. If I were a student I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole – even though I played a small part when I was chair of the WJEC in its development.” Mr Jones also said it’s “really an A level with a load of nonsense added on. It isn’t a proper Bac where students at 18 would still be required to study maths, English, a science and a language, not meaningless Mickey Mouse additions. What the heck is the use of ‘Wales and the World’ for a start?” He admitted that “Both the then chief executive and I discussed whether to bid for the pilot. We both agreed that it looked like nonsense but I argued that we needed the money and in any case, we had to bid because we were the Welsh exam board.” So there you have it – even the ex-head of the WJEC wouldn’t take the Welsh Baccalaureate qualification.
I don’t think it’s fair that we have no choice in doing the Bac. I’d much rather spend the time doing work towards the qualifications that actually matter and will affect my chances of into uni – my A levels. I hope my school, if they read this, will understand my frustration at being told not to criticise something that is in dire need of people speaking out to criticise it. I’d also like to find out how much money they’re receiving to offer the course and how that money is being spent.