Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People and Education Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Buffy Williams
Heledd Fychan
James Evans
Jayne Bryant Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Ken Skates
Laura Anne Jones

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

David Jones Cadeirydd, Cymwysterau Cymru
Chair, Qualifications Wales
Mark Campion Cyfarwyddwr Cynorthwyol Dros Dro, Estyn
Acting Assistant Director, Estyn
Philip Blaker Prif Weithredwr, Cymwysterau Cymru
Chief Executive, Qualifications Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lucy Morgan Ymchwilydd
Naomi Stocks Clerc
Samiwel Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Tom Lewis-White Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:15.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:15.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg heddiw.

Welcome to this meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee.

I'd like to welcome all Members to the meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee today. As this is the last committee meeting of 2023, I'd like to thank all those who have contributed to our inquiries and to our committee work over the last year. We very much appreciate all your input, advice and work that has gone into contributing to our work here. And I'd like to also put on record my thanks to all Members for their work, and the committee clerking team as well for their help in supporting our work.

The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and a Record of Proceedings will be published a usual. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. Are there any declarations of interest from Members? I see there are no declarations of interest.

2. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitem 3, eitem 7, eitem 8 ac eitem 9 ar agenda’r cyfarfod hwn
2. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from items 3, 7, 8 and 9 of this meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 3, 7, 8 a 9 y cyfarfod hwn yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 3, 7, 8 and 9 of this meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to meet in private for items 3, 7, 8 and 9 of the meeting. We will now proceed to meet in private.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:17.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 09:17.


Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 09:33.

The committee reconvened in public at 09:33.

4. Craffu ar Adroddiad Blynyddol Cymwysterau Cymru 2022-2023
4. Scrutiny of Qualifications Wales Annual Report 2022-2023

Croeso nôl. We're back for our next session, which is the scrutiny of the Qualifications Wales annual report 2022-23. We have got with us David Jones, chair of Qualifications Wales, and Philip Blaker, chief executive of Qualifications Wales. You're very welcome. Thank you for joining us today. We very much appreciate it. We've got a number of questions that Members would like to put to you both this morning, and I'll make a start on some general questions around strategic approach. Perhaps you can summarise how you've worked over the past year towards the two principal aims that legislation set for you, which are meeting the needs of learners and promoting public confidence in qualifications and the qualifications system here in Wales. 

Bore da, bawb. Diolch am y cyfle i fod yma. 

Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to be here. 

Thank you for the opportunity to be at the committee again. I'm amazed how quickly the last year has gone. It does seem like yesterday that we were here. Basically, those two things are at the heart of everything that we do. In the papers that we receive at our board, the work that the exec do on a daily basis, it's never far away. We always check against them in terms of anything we've done or anything that we're going to do. So, it's not just something that sits on a document that's far away, because ultimately making sure we give learners what they want and that that has validity is so important. And I think those then also link back to the Act that created Qualifications Wales in 2015. It's still a relatively young organisation, perhaps a teenager. So, you're talking eight years ago—10 years in two years' time. But, linked to that and the Act, the other things that really drive the work that we do are the eight matters, which we're always referring to. I won't cover them in detail, but the eight matters really give us that sense of direction and keep us on track, really, in terms of promoting sustainable growth in the Welsh economy, promoting and facilitating the development of Cymraeg, as well, making sure we have the right range and nature of qualifications, always making sure we listen particularly to employers and higher education institutions, but, increasingly, a much wider range of stakeholders. I think one of the things that came out of the unfortunate COVID period was that we've become a far more listening organisation and have a much greater active participation with stakeholders, particularly learners; I was in a group with learners only last week, and they have so much good input as well, but that's expanded.

Clearly, then, the currency of qualifications is one of the matters that's always at the heart of what we do, and comparability of qualifications with those taken in other jurisdictions. And then, the other two matters are around the efficiency and value for money of the work that we do—particularly relevant at the moment with the budgetary challenges that we're facing in-year and those that we're likely to face in future years—and being conscious that we're not just one organisation within the whole infrastructure of qualifications bodies, but that awarding bodies, learning providers, learners, as well as Qualifications Wales, the Government and its policies are also important. So, they drive what we do, and in our annual report, which, clearly, you've seen, and which we're scrutinising today in particular, we believe there are a wide range of things that we've done over the past 12 months that give the evidence—I won't go through them all; I'm happy to respond to specific questions—a wide range of things that have progressed that continue that alignment with the eight matters that define our work from day to day. Hopefully that responds reasonably well.


Yes, absolutely. Just on the point around the eight matters—and as well as those eight matters, just those two principal aims—are you happy that they don't need any review at all, or do you think that those should be reviewed in light of the fact that it's eight years since those came in?

I don't think they need to be changed. I still think they're—. Having run through them then and listened to your question, I think, yes, they're quite broad, really, but I still think they're relevant. And certainly, if I think about the last year or so, some of the issues around bringing stability into standards within qualifications in Wales, and also vis-à-vis other jurisdictions, are an important development following COVID, but I think, also, some of the work that we've done around Cymraeg is vitally important as well, and our policies and links to things like new qualifications, where we're trying to use them as a springboard to help improve the availability of bilingual qualifications, and also the range of qualifications available in Welsh—things such as our strategic partnership, which has been in place now for about 18 months with the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. That's not just a partnership that is soliciting, again, on a piece of paper; it's an active partnership. We think that what works really well in Wales and what Wales does best is when public bodies come together with other organisations to hopefully synergise their work and their resources—very important, moving forward. So, we do think they're still relevant. I don't know if Philip would want to add to that.

Yes. I mean, they're very active in our day-to-day work. So, if we look at something like our sector reviews in employment sectors, we actively use the eight matters as the reference points to see whether the range of qualifications is fit for purpose. So, you know, they're very actively used in the organisation. And, actually, if we think about the principal aims in whether qualifications meet the reasonable needs of learners and maintaining public confidence in those qualifications and the qualification systems, they're very broad guiding principles that actually are quite enabling. The legislation was intended to be enabling to us, rather than restrictive, and we've not encountered any problems on a day-to-day basis.

Brilliant. Thank you. And how has the five-year strategy and four strategic priorities you adopted last December shaped your work and activities over the last year?

I'll just pick that one up as well to start with, if that's okay, Philip.

Yes. Do you want to start?


Yes. It's interesting when you're on a board of a public body that's a qualifications regulator, because it's almost as if the regulator is sort of—. When all is going well, and I'm thinking particularly pre COVID, people don't know a lot about regulators, and then when things get difficult and then people are aware of regulators, it's almost as if it's a problem when you're aware of regulators. And alongside that, our regulation work, day to day, every year, is very much bread-and-butter work, but if we just do regulation and we don't do reform work, then clearly we're not staying ahead.

So, very often, we have conversations in our board when we have reviews, where board members are saying, 'How can we contribute to longer term strategy in qualifications?' Whilst I do agree with the board members, it's trying to get that fine balance. We're not a private company that can just run ahead and develop our own policies and strategies. We've got to be led by Government policy, but at the same time, as an independent regulator, we have a responsibility, linked to the point we've covered already, to find the right way of developing strategies for the longer term. The strategy that we developed at the back end of 2022 is a five-year strategy. It's the first one with strategic priorities. We didn't just develop it in isolation. We consulted widely, including with this committee and others, in advance, because we wanted others to have an opportunity to feed into what we do. Within that document, which we then formally published, I think around about this time last year, or maybe in January this year, I think it's important, maybe, to flag up the key themes. The key themes are this 'made for Wales' focus—that's another one that we don't ever forget about—which is around high-quality, sustainable qualifications and the growth and expanding of Welsh language opportunities as well, bringing in that equality within what we do. And the next one, I think, really, is very much—and this hopefully doesn't sound like a contradiction; it isn't, anyway—being evolutionary in the way that we do our work. I think a qualifications system has to be handled very carefully and doesn't do well with revolutions, because there are so many people that depend on an annual basis on the exam cycle and so on. So, I think we have to be very careful in the way that we do things, but I still think we can be dynamic in the way that we're evolutionary.

So, it's about careful change management, extensive stakeholder engagement, which we have expanded significantly, and also it's about promoting things such as innovation in assessment, which goes beyond digital assessment. There are far more other things to promoting innovation. But also, within everything that we do is being conscious of learner well-being in the decisions that we make. And the priorities that we did set out—there were four strategic priorities—were quite broad, really. One was around the coherent and inclusive pre-16 offer. Clearly, that picks up on the qualifications that we're developing, linked to the Curriculum for Wales, and the wider full offer of qualifications, amongst other things. Then it's about high-quality, robust, post-16 qualifications. It picks up sector reviews, it picks up issues around the recent vocational review, which was undertaken independently for Government, and the modernising assessment that I picked up on, where we've established a new modernising assessment team, looking at digital, but also looking at issues such as artificial intelligence. We had a very interesting session at our board two weeks ago, looking at that. Whilst it's quite enabling and quite exciting in many ways, I'm sure we all have some concerns about the pitfalls of AI. So, hopefully we can reassure you that whilst we don't have a simple answer to that, we're on it in terms of making sure that we pick up the positives, but are also, alongside our colleagues across the UK, looking at wider issues. And then the fourth point is around sustainability in the system. It's targeting our grants to respond to priorities and so on, and making sure that aspects such as datblygu Cymraeg, developing Welsh language opportunities, are always at the heart of what we do.

So, yes, we've made good progress, but it's a five-year plan, and we review those plans on an annual basis, and we reviewed it two weeks ago.

Lovely, thank you. We've got some questions now from Laura Jones. Laura.

Thank you, Chair. I'd just like to—. Good morning, first of all, sorry. I'd just like to ask you some questions on awarding qualifications in summer 2023. How satisfied are you that the second transitional year of generous grading in summer 2023 has continued the transition back to pre-pandemic levels? Are results on the trajectory that you would have expected? Were there any anomalies or outliers in this year's results? Thanks.


Shall I pick that up? Obviously, we're in a position where we're trying to have a gradual and managed transition back from high grades during the COVID years, when exams weren't in place, back to pre-pandemic standards, and we've made a very conscious decision in Wales that we want to have a gradual approach to that so that there isn't a shock to the system. Apart from anything else, it's because all of the evidence that we see from Estyn and others is that there is a long tail to COVID and that there is an impact on learners that is still being felt. So, we want to be empathetic to that as we try and re-establish pre-pandemic standards. 

This year, we're in a position where we wanted to see outcomes on a national level broadly midway between 2019 outcomes, which were the last pre-pandemic outcomes, and 2022 outcomes. And that, sort of, was looking over the three years of adjusting, with this year—2024 coming up—being the last year of that, of roughly about a third adjustment over three years. We set that expectation early with stakeholders, with schools, colleges, and, most importantly, I think, with higher education, because if we look at the different approaches across UK jurisdictions, our approach was broadly similar to both Scotland and Northern Ireland, and England was looking to go back harder to 2019 outcomes without that different approach that we've had here in Wales. So, we set those expectations. We talked extensively to higher education, because the big risk was that you may well see a difference in approach in admissions decisions and offer-making strategies by UK-wide higher education institutions. We didn't see that, and we think that the communications work that we did was really important in that. 

If you measure success by, 'Did we achieve what we set out to achieve?', I think it was successful, because we did end up with results at a national cohort level that were broadly where we wanted to see them. We didn't see any impact on students in terms of higher education admissions, and, actually, we had a good understanding across UK regulators of what the system was trying to achieve in each location, and we didn't have any tensions between them.

It's probably worth noting at this point just one reason—one particular reason—why we took that approach in Wales. And that is because, certainly for A-levels, 40 per cent of the overall A-level would have been taken in 2022, under the grading position in 2022. So, you already had a position of generous results—if you want to call them 'generous results'—from 2022, that would be feeding into 2023 awards. So, to go to the same position as England of having 2019-like outcomes in subjects like A-levels, you would have actually had to penalise the standards in the A2 awards that learners were taking. So, we felt that was the wrong approach. It would undermine both the environment we're working in and the grading decisions that were made in 2022. So, not only do we think it was the right thing to do, recognising the environment, it was the only thing to do, recognising the attainment that learners had already demonstrated through some of those subjects.

Okay, thank you. You've answered some of the questions that I had, but, as you've just said, different approaches were taken in Wales and England towards grading of qualifications, whereas, in Wales, there was a further transition year of generous grading, as we've said. In England, qualifications were graded the same as 2019, as you've just outlined, prior to the pandemic. To what extent have there been concerns, because, obviously, there have been concerns, if we're realistic? And how have you gone about addressing those concerns? And to what extent do you think that there are concerns about the comparability and currency of the qualifications awarded in Wales compared to those in England?

So, I think there are probably two sides to this. If we think about the value of the qualification, the value of the qualification is really for those people who are receiving the qualification and what it means for their next steps. So, by virtue of things like higher education admissions, we didn't see that there were any problems there, and the fact that, across regulators, there was a good understanding of what each nation was doing, and the endgame of returning to pre-pandemic standards, albeit on a different timescale, but still the ambition to end up in the same place, I think there was good understanding amongst those stakeholders who were most actively involved in the qualifications system. There were commentators in the press, and there's always a commentary in the press, and some of that was positive, some of that was negative. Actually, what we saw was quite a lot of the commentary was coming from England, and wasn't recognising the coupled nature of AS and A-levels, and, actually, it was people commentating on the system, thinking that it was all terminal assessment, as it is in England, with the A-level being awarded 100 per cent in one year, rather than the coupled model we have in Wales and they have in Northern Ireland, of the AS and the A2. So, I think there was some ill-informed commentary around it, but nothing that sustained, and I don't think there was any fundamental misunderstanding amongst those stakeholders who were most actively involved in the system.


Thank you. Do you include—? You say 'stakeholders', and you mentioned higher education and other ones, but do you include businesses and prospective job prospects in that?

Yes. So, if we think about A-levels, I mean, principally, the grading position was around A-levels and GCSEs. A-levels are used principally for moving on to higher education, that's the primary purpose of them, and GCSEs into that transition for post 16. So, the main stakeholder group for understanding was actually other education providers because people are making steps into education. It's always harder to get an understanding amongst employer groups because they're so diverse and quite difficult to reach, but I think we did quite a good job in terms of publicly setting out the position that we had with grading. Ultimately, what we're trying to do is we're trying to reflect the difficult situation that learners have been in because of the pandemic, and what we have seen is an increase in grades during those pandemic years, which has led to some higher outcomes, which were roughly one grade higher, if we're looking at something like A-level in 2020-21. What we're trying to do is come back down to something that's more like normal standards, but I think the nuance of that is actually probably more detail than most employers need. Apart from anything else, they're starting to look at what the next qualifications are that learners are getting further down the line, whether those be vocational qualifications when they go into post-16 education, or degrees when they go on to higher education. So, I think the impact on employers is less than the impact on other education providers.

Thank you. Yes, I hear what you're saying. A lot of people don't go on to higher education, though, and will just go on with those grades to employers, so they are quite important stakeholders to look into, particularly with the press surrounding it and the differences between England and Wales, considering our porous borders, of using those qualifications. I'd be interested to hear, perhaps, what more you'd like to do in the future to allay those fears.

Also, I'd just like to ask: how does your decision-making process take into account your two principle aims, as well as striking a balance between those aims? For example, your principal aim is to meet the needs of learners taking qualifications and to ensure that there is public confidence that those qualifications are awarded credibly and robustly. How do you balance being fair to different annual cohorts of learners to ensure a level playing field in terms of what it takes to achieve certain grades? Thanks. 

So, I guess there are a number of things there. In terms of thinking about how we maintain standards, which is essentially what we're talking about here, there's an awarding process that's quite complex, which allows for all sorts of evidence to be taken into account when grade boundaries are established and awards are made. We deliberately have what we call attainment referencing in Wales, which is a technical approach that brings in a basket of evidence, so it's bringing in statistical evidence and judgmental evidence from examiners to establish where those grade boundaries are, and that's how we maintain standards, year on year. Now, because it is a mixed methods model where you're looking at statistics and you're looking at judgment, during these years of transition, you're actually in a position where you can shift the emphasis between those different components of evidence for where the grade boundaries are established. And where you're trying to have higher grades than would otherwise be the case, because of this balancing the transition back to pre-pandemic standards, you do have a higher weighting towards the statistical evidence than the judgmental evidence, because judges looking at performance would probably come up with grade boundaries that would be significantly lower—sorry, higher. So, there are technical things in place to ensure that those standards are maintained and that we can move forward.

When we're trying to establish the right way forward, what we are trying to do is, we're trying to balance against those two principal aims, about the reasonable needs of learners who have been impacted by a pandemic that isn't their fault; they've been the victim of circumstances, so to speak. But we're also looking to preserve public confidence in those grades by making sure that the grading process is robust, that we are achieving, or WJEC, principally, are achieving, the outcomes that we're expecting to see. And, of course, the thing that binds all of this together is fairness for the individual. So, we're looking to have the fairest outcomes for the individuals in the circumstances that they face.


Thank you. Your annual report says that, in some subjects, grade boundaries needed to be very low to achieve the policy aim—presumably the policy aim of a gradual trajectory back to pre-pandemic levels. And you say that you considered, just now, the WJEC's application of grade boundaries. Can you elaborate on this and explain the outcomes of these discussions? Were some grade boundaries set lower to achieve the policy or, in some cases, did the policy have to make way to ensure grade boundaries were credible? Thank you.

So, there's always a balance there between all sorts of factors. I think we saw—. So, we don't look at the evidence directly. WJEC make the award; we as the regulator oversee that, to make sure that they're conducting awards in a compliant way and as we would expect. Having said that, we do hear some of the evidence from WJEC about what they're seeing in awards, and we see where the grade boundaries are ending up, and there is a process that we go through. So, in some subjects, particularly around GCSEs, in maths, English, Welsh, Welsh second language, we did see grade boundaries that were lower than we would like to see. When WJEC is making that award, they are looking at the policy position that they're trying to achieve—the policy position of, broadly, midway—but their examiners, in their judgmental element of that, are also thinking about what is a credible grade boundary and what is a transition back. But I think in those subject areas in particular, what we heard from WJEC, through their awarding committees, was that performance standards were lower than they had been pre pandemic, and that they had to have lower grade boundaries in order to achieve the policy outcome.

Now, of course, what we've got is the next step in that process of going back to pre-pandemic standards. Next year in 2024, where we're expecting outcomes to look like 2019 outcomes, but with some security around that, that they don't drop significantly lower, and then we will probably look to take that floor, so to speak, away in 2025. So, in that balance of statistical evidence and judgmental evidence from the examiners on the performance they're actually seeing, we'll see that balance move across to the judgment playing a stronger and stronger role over the next couple of years. We would hope to see those grade boundaries rising as a consequence of that.

Thank you. Thank you, Laura. Just to take you back on the points you raised around the nature of the coupled A-levels and AS levels, won't there be the same problem in 2024??

There will be, but the element of contribution will be much less, because we're now down into a position of about a third of a grade of generosity rather than two thirds of a grade of generosity. So, one might say that there will still be a little element of it, but we think it reaches the point of being almost negligible at that point. So, it's not something that we're concerned about. We may see some slightly higher outcomes at A-level, but not something that we think is worth drawing attention to in terms of comparability. But it is something that we've thought about.

Thank you very much. It's good to have that on the record, because I know it was something that we raised last year as well, so thank you for clarifying that and getting your point of view on that. We've got some questions now from Buffy Williams. Buffy.


Thank you, Chair, and thank you for joining us this morning. I have some questions around the reform of qualifications taken by 14 to 16-year-olds. Is it fair to summarise that the development of the new GCSEs to align with the new Curriculum for Wales is now largely in the WJEC’s hands, given you’ve published your approval criteria and WJEC is now developing the qualification outlines and specifications? What will be your continuing role, for example, in informing and approving the WJEC’s specifications? 

Thank you. So, the next stage in the process for us is what we call the approvals process. The analogy I often use is one of building. We act as an architect to begin with in terms of designing what the qualifications will look like, and set out the outlines for them. WJEC then go off as the builder to make the construction, and then we almost have like a building control role at the end to say, 'Does it meet the quality standards that we were expecting, and do they meet the design criteria that we set out in the approval criteria?' So, that process starts for us from next year. We're expecting to have full submissions from WJEC from the spring onwards, with a view to approving all of the specifications by September 2024. That's really important, because one of the lessons learnt in the past has been to help with the change for schools, to allow a full year of the specification being released before first teaching. So, there's time for resources and for familiarisation with those new specifications before they actually have to be delivered to learners.

What we will then do is a thing called 'sample assessment materials', which are, 'And this is what the assessments will look like in the subjects.' The aim is to have those in place for December of next year for the first wave of GCSEs. It's worth saying that there are two waves of GCSE reforms going through. The first wave is 20 qualifications, then there's a second wave of the remaining qualifications, which will be for first teaching in 2026. So, for those qualifications, for all the first teaching in 2025, the aim is to have the specifications approved by September 2024, the sample assessment materials by December 2024, then we start the cycle for the second wave.

And, of course, once we start to get closer to delivery of those qualifications for the first time, we'll look to move some of our resources and put a focus on the regulation side of things, because we recognise that in those first years of awarding, there's almost a need to have intensive care around the delivery of those qualifications, to make sure that they're being delivered securely. But also, if there are any issues that arise in that first delivery, then we need to be in a position where we can respond to those quickly. So, whilst a lot of our work has been done, in no way is it all complete and there's still a lot of work to do.

Thank you. The committee has received a letter from the Senedd’s cross-party group on deaf issues, expressing concern about a potential shortage of suitable qualified teachers to teach British Sign Language to support the new BSL GCSE. Were you aware of such concerns when developing the design principles for the new GCSE, and do you share any of them about whether workforce issues may compromise the successful delivery of the qualification?

Yes. So, British Sign Language GCSE is actually on a slightly different trajectory to the others. We haven't published approval criteria for that yet; we're planning to do that in 2024. And actually, we're planning for that to be an outlier and for first teaching in 2027, rather than 2026 or 2025. That reflects this issue of, 'Is there a teaching workforce that is going to be able to deliver this qualification?' but also reflects that this is a completely new qualification that is going to take more time to design and to prepare for. And there is a higher level of change management that will be necessary. As we've got closer to looking at what the construct would be for a British Sign Language GCSE, actually we've found there are a number of issues that are outside of our direct control that really need to be addressed before we can go too far with some of the detail of this. One example is that there are regional differences across Wales in British Sign Language. There isn’t a standardised form. In England, there has been work across higher education institutions to come up with a standardised form of British Sign Language in England. It would be different in Wales, and that work needs to be completed so that there is a common construct for this qualification. So, I think we've found that that, amongst other issues with British Sign Language, means it’s going to take more time to develop that qualification. We said that we would aim for that for first teaching in 2027, and we don’t want to drag our heels on that in any way, but I personally feel there are so many dependencies on other elements of this to pull this new construct together that there could be some risk around that 2027 timeline as well. 


Thank you. What has been stakeholders' reaction to the decision to have different GCSEs in Welsh, which would be largely dependent on the pupils' exposure to the language as a result of whether they attend a Welsh-medium or English-medium school? And to what extent does this detract from the principle of a single continuum for learning Welsh and undermine the acceptance of the weakness of the Welsh second language model?

I'll start off with this one. Clearly, we've been consulting at various stages on the new qualifications, 'Qualified for the Future', linked to the Curriculum for Wales since around 2019, I think, and the most recent full consultation was in 2022. We as a board received the outcomes of that most recent consultation at the back end of 2022 and made our decisions, and they were published, I think, in June this year. I think it’s fair to say that, in the most recent consultation, most of the areas that were raised as having some concerns were in Cymraeg, English, literacy and numeracy, and the sciences. So, some quite key areas of concern. And a lot of the feedback that we received in the most recent consultation was bringing up things that we’d already consulted on previously, listened, made deductions and made decisions, but people were going back to issues that we’d already made decisions around. However, I think, when you’re in the process and people are still raising issues of concern, it’s good practice to continue to listen and to look at your decisions, and look at them again to decide whether you’ve made the right decisions.

So, if I maybe just pick up Welsh as an example, originally we had intended to have one combined GCSE in language and literature with a 1.5 value, with there being two versions of that depending on the setting where the learners were doing it. Following the feedback, the new approach we have—and I hope I get this right—is to have two qualifications, a single and a double award, both for the Welsh language settings and for those areas where there isn’t such a strength of Welsh speaking. So, that was an example of a change that we made, having really listened to learners. I could go into a lot of detail, which I won’t at this point, but I’m more than happy to respond to any specific questions. But the point I would make—and it applies, I think, in a similar way to the other subjects that I mentioned—is that we’ve been genuinely listening, and we have to put learners first.

If I use Welsh as an example—and I’m a Welsh-speaking Welshman—I love speaking Welsh and I do it all the time, and I’m proud of the Welsh language, and I wish everybody in Wales could speak Welsh, but they can’t. And in terms of your point around the continuum, we do believe that the set of qualifications that we’ve now agreed—and there are others that we’re developing alongside it as well—to provide those bridges between qualifications do fit in within a continuum for the Welsh language. We’re very conscious of the role that our qualifications can play in supporting the delivery of the 'Cymraeg 2050' ambitions, but the 'Cymraeg 2050' ambitions, if anybody thinks that they’re built on the foundation of having the right GCSEs and qualifications, that is never going to do it in a million years. It's got a part to play alongside Government policy around schools and so on. It's around leadership in schools and colleges around the Welsh language. It's about culture in those organisations.

We know there are organisations out there who don't think we've made the right decisions on this, and whilst we perhaps share their ambitions—. Perhaps, if I use an analogy: if we want to get everybody fit and active, we don't give everybody the training for the London marathon, because that's not going to work for them. For some people, it can be the right thing to do, but, for other people who have maybe been spending too much time on the couch, they do something different. I think for us to come up with one qualification in Welsh and then we force feed that to every young person in Wales—. And I'm somebody from Ceredigion originally, who lives in Ruthin now, Welsh-speaking areas, who's lived in Cardiff, worked in the Rhondda, your constituency, I've worked in Gwent, I've worked in Wrexham, I've worked in Connah's Quay, and there are lots of different parts of Wales where there are lots of different people. At the heart of what we do is doing the right thing for learners, and that means choice. And I do feel quite passionate about this, because, sometimes, we get criticised, but I think we let people down if we don't provide that menu of options. We're not there to tell people what the diet of Welsh language qualifications is, but we are there to provide a broad menu, and I do think it's for Government and others—. In that regard, I really welcome the Bill in relation to Welsh language in education, because I think, for the first time, we've got something that provides a bit of a route-map and sets some direction and challenges, certainly for schools and colleges, but also for others.

So, I don't know if that answers your question, but I do think—. Back to your point about the continuum, Buffy, I think we do feel there's a wide range of qualifications there. We've listened, and we're putting learners' interests at the heart of what we're doing, and we do share the ambitions for the Welsh language and we don't shy away from our role in supporting 'Cymraeg 2050'.


Thank you for that answer. I'll move on now. How will the new GCSEs under the new curriculum help to promote a greater interest and uptake in modern foreign languages, and to what extent are the numbers of pupils taking GCSEs in these subjects a concern? What prospects are there for the new qualifications improving the situation?

Interesting question. I think the uptake of modern foreign languages is something that attracts quite a lot of attention. The new GCSEs are going to be slightly different in terms of they have less of a focus on vocab recall and more on use of the language, but I don't think those in themselves will address the issues of uptake in those subjects, because all the qualifications are is the measure at the end of education at 16 for many people that are doing it. I think the issue is much earlier on in education, before qualifications come into play, about exposure to different languages, about good learning in different languages.

I'm going to ruthlessly exploit the fact that my wife teaches French in primary school, and she has seen a much higher uptake of people going on and doing French successfully at high school, because she's given them an interest in the subject at primary school and they take that love of the subject forward into high school. I don't think they, when they are taking an interest in the subject aged 11, 12, 13, are thinking about what the requirements for the qualification are; they're looking for good, engaging teaching, fun experiences, the language being something that enables something for the individual. So, whilst I think there is a small part to play for the qualification, in making sure that it's appropriately designed, I don't think it can address the fundamental issue of low uptake.

Thank you. That's a very interesting answer. My next question and my last question is: how did you engage with stakeholders in finalising your proposals and making decisions about the new sciences GCSEs? How do you respond to the views of those such as the Royal Society of Chemistry that the decision to have a single award of GCSE science in addition to the double award will create a two-tier system, with learners prejudged at an early age about what level and depth of science they should study? Thank you.


So, I think out of all the decisions that we’ve made in relation to the range of GCSEs, the science decisions have been most contentious, and they’ve been most contentious for different reasons, and I think this is why I personally believe we’ve had a strong model of engagement and a strong model of consultation, because what we have is a big array of different differing views that we’ve had to come together and try and balance.

So, if we take one perspective, from teachers, teachers are very much in favour of retaining separate sciences and not moving to a single double award—sorry, a double-award model, not a single double-award model—yet teachers also told us that that double award would be too much for some learners who would want to engage with science and are capable of doing a GCSE, but would struggle with the amount of content in a double award.

So, from one side—. The counter view is, from the learned societies, like the Royal Society of Chemistry, that they were very much in favour of having a single route and just having a double award, so very much in favour of not having the separate sciences, but didn’t like the idea of having a single science, because they would obviously want people to do more science.

So, what we’re doing is we’re balancing a range of views so that we can say what is right for the learner, and our legislation puts the learner at the heart of our decisions. So, we did a lot of soul-searching around the separate science decision, and we stood by that. We think that the right thing to do is to have that single double award; we see little evidence to suggest that the separate sciences do add the value that some people would think. We also recognise that, in the curriculum, there needs to be more space for broader learning, so, actually, what we can do to try and consolidate the range of qualifications is better the curriculum time that would be available for subjects. And also the curriculum itself is driving for that integration across the sciences, rather than separation of the sciences into separate disciplines. It’s looking for those connections across sciences.

But we also recognise that we want learners to engage with science at a GCSE level even if they’re not capable of doing that double award, if that’s the wrong qualification for them. So, for that single science, we’re actually looking for a different construct for that. It’s going to be much more about thematic engagement with science, much more about looking for the links across sciences. Because it doesn’t have a requirement for separate reporting at a sub-grade level of chemistry, biology and physics, we can make it much more integrated, and we think that that would be a much more engaging qualification for learners. And we have a model that we call MERV, manageability, engagement, reliability and validity, so whenever we make decisions, we’re trying to balance out the manageability of the qualification, how engaging the qualification is, whether it’s going to be valid and whether it’s going to be reliable. And actually, what we’ve done with the decision around the single science is really focused in on that engaging element: is this going to be an engaging qualification for the learner?

Now, the learned societies weren’t in favour of that approach. They would have much rather seen just a double award, but they are continuing to engage with us as we develop the requirements of the single award, and we believe that they will go on to work with WJEC in the development of the specification as well. So, whilst we’ve made a decision that they don’t necessarily agree with, we’re very pleased that they’ve continued to engage with us on the subject.

Can I just add to Philip's response, which I fully agree with? I would add that I think making those connections between the sciences through a combined science really enriches the reality of what science is, when people take it forward and see the linkages between them, that they’re not just separate subjects.

And my final point would be that this is a curriculum for this century, for the mid 2020s. It’s not a curriculum from the 1970s, when I was in school, and we just did biology, chemistry and physics. If you look what's really in the curriculum and then look at the wider range of qualifications, and you pick up computer science, design and technology, manufacturing, construction, they are all built on science, so I actually think that the Curriculum for Wales and the range of qualifications, if you look at it in its entirety, has got a far greater amount of science and applied science through technology than we’ve ever had before. And back to one of the points that one of the Members has raised about the link to the Welsh economy and business, that’s what people really want, and that really sets youngsters up, not just always to go to uni, but to move on to further education or into apprenticeships in order to support the key economic drivers in Wales.


Thanks, Chair. I've found this really, really interesting so far, so thanks for the evidence that you've been able to provide. I was just hoping to ask a few questions about reform of vocational qualifications. You're expecting to publish findings of the review into Essential Skills Wales qualifications next summer. Can you give us any insight today, any kind of ideas, on the provisional findings and how you interpret them, from the interviews and the survey responses that you've been able to collate so far?

Are you speaking specifically about the independent review that Sharron Lusher—

No, this is Essential Skills. 

Oh, Essential Skills. Sorry. Apologies. Vocational, yes.

On the Essential Skills review, we're planning on publishing that report next summer. I can give you some insights into it. We've conducted an international review, where we look at similar qualifications in other jurisdictions, and, actually, the Essential Skills qualifications look very similar, in terms of what they're trying to do, to international comparisons. The biggest issue we've seen is the manageability of Essential Skills qualifications for providers and learners. So, I think the area that we will be looking at in terms of some reforms for those qualifications will be the assessment model and how to make that more manageable. Because at the moment, there's a combination of tests and case studies that learners need to do, and we know that there are issues in things like the release of learners from workplaces to be able to conduct long-duration assessments if they're on an apprenticeship framework. So, really, I think the focus for us will be on making those qualifications more manageable for learners and more manageable for providers, and also recognising how they can integrate into apprenticeship delivery better. So, that'll be the focus for our reforms. And we will focus those on those Essential Skills qualifications that have got the highest uptake, because there's quite a broad range of Essential Skills qualifications there. Some of them have got very low uptake, so what we'll look to do is to focus those reforms on those qualifications with the highest uptake.

Excellent. Thanks. Just moving on to the review conducted by Sharron Lusher, what's your initial response to the recommendations specific to Qualifications Wales?

Thanks for the question. The review is a totally independent review, which had a panel. We weren't members of the review, but Philip and other colleagues provided advice and information to the review. If you've seen the report, I think there are something like 33 recommendations, of which 17 applied to us, and of those 17, we think the vast majority of those are things that we've either done or things we're doing or about to do. So, we wouldn't disagree with any of the things that are in there.

I think it's quite an interesting time to have a report of this nature on vocational qualifications in Wales, particularly because the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research, the new commission, will come into place formally in a few months' time—1 April, I think, or thereabouts—and clearly, their remit in this lead for the tertiary education system in Wales, I would argue, is very much linked to the work that's going on here. So, I think there has to be some care, and some time needs to be given for CTER, alongside the Welsh Government, to clarify its policy position, because I think the first recommendation in the report talks about having a clear strategy, which doesn't exist at the moment. We have a role to play, but I think, recognising that CTER isn't in place yet, I would hope that they very quickly get hold of this report and give their response to how it should be taken forward, because it's very much in the terms of reference that have been set out for them. And it's not us saying we're not part of it; we very much have a part. It's not something that we lead on, I don't think, but we've got an important part to play.

There's a lot that we're still doing. We're not just sitting and waiting. As I think Philip has referred to, we've already done a number of reviews and published them, and the sector review is ongoing, for instance, in creative arts and media. So, yes, we're carrying on, but we can review our approach and what we look at in light of what comes out of CTER and Government, which we would hope to see soon.


Thank you. The report does, of course, recommend that the Welsh Government should develop a national strategy for vocational education, and that you should renew your approach to sector reviews so that that work is aligned to that recommendation to the Welsh Government to form a national strategy. What assessment have you made of these specific recommendations, and are you adapting your sector reviews in response to them? 

We will do that, but I think it goes back to my previous answer. We're waiting to see, because we believe that CTER and the Welsh Government need to say how they're responding to this. The Welsh Government haven't responded fully yet, I don't think, in terms of how they're going to deal with it. But once they've done that, then I think we clearly will align with that. But we don't think that the approach we're taking at the moment with sector reviews is far off, or is not doing what's helpful and adding value. But we're always open to learning, so, clearly, if our approach needs to change, change it will to fit in. So, we do welcome the opportunity. And the key point is having this national strategy. It's not in place, and we really need that. 

If I could just pull out two points that I think would be useful. Up until now, we've undertaken reviews on a sector basis, so we've looked at an employment sector like manufacturing, engineering and energy as a sector, and looked at the range of qualifications there. We see that there'll be an evolution in the approach and that we will probably start to look at more thematic reviews moving forward, and some of those thematic reviews will be dependent on where the strategy goes and where the priorities are set by CTER and others. 

If I give a couple of examples, green skills is an important national agenda at the moment, so we may well want to take a thematic review looking at green skills across a number of sectors, rather than just looking at an individual employment sector. And the other thing that we might want to do is, taking that thought one stage further around green skills—. One of the things that we're seeing as potentially being important there is that there will be people that aren't undertaking full-time or apprenticeship qualifications at the moment, but maybe qualified in an area 10, 15, 20 years ago, that will need to have top-up in adult education or continuing professional learning to a qualification. So, there we'll want to think about: are there certain elements of qualifications where unit certification may be needed to provide skills top-ups in those areas that are dynamic?

So, I think what we'll look to see is to maybe have a slightly different approach to those sector reviews, and to have some that are specific around employment sectors and some that might be more thematic. But to make that decision, we really need to have some of these other foundation things, like the strategy, in place. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. I want to talk about your regulatory role. I know we're running a bit short on time, so if I don't get to all my questions we'll probably write to you on those. So, if you could be quite succinct with your answers, I'd be grateful, or poor Heledd will never get in with her questions. I want to talk about the new Wales GCSEs that are listed in the priority qualifications list that was agreed with the Welsh Government in September this year. Despite them not being restricted, WJEC will be the only provider of those qualifications. Can you confirm if this was a result of a policy decision or whether it was a market position in terms of why you've come to this agreement? 

It's a market response. We approached all of the GCSE awarding bodies that can deliver GCSEs. We've maintained engagement with them over a number of years and, to this point, WJEC are the only people that have expressed an interest in developing those qualifications. But, of course, the door is open, because they're not restricted for other awarding bodies, if they wish to. There's one thing that we've put in place as a criteria that is worth recognising—that if somebody wanted to enter the market to deliver those GCSEs, they would have to deliver all of them, because, as a small nation, we're looking at financial viability, commercial viability across the full range of qualifications. We wouldn't want to see an awarding body come in and compete on the high-uptake subjects, which would then fundamentally undermine the commercial viability of the full range of qualifications. 

Moving on slightly now, the number of incidents that people have had to report to you has gone up quite considerably, and there has been a big rise in paper errors. What do you think could be done to mitigate all these errors coming through? Whose job do you think that should be? 


I think we've got to put it into the context of the fact that there are thousands of question papers and hundreds of thousands of qualifications being awarded, so the number of incidents remains low in the context of the size of the system. We have also encouraged awarding bodies to report more to us, because we want to see where there are problems. So, we’re maybe seeing more reporting coming through in the increase of that number. Whenever there is an incident report to us, what we want to see is an action plan from the awarding body about how they will address those issues, and in question papers in particular, how they will amend their quality assurance processes.

One thing that I would just say as a final point on this is the errors that we’ve seen coming through this year have been smaller errors. They haven’t been big question errors that have caused learners to not be able to answer a question in the same way as we’d maybe seen before. So, they tend to be smaller errors that are being seen.

You say in your annual report that 12 awarding bodies declared non-compliance with your standard conditions of recognition. What kind of matters were they, and what were the grounds for the concerns, as such?

It can be a variety. It's difficult to pin it down to one particular thing. For one awarding body, it may be that they haven’t awarded a qualification in Wales in two years, and therefore they aren’t compliant with that condition. A common element has been around how they might handle malpractice as an awarding body, and a variety of other things there. So, there’s no common issue.

I think the point to probably note is that from those non-compliances we’ve only got one awarding body where the action plan is still outstanding, so we’re confident that those awarding bodies are now—. We're in the process of having new statements of compliance, but we’re confident that those issues have been addressed through action plans. For the one awarding body with longer term issues, we’ve seen a bigger transformation programme that they’re putting in place that we think we will do the job.

I think you've answered my other questions. Thank you.

Diolch, James. The final section of questions from Heledd Fychan.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, a diolch i chi am fod efo ni heddiw. Gaf i droi yn gyntaf at gyllid, os gwelwch yn dda? Yn amlwg, mae gennych chi infographic yn eich adroddiad blynyddol; fedrwch chi egluro, ydy'r £9.807 miliwn a ddisgrifiwyd gennych yn yr adroddiad fel eich dyraniad cyllid refeniw craidd yn cynnwys yr £1.35 miliwn y dywedodd y Gweinidog, wrth roi gwybodaeth ar gyllideb Lywodraeth Cymru yn ôl ym mis Ionawr, sydd ar gael ar gyfer y rhaglen diwygio cymwysterau? Byddwn i'n hoffi deall os ydy'r £1.35 miliwn yn ychwanegol at yr arian hwnnw, ac os felly, sut ydych chi wedi cael mynediad ato. 

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you for being with us today. Could I turn firstly to finance, please? Clearly, you have an infographic in your annual report; could you explain whether the £9.807 million that you describe in your annual report as your core revenue funding allocation includes the £1.35 million that the Minister, in giving information on the Welsh Government budget back in January, said was available for the qualifications reform programme? I'd like to understand whether the £1.35 million is in addition to that money, and if so, how you've accessed it.

The £1.35 million is included within that, and actually we’ve moved to a very positive position with the Welsh Government where that money has transitioned from being QFF specific—so, ‘Qualified for the Future’, the 14 to 16 reform—and it has been rolled into our core funding, recognising that there’ll be ongoing reform activity. So, that has been rolled into our core funding now. 

Gwych. Mae'n dda iawn cael cadarnhad ar hynny. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Os caf i symud ymlaen, felly, yn yr adroddiad blynyddol hefyd rydych chi'n sôn y byddwch chi'n dod yn ddarostyngedig i ofynion Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol (Cymru) 2015 o Ebrill y flwyddyn nesaf. Pa mor barod ydych chi ar gyfer cydymffurfio â'r Ddeddf, a sut fydd hyn yn dylanwadu ar eich gwaith? Rydych chi'n sôn eich bod chi wedi bod yn paratoi, ac ati, ond ydych chi'n meddwl y bydd newid o Ebrill ymlaen?

Excellent. It's great to have confirmation of that. Thank you very much. 

If I could move on, therefore, in your annual report as well you mention that you will be subject to the requirements of the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 from April next year. How well prepared are you for complying with the Act, and how will this influence your work? You mentioned that you have been preparing, and so forth, but do you think there'll be a change from April onwards?

Diolch yn fawr iawn iti, Heledd. Gwnaf drio ateb dy gwestiwn di. Rydyn ni wedi mabwysiadu gwaith y Ddeddf yn wirfoddol ers tro, ac wedi bod yn gweithio ar gynllun. Roedden ni'n meddwl y byddem ni yn dod o dan y Ddeddf yn ffurfiol o 2024, a dyna beth oedd y targed, a dyna'r gwaith rydyn ni wedi bod yn ei wneud. Ond rydyn ni wedi clywed yn ddiweddar mai 2025 ydy'r dyddiad lle byddwn ni'n dod o dan y Ddeddf. Ond rydyn ni bron wedi gorffen ein gwaith ni, felly byddwn ni'n gweithio o dan y Ddeddf yn anffurfiol yn llawn o 2024, oherwydd rydyn ni'n credu ei fod e'n helpu'r sefydliad, ei fod e'n helpu ni i edrych ar ein penderfyniadau ni i gyd yng nghyd-destun beth sydd yn y Ddeddf. So, ie, rydyn ni'n barod ac yn edrych ymlaen yn bositif iawn at weithio o dan y Ddeddf.

Thank you very much, Heledd. I will try to answer your question. We have adopted the work under the Act voluntarily for some time and have been working on a plan. We thought that we would be captured by the Act formally by 2024, and that was the target, and that's the work that we've been doing. But we have heard recently that the date where we will become subject to the legislation is now 2025. But we've almost completed our work, so we will be working informally under the Act fully from 2024 onwards, because we believe that it helps the organisation, we believe that it helps us to look at all of our decisions in the context of that legislation. So, we are prepared and looking forward positively to working under the Act.


Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gaf i ofyn, felly, beth ydych chi wedi gweld sydd wedi bod yn wahanol, ac, er nad ydych chi'n gorfod gwneud ar y funud, sut ydych chi'n gweld ei fod o wedi dylanwadu ar eich gwaith chi o fod yn dechrau'r ymarweddu fel yna?

Thank you very much. May I ask, therefore, what have you seen that has been different, and, even though you don't have to do it currently, how do you see that it has influenced your work, starting that approach now?

Dwi ddim yn credu ein bod ni'n bell o'r ffordd yna o weithio—y pethau sydd o fewn y Ddeddf. Ond, mae hefyd yn gwneud i ni wella a chryfhau a ffocysu'r gwaith dŷn ni'n ei wneud, ac efallai godi mewn rhai meysydd lle efallai fod yna le i ni wella ac efallai le i ni gryfhau'r gwaith rydyn ni'n gwneud. Pan oeddwn i'n gweithio yng Ngholeg Cambria bedair blynedd yn ôl, fe wnaethom ni'n gywir yr un peth. Dydy colegau ddim yn dod o dan y Ddeddf, ond fe wnaethom ni, fel sefydliad, ei mabwysiadu, oherwydd rydyn ni'n coelio yn y peth, rydyn ni jest yn gweld ei bod yn ein helpu ni. Dwi ddim yn gwybod a ydy Philip yn moyn ychwanegu rhywbeth penodol sydd yn dod trwyddo, ond, yn gyffredinol, rydyn ni jest yn ei weld o'n ddatblygiad positif sydd yn cydymffurfio efo diwylliant y sefydliad.

I don't think we're a long way off that way of working in terms of the legislation now. But, it simply allows us to strengthen and improve the focus of our work, and to raise certain areas where there is room for improvement, where we can strengthen our activities. When I was working in Coleg Cambria four years ago, we did exactly the same thing. Colleges aren't subject to the legislation, but we, as an organisation, did adopt it, because we believed in it and we saw that it assisted us. I don't know if Philip wants to add any specifics, but, generally speaking, we see it as a positive development that accords with the culture of the organisation.

We've had very positive feedback from the commissioner, as we've engaged with the commissioner's office through this process, that our ways of working are very much in tune with what the future generations Act is trying to achieve. So, I think that's good testament to our commitment to working this way. As a regulator, we're looking at protecting learners, and we're also, in the reform work, looking to the future needs, and those play very much to the space of many aspects of the future generations Act. So, I think being formally listed just puts a structure around that and actually puts greater emphasis on it. So, I don't think we're a million miles away, as David said, from where we would want to be, but we will be strengthening our approaches as we develop our well-being objectives and all of the other things that we need to do under the Act.

Gwych. Diolch. Os caf i symud ymlaen i faes arall, rydych chi eisoes wedi sôn yn angerddol ynglŷn â'r Gymraeg. Yn amlwg, mae hwnna'n un o'r prif amcanion ac mae'n dod drosodd yn glir yn eich adroddiad blynyddol chi o ran 'Cymraeg 2050'. Rydych chi'n sôn am eich gwaith o ran hwyluso ac ati, a'r bartneriaeth bositif efo'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. Dwi jest yn meddwl a fyddech chi'n gallu rhoi bach mwy o wybodaeth i ni ynglŷn â'r gwaith hwnnw ac unrhyw bartneriaid eraill allweddol. Dwi'n ymwybodol, hefyd, o gyd-destun adroddiad Comisiynydd y Gymraeg yn ddiweddar a oedd yn sôn am yr heriau yn arbennig o ran ôl-16, yn enwedig wrth i fwy o chweched dosbarthiadau gau mewn ysgolion, a faint o bobl ifanc fydd yn cymryd cymwysterau, o bosib, yn y Gymraeg. Felly, pe baech chi'n gallu rhoi bach mwy o wybodaeth i ni ynglŷn â'r maes yna, byddai'n fuddiol.

Excellent. Thank you. If I could move on to another area, you have already spoken passionately about the Welsh language. Clearly, that is one of the main aims and that comes across clearly in your annual report in terms of 'Cymraeg 2050'. You talk about your work in terms of facilitating and so forth, and the positive partnership with the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. I was just thinking whether you could give us a little bit more information about that work and any other key partners. I'm also aware of the context of the Welsh Language Commissioner's recent report, which mentioned the challenges, particularly in the post-16 sector, as more sixth form classes close in schools, and how many young people will be taking courses for qualifications through the medium of Welsh. So, if you could perhaps give us a little bit more information about that area, that would be useful.

Fe wnaf i ddechrau ar hwn. Fe wnes i ddarllen yr adroddiad hwnnw a dwi'n deall y problemau a'r her sydd i ysgolion a cholegau i wneud hwnna. Ond, mae'n rhaid inni wneud rhywbeth amdano. Dwi'n credu hefyd fod gennym ni golegau â digon o faint yng Nghymru nawr; mae colegau mawr yng Nghymru, ar gyfartaledd, i gymharu, efallai, â cholegau yn Lloegr, so mae ganddyn nhw'r adnoddau i gynnig Cymraeg. So, dwi'n credu bod eisiau, efallai, godi'r safon i gydymffurfio efo safon y colegau gorau o safbwynt yr iaith.

Wedyn, i fynd yn ôl, yn gyffredinol, yn ychwanegol at y pwyntiau y gwnest ti godi ynglŷn â'r cysylltiad efo'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol a hefyd, efallai, y gwaith rydyn ni wedi'i wneud ar y cymwysterau TGAU newydd, mae ein strategaeth 'Dewis i Bawb' yn nodi'n glir ein hymrwymiad i'r Gymraeg a'r nod o gynyddu argaeledd cymwysterau cyfrwng Cymraeg. Mae'r strategaeth yna hefyd yn pwysleisio ein bwriad i weithio gyda chyrff dyfarnu a phartneriaid eraill er mwyn cyfrannu tuag at flaenoriaethau 'Cymraeg 2050'. Mae lot o waith wedi'i wneud yn ystod y flwyddyn ddiwethaf yn y maes yma o safbwynt bwrw ymlaen efo'r strategaeth. A jest pedwar peth sy'n dod allan, rili—pedwar pwynt o ffocws o fewn y strategaeth, sef: blaenoriaethu cymwysterau sydd ar gael yn y Gymraeg mewn addysg amser llawn, lleoliadau ôl-16 a phrentisiaethau, sy'n codi dy bwynt di'n gynharach; cryfhau cefnogaeth i gyrff dyfarnu a'u gallu i ddarparu cymwysterau cyfrwng Cymraeg; adolygu ein grant cymorth iaith Gymraeg i ganolbwyntio ar feysydd sydd o flaenoriaeth, cymwysterau newydd a chymwysterau arloesol; a hefyd gwella gwybodaeth a data ar gyfer dysgwyr ysgolion a cholegau ac at ein dibenion rheoleiddio.

Yn ystod y flwyddyn yma, fe wnaethon ni ymgynghori efo y cyrff dyfarnu ar feysydd sydd yn eu gorfodi nhw nawr i 'promote-io' y Gymraeg mewn ffordd gryfach na beth o'n nhw'n gwneud o'r blaen. Mae wastad gwaith i wneud i Gymreigio. Rydyn ni newydd golli dau brif aelod o staff sydd yn bobl Gymraeg i ddau swydd—un i fod yn bennaeth adnodd ac un arall i swydd uwch yn nhîm y comisiynydd. So, dwi wastad yn teimlo ei bod hi'n bwysig, fel sefydliad, yn ychwanegol at ein gwaith ni, i fod â Chymreictod o fewn sefydliad Cymwysterau Cymru a bod hwnna'n cael ei ddangos drwy'r bobl, fel, gobeithio, fi ac eraill sydd yn cynrychioli'r sefydliad.

If I could start. I read that report and I understand the problems and the challenges facing schools and colleges in that area. But, we do have to do something about that. I also think that we have colleges that are of sufficient scale; there are large colleges in Wales, as compared to colleges in England, so they have the resources to make Welsh language provision. So, I think we need to raise standards so that all colleges reach the best standards in terms of the Welsh language.

Specifically on your points in terms of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol and our links with them and the work that we've done on the new GCSE qualifications, our 'Dewis i Bawb' strategy sets out our clear commitment to the Welsh language and the aim of increasing the availability of Welsh-medium qualifications. The strategy also emphasises our intention to work with awarding bodies and other partners to contribute towards the priorities of 'Cymraeg 2050'. A great deal of work has been done over the past year in this area in terms of making progress on the strategy. There are four focus points within the strategy, and they are: prioritising the qualifications available through the medium of Welsh in full-time education, post-16 settings and apprenticeships, which picks up on your earlier point; strengthening support for awarding bodies and their ability to provide Welsh-medium qualifications; reviewing our Welsh language support grant to focus on priority areas and on new and innovative qualifications; and also improving information and data for learners in schools and colleges, and for our own regulatory purposes.

During this year, we consulted with the awarding bodies on steps that will now require them to promote the Welsh language in a stronger way than they did previously. There's always work to be done in this area. We've just lost two senior members of staff who are Welsh speakers to two different jobs—one to be head of resources and one to a more senior role within the commissioner's office. So, I always think it's important that we, as an organisation, in addition to our day-to-day work, have a Welsh ethos within Qualifications Wales and that that is demonstrated by people representing the organisation, such as, hopefully, me and others.


Diolch yn fawr iawn. Yn amlwg, bydd yna fanteision o ran y cysylltiad efo'r rheini sydd yn symud ymlaen i swyddi eraill â chysylltiad efo chi. Gaf i jest holi am fwy o wybodaeth ynglŷn a'r bartneriaeth efo'r Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol? Rydych chi'n sôn yn bositif iawn am hynny. Ydy'r gwaith yna'n cael ei gefnogi drwy gyllid gan y Llywodraeth neu ydy o'n fwy o waith rhyngoch chi fel dau gorff?

Thank you very much. Clearly, there will be advantages in terms of the links with those who are moving on to other jobs. Could I just ask for more information regarding the partnership with the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol? You talk very positively about that. Is that work being supported through funding from the Government or is it just work between you as two organisations?

Na, does dim cyllid ychwanegol, ond dwi'n deall bod y coleg wedi derbyn arian ychwanegol yn ystod y blynyddoedd diwethaf. Dwi'n credu mai jest mater o gydweithio ydy o a defnyddio'r adnoddau sydd gennym ni. Dwi'n cofio, ryw bedair, pum mlynedd yn ôl, mynd i gyfarfod cyntaf y colegau yng Nghymru gyda'r coleg Cymraeg yn Nghaerdydd a dechrau ar y gwaith yma o Gymreigio'r cwricwlwm sydd ar gael yng Nghymru ac edrych ar y blaenoriaethau yna ym meysydd yr economi a chymuned lle mae gwir eisiau inni wella'r Gymraeg. Beth sydd yn digwydd, dwi'n credu, trwy ein gwaith ni ydy mai'r coleg Cymraeg sydd yn gwneud y gwaith yna, gan weithio'n agos iawn efo'r colegau ac eraill yng Nghymru, ond, trwy gael partneriaeth efo nhw, maen nhw'n ein helpu ni, a gobeithio ein bod ni'n gallu eu helpu nhw, oherwydd maen nhw'n creu'r cysylltiad yna nôl at y bobl ar y llawr sydd yn ein helpu ni i siapio'r cymwysterau sydd gennym ni ac i flaenoriaethu yn gyffredinol.

No, there's no additional funding, but I do understand that the coleg has received additional funding over the past years. I think it's a matter of collaboration and using the resources that we have. I remember, four or five years ago, going to the first meeting of the colleges in Wales with the coleg Cymraeg in Cardiff and starting this work of enhancing the Welsh language within the curriculum in Wales and looking at those priorities in terms of the economy and community where we truly need to improve Welsh language provision. I think what's happening through our work is that the coleg Cymraeg leads on that, working very closely with colleges and others in Wales, but, through having a partnership with them, they help us, and I hope we can help them, in creating that linkage back to the people on the ground who then assist us in shaping the qualifications we have and to prioritise more generally.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Diolch, Gadeirydd.

Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.

Diolch, Heledd. Thank you. Thank you very much for joining us this morning. That's the end of the scrutiny session today. I'd just like to say that you will receive a transcript to check for factual accuracy in the coming weeks, so please do that. I'd just like to put on record our thanks as a committee to you and your staff for the hard work over the last year, and also to wish you a very merry Christmas. I think that's the first time I've said that now. I hope you have a happy Christmas and a very peaceful new year. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Diolch yn fawr i chi i gyd hefyd, a Nadolig llawen i chi i gyd hefyd. Diolch yn fawr.

Thank you, all, and a very merry Christmas to you too. Thank you very much.

Diolch. Just to say that Members will take a short break, to bring in the next set of witnesses. So, we'll now proceed to meet in private.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:43 ac 11:03.

The meeting adjourned between 10:43 and 11:03.

5. Bil Addysg Awyr Agored Breswyl (Cymru)—sesiwn dystiolaeth 3
5. Residential Outdoor Education (Wales) Bill—evidence session 3

Croeso nôl. Welcome back, everybody. We'll now move on to the next item on our agenda, which is item 5, and it's the Residential Outdoor Education (Wales) Bill, and it's our third evidence session. I'd like to welcome our witness this morning who has joined us, who is Mark Campion and who is acting assistant director of Estyn. Thank you for joining us for this scrutiny session. Diolch yn fawr.

Members have a number of questions to put to you this morning. I'll just start with some general questions around the development of the Bill. Perhaps you could outline the involvement that Estyn has had with the development of the Bill so far.

Hi. Bore da. Yes, our involvement to date was in responding to the consultation that took place earlier, at the start of this year, and that's our only involvement in the development of the Bill to date.

Okay, thank you for clarifying that. In your consultation responses to Sam Rowlands, you say that you broadly support the aim of the Bill. Why is primary legislation needed to ensure that children access residential outdoor education, and why do you think that the policy aims can't be achieved through policy change or extra funding?

This is a difficult one. If you want to make it an actual entitlement for every child, then you have to legislate for that to be the case. However, an awful lot of outdoor education already happens across schools around Wales. A lot of children are given opportunities to participate in outdoor education and it may well be that you could essentially encourage, promote and support schools to promote the benefits of outdoor education and learning, and encourage them to offer those opportunities irrespective of whether this Bill progresses or not. And certainly, there's no need for this Bill to progress for schools to make these sorts of opportunities available to their pupils. I think there are reasons why you might want to introduce an entitlement, and I'm sure you'll explore some of those this morning.


Absolutely, thank you. You also said in the consultation response that there will be 'many benefits for learners'. What are the main benefits that you envisage being delivered? 

It's a tricky one this one, because although there are some benefits noted, I think it's problematic. But we also noted that a meta study that has looked at outdoor learning, looked at nearly 8,000 research studies on outdoor learning, found that, of those, only 13 of them held up to scrutiny in terms of the design of the study and the methodology that was used for that study. 

In its teaching and learning toolkit, for example, the Education Endowment Foundation concludes that outdoor adventure learning has an

'Unclear impact for moderate cost based on insufficient evidence'.

That's not entirely conclusive, but the studies that have had enough rigour that have looked at this concluded that there are benefits to the learning process and to health and well-being on seven different levels. I've noted those in the response that we provided, and they cover areas such as physical and mental health benefits, development of language and communication skills, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, creativity, innovation and then social skills and more personal self-competencies: so, resilience, self-regulation and so on.

Brilliant. Thank you very much for that. We've got some more questions now from Ken Skates.

Yes, thanks, Chair. Just to expand on your views on the Bill, residential outdoor education isn’t actually defined in it. Do you think that the lack of a definition could result in an inconsistency across schools?

The words 'residential' and 'outdoor' to me have quite clear meanings. You know, 'residential', you're going to be staying away overnight at least; 'outdoor', it's quite obvious what we're talking about there. But I accept that in terms of what those outdoor residential events might look like, they can be very different.

As with the curriculum as a whole—the Curriculum for Wales—schools should have autonomy in developing their own local curriculum that meets the needs of their pupils, that takes account of the context of their school and the interests of learners too. So, in developing their own local curriculum, they will necessarily develop different opportunities for outdoor education, whether that's residential or not; the types of trips they might take learners on, places that they can walk to for free from their school during the school day, for example. So, there are lots of different types of outdoor activities, and schools, I think, need to have that autonomy to consider what might best suit their pupils and at what point in their learning that would take place as well. 

Yes. Do you think that it should take place at a certain age? Based on Estyn's extensive experience, do you think that there's a right approach or is it better to undertake residential visits dependent on the situation, dependent on the school, dependent on the class and dependent on the individuals?

Yes, the benefits of residential outdoor learning are not exclusive to any age group at all. Those benefits will vary depending on the age and stage of development of the child and the particular type of activity that you include as part of the residential activity that you're carrying out. But one study, for example, I think we quoted in our response, saw a particular benefit to doing it in year 7, at the start of year 7, as part of that forming relationships. You've got pupils coming from a range of different schools, who don't all know each other; some know each other very well, others may be just one or two children arriving from certain schools. Bringing children together in that way at the start of year 7 was found in this study to have particular social benefits for the community, and that can really set children up for their time in secondary school. And that was interesting, because I think you had some evidence—it might even have been in the session last week—where they suggested to maybe avoid year 7. So, you can put cases for carrying out these types of activities with children of any age, and I think that's why it's important that the schools have autonomy to consider their own situations and when it may be best suited for them to carry out these activities for their learners. 


Brilliant. Thank you. And is there anything else that you'd like in the Bill or, indeed, would you like any elements to be amended?

Oh, gosh, that's not a question we've particularly thought about. We very much appreciate the opportunities that learners are given in Wales to learn outdoors, and I think from our perspective it is important to highlight how much schools can do outdoors as part of their regular curriculum learning experiences, and actually how much of that can be cost-neutral for them as well. We're very mindful of the current inequity around the opportunities that pupils have around residential experiences through schools. If you're in an affluent local authority, you're twice as likely to be given these opportunities and take up these opportunities than in the least affluent local authorities. That kind of inequity is not acceptable, and we want to see everyone in the system doing what they can to bring greater equity to the experiences that we offer to children in schools. 

Lovely. Thank you. I want to talk about barriers to accessing outdoor residential education. In your consultation response to Sam Rowlands, you said that children in more affluent areas are twice as likely to access outdoor education—I think that's a reasonable assessment to make. But what we're trying to do, the aim of this Bill, is to make sure that everybody has equal access to outdoor education. The Member in charge of the Bill hasn't put any additional costs in there for clothing, footwear, additional stuff that you might need when you go on outdoor residential education. So, I'm just interested, from your point of view: do you think that this could be a barrier to some people accessing this under the Bill, and do you think this Bill really would mean inclusivity for all? 

Well, we know that cost is probably the most significant factor in children not taking up opportunities that are currently given to them through schools. There are some other reasons, but cost is the biggest reason why children are not engaging with the opportunities that are there. And unless you completely cover the cost of these experiences, you will inevitably always have some who will miss out as a result of that. So, unless things are fully paid for and unless schools have sufficient budget to cover it themselves—and we know how tight budgets are currently—then those children will miss out. Those schools would have to select experiences that do not bring those additional costs along in order that every child can equally access those opportunities. 

Yes, it's interesting, because a number of consultation responses that actually came back to the Member in charge of the Bill said that parents feel a bit of anxiety and children have anxiety because of the costs associated with going away. Do you think the costs and the anxiety of parents and pupils could be detrimental to the uptake, of people taking part in this—the Bill actually delivering what it says on the tin, really?

Absolutely. The cost issues are really significant with these types of experiences, and it means that some go and some don't, and you end up with a 'haves' and 'have nots' scenario, if you're not careful, and we do not want to see that. We want a fairer Wales where there's equity of opportunity, equity of experiences for pupils in schools for what is curriculum activity. And, granted, some schools offer different types of trips that might fall outside of their core curriculum, but when we're talking about curriculum learning experiences and if a residential outdoor experience is part of the curriculum, then every child should be able to go on that trip and cost should not be a barrier to that. 

You just said there about making sure every child goes on the trip. The Bill does say that all children will be able to go, however, we do know from an inquiry we're doing at the moment into disabled children that there is a big issue there with, actually, those children having access to outdoor residential education; and also, children with complex mental health issues, children with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, all those different types of conditions. Do you think that the Bill caters for those people enough, or do you think the Bill needs to go further to actually address some of those matters?


Those are important matters, and, after cost, those are the sorts of other considerations as to why some children may not currently take part in the opportunities that are offered. A lot of this comes down to good local working between schools and families, having good working relationships, and sometimes with other external agencies that are providing support for these pupils. Dealing with anxieties and mental health-related issues, for example, is about schools knowing their pupils well and working well with their families, having good relationships with them, so that they can accommodate every child's needs in that planning stage. So, when you're planning on having an outdoor residential activity, you need to be thinking about, 'Well, who are the learners who would be taking part in this activity, what are their needs, and, therefore, how do we need to consider issues around accessibility and inclusion at that planning stage?' So, if you're choosing a provider for a particular outdoor adventure activity, can they accommodate every pupil's needs, taking into account physical disabilities, for example? If it's around mental health anxieties, what provisions can we put in place to enable those children to take part in that activity, working with that parent, even in the design stage of an activity, rather than a school planning an activity and then discovering further down the road that some children are not going to be able to take part in it.

Thank you, Chair. Sorry, a problem with the sound there. Yes, thank you, Chair. What we've heard in evidence that the committee has seen recently is that the group who are most likely to miss out, as James just said, with outdoor residential activities within schools across Wales, are the group with additional learning needs or disabilities. You say at the planning stage, if they just planned better, that would solve the issues, when we know, actually, it's at that point that they know the cost is going to be so significant if those children do have disabilities that they cancel the trip for everybody—at that point—because, as you just said, budgets are so tight. So, without a Bill like this coming forward, how do you propose that all schools will be able to equally offer the same opportunities across Wales?

I mean, it is a challenge, but schools have a duty, though, to ensure that they provide equal access to the curriculum for pupils. You know, in terms of the planning stage, you just need to select activities that are going to be workable for the group of pupils you're planning to involve in that activity. If there's an entitlement, if there's a legal duty on schools to provide it, then, you know, there will be some funding that will need to support this Bill should it progress to that stage, and that would have to consider the needs of pupils with disabilities as part of that process.

Just quickly, Chair. I mean, where do you propose that money would come from in a tight budget? Would you take away more teachers, or—? Where would that money come from? Because we know there are absolute struggles for the schools at the moment. Estyn's thematic review that just came out, saying there's no evidence that the needs of children with ALN are not being met, quite frankly makes steam come out of my ears. I don't understand how you can't see that, obviously, because of tight budgets and the differences between all the 22 local authorities, there is not equality of access to opportunities like this, that it is different throughout schools. So, don't you agree with me that perhaps a Bill like this would sort that out, and there needs to be a national approach where money comes down to ensure that equality of education? Don't you think that's important?

Absolutely, it is important. Any inequity of access to these sorts of opportunities is not right and needs to be addressed—whether that's around cost or physical or mental health or disabilities, or, indeed, any other factors. And so, you know, a Bill like this, should it progress, there will be funding to support its implementation. There are a wide range of opportunities that you can provide to learners when it comes to residential outdoor education. There are all sorts of different experiences that you can give them, and you need to be judicious in choosing activities that enable all the pupils to participate in those activities. That will, necessarily, vary from one school to another school, and the system will need to ensure that there are no inequities in terms of how it's implemented, should it get to that point.

Some schools have specialist resource bases attached to them. Some schools have several specialist resource bases, and we need to, of course, ensure that all children are included. So, it shouldn't matter whether you're in a mainstream school, whether you're in a special school, a pupil referral unit, or you're educated other than at school. If it's an entitlement, then it should just be that. It should be an entitlement for every child in Wales as part of their education, and I think those that are responsible for implementing this will have to think that through very carefully, should the Bill progress.


I've got one question, actually. The Member in charge of this Bill told us, when he came before us, that he believes this Bill will improve the mental health and well-being of children across Wales. I believe that as well. I think outdoor education is a great way to improve children's mental health and well-being. It's something I always advocate for, and I have my own Bill on mental health going through the Senedd at the minute, which is, hopefully, going to improve children's mental health in Wales. But what I'd like to hear from you is: do you think this proposal from the Member will improve the lives of children across Wales?

That's quite a broad question, I know, but it would be quite good for a point of view.

No, it's fine. It's certainly not a magic wand, is it, in terms of improving the mental health of children and young people in Wales. There are all sorts of challenges that face our children and young people in relation to their mental health, and there are a range of services that are required to support them at school level, and externally from schools as well.

It's true that the reliable evidence around outdoor education does highlight that there are mental health benefits to learning outdoors, and indeed to residentials. I think a lot of the benefits can be realised as part of everyday activities in schools. You often see a lot of outdoor education as part of foundation learning—children from three years up in schools. They spend a lot of their school day outdoors, all through the year, doing all sorts of interesting activities. The older children get, very often, the less time that they spend outdoors as part of their school day. I think it's important that schools consider, right the way through a child's school career, how can they involve some of the learning being outdoors. For example, where can you walk to from your school? How can that teach you about local history or culture or geography? Who are the people that you could go and meet? What learning can you do in your own community? So, I think there is a lot that you can do that is cost neutral—it doesn't need to be residential as well—that will realise those mental health benefits of being outdoors.

Okay. Thank you, James. And now questions from Heledd Fychan. Heledd.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Rydych chi eisoes wedi sôn ynglŷn â’r unedau cyfeirio disgyblion, ac roeddech chi’n sôn ynglŷn â phwysigrwydd, efallai, o ran pawb yn cael cyfle, ond byddai’n rhaid cyllido hynny. Ydych chi’n credu y bydden ni'n colli cyfle i gynnwys rhai o'r dysgwyr yna sydd wedi eu heithrio fwyaf yn narpariaethau’r Bil os nad ydyn ni felly yn gallu eu cynnwys nhw o ran hyn?

Thank you, Chair. You've already mentioned the pupil referral units, and you mentioned the importance of ensuring that everyone has opportunity, but that that would need to be funded. Do you believe that it would be a missed opportunity in including some of those most excluded learners within the Bill's provision if we are unable to include them and to give them this offer?

If you're introducing an entitlement to outdoor residential education, then it should just be that—an entitlement for every child.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Mae hynny'n glir iawn; jest i fi fod yn sicr o'ch tystiolaeth chi. Sut ydych chi’n credu gallai’r Bil hwn fynd i’r afael â natur ad hoc y ddarpariaeth addysg awyr agored bresennol? Ydych chi’n credu fod o’n gyfle, efallai, i greu cynnig safonol, gan y bydd cyfrifoldeb yn dal i fod ar ysgolion i drefnu ymweliadau awyr agored preswyl?

Thank you very much. That's very clear indeed, but I just wanted to be certain of your views. How do you believe this Bill could address the ad hoc nature of the current outdoor education provision? Do you think it's an opportunity to create a standard offer, because there will still be an onus on schools to organise residential outdoor education visits as things stand?


I think I'd probably refer back to something I mentioned earlier around the Curriculum for Wales and the importance of the autonomy of schools in designing their own local curriculum that takes account of the needs and interests of the pupils and the local context in which they're working, and that will invariably result in differing residential activities. And, of course, it depends on the age and stage of development of the child when that activity occurs as well. But many of the benefits of that activity, when it happens, would be similar, whatever the activity, whatever the age and stage of development of the child. What would form the basis of a residential experience in primary school 1 would be quite different to primary school 2. That shouldn't matter; as long as core issues are addressed around accessibility, inclusivity, addressing equity and ensuring those experiences are safe, then the benefits should be fairly similar in terms of the impact on the actual learning for the pupils.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Os caf i jest eich holi chi, yn amlwg, mae yna heriau sylweddol yn wynebu'r sector addysg ar y funud. Gwelsom ni'r canlyniadau PISA yn ddiweddar. Rydym ni'n gwybod bod absenoldebau disgyblion yn parhau'n uchel—hyn ar ben bod recriwtio athrawon yn broblem, a hefyd, wrth gwrs, yr holl ddiwygiadau yn y system addysg ar y funud, wrth inni barhau efo'r cwricwlwm newydd ac anghenion dysgu ychwanegol. Ydych chi'n credu mai hwn yw'r amser iawn i gyflwyno gofynion newydd ar ysgolion, gan gymryd yr holl bethau yma? Ac os felly, pam, neu, os ddim, pam?

Thank you very much. If I could just ask you, clearly, there are significant challenges facing the education sector at the moment. We saw the recent PISA results. We know that pupil absence levels remain high, and this is in addition to recruitment issues for teachers, and also there are numerous reforms currently being implemented in the education system, as we continue with the new curriculum and changes around additional learning needs. So, do you think that this is the right time to introduce new requirements on schools, given all of these significant issues? And if so, why, and, if not, why?

Okay. Thank you. You're right, we're in a challenging time for schools, where there is a lot of reform ongoing and budgets are tight. We feel that in the system, and, through our inspection activity, we are mindful of that as well. I think, in terms of 'Is it the right time? Is it a new requirement?', it's really important to note that the Curriculum for Wales guidance promotes outdoor learning considerably. When you look at the guidance on each of the six areas of learning and experience, you read a lot that promotes outdoor learning. So, under humanities, for example, it says:

'A range of opportunities to learn outdoors to:

'experience and reflect on the wonder of the natural world

'engage with a variety of landscapes, historical and geographical features...

'learn in local natural spaces and historical sites

'conduct enquiries and fieldwork both independently and collaboratively'

and the list goes on. And you can find similar references to visits and outdoor learning in all five of the other areas of learning and experience guidance for schools. So, when you look through that—and I mentioned foundation learning earlier; there's a whole section on outdoor learning in foundation learning as well, as part of that guidance—schools are already guided to be thinking about how are they using the outdoors as a context for learning. So, should this Bill progress, I wouldn't see it as actually bringing in a new requirement as such, other than it makes it a statutory entitlement and schools will have to therefore plan and ensure that it does actually happen during children's school careers. But, actually, in terms of its fit with learning and its fit with the Curriculum for Wales, that would not be an issue for schools. That promotion of outdoor learning is already there.

Thank you, Chair. Yes, utilising outdoor spaces is widely promoted now and developed and used, particularly post pandemic, and we've all seen the benefits from that. Schools actively take part in forest schools, utilising the spaces within the school grounds that they've got, but don't you agree with me that's completely different to a residential outdoor experience?

There's something special about a residential trip and staying away from home, isn't there? That is a unique feature of this. However, I think we need to be careful about the different benefits that staying overnight bring over the activities that you can carry out during the day: the additional costs, the organisational aspects, the fact that you've got to consider teaching staff or other support staff in the school who are then having to be away from their own home, their own family potentially, overnight as part of those trips and so on. Once you stay overnight, it brings in a whole load of additional requirements in terms of organisational planning and so on, and you have to set that alongside what the additional benefits would be for that. 

So, we do know that there are benefits to staying away overnight. I've got four daughters. They've all participated in residentials as part of their school career, and I think they've benefited from those residentials. And so I think there is something about staying away overnight that is special, that is unique, and if it's done in an inclusive way, so that every child can take part, then great. I think there are some significant costs associated with it, and I'm sure that will be one of the challenges in considering whether or not this Bill can progress all the way through.

So, I think, from our perspective, we're keen to highlight the value of using the outdoors as a learning environment as much as possible in any case, irrespective of whether this Bill progresses or not. 


Diolch yn fawr iawn. Wrth inni ddechrau cymryd tystiolaeth wythnos diwethaf, mi oedd rhai o'r swyddogion oedd yn cefnogi'r Aelod cyfrifol sy'n arwain ar y Bil wedi awgrymu efallai, pe bai addysg awyr agored breswyl yn cael ei chynnwys yn y cwricwlwm, gellid ei chynnwys yng nghwmpas arolygiadau Estyn. Eisiau clywed eich barn chi o ran yr awgrymiadau hyn oeddwn i. 

Thank you very much. As we started taking evidence last week, some of the officials supporting the Member in charge leading on the Bill suggested that perhaps, if residential outdoor education was included in the curriculum, it could be included in the scope of Estyn's inspections. I just want to hear your views in terms of those suggestions. 

Okay. Thank you. Clearly, we don't get to observe the residentials taking place. In fact, sometimes we may turn up at a primary school and find that half the children aren't there whilst we're inspecting the school because they're on a residential away from the school. So, we don't get to observe first-hand what happens or form a view on the quality of those particular experiences. But we do talk to schools about them. We do ask them, as part of the discussion about the curriculum, what experiences do they offer to their children, how does that fit in with their curriculum, and, very importantly, we ask them those questions around inclusion, how accessible are the experiences that they offer, are they affordable et cetera. 

So, should this Bill progress, of course, it's part of the statutory requirement of schools. We don't take a regulatory approach to inspections; we don't go in with a tick list and check schools are compliant et cetera. We're interested in the broad quality of teaching and learning in a school, and the quality of the leadership of that. So, yes, we would take it into account when we look at the overall curriculum that's provided, but it would be very difficult, through the actual process of inspection on site, to form a view about the quality of those residential experiences that children might have. And the only way that we could look at those in any kind of detail or depth would be to carry out thematic work, and look at that as a particular piece of focused activity. 

Diolch. Wedyn, yn amlwg, wrth i hwn fynd yn ei flaen, bydd hynny'n rhywbeth y byddwch chi yn ei ystyried felly fel Estyn. Diolch. A gaf i ofyn felly—? Mae'r Bil hefyd yn nodi bod yn rhaid i'r ddarpariaeth gael ei darparu yn y Gymraeg, gyda cafeat o ran cyn belled â'i bod ar gael a phan fo ysgol yn gwneud cais am hynny. Beth ydy'ch asesiad chi o'r argaeledd presennol yn y sector addysg awyr agored? A ydych chi efo barn o ran a oes yna ddigon i ateb y galw posib? 

Thank you. Then, clearly, as this progresses, that will be something that you'll consider therefore as Estyn. Thank you. May I ask therefore—? The Bill also states that provision must be provided in Welsh, with the caveat that as long as it's available and when a school requests it. What is your assessment of the current availability in the sector? Do you have a view on whether there's enough to meet potential demand?  

Thank you. I think promoting the Welsh language is extremely important, and we're all working across the system to the 2050 target currently. We're not best placed to tell you what the range of provision is out there in terms of the—. I presume you're asking questions about things like, 'Are instructors of outdoor adventure activities Welsh speakers?' We're not the people to answer those questions. But, of course, the pupils will be with their own staff during these visits, and ought to be communicating in Welsh through those visits, if they’re in a Welsh-medium school. There are a small number of opportunities where actually the residential opportunities are designed to promote the use of Welsh for pupils who are in English-medium schools. I know that those opportunities are more limited, but they’re valuable. They do exist, and I know that my own daughters, some of them, have participated in some of those opportunities themselves.


Diolch yn fawr iawn. O ran Estyn, pan ydych chi'n mynd mewn i ysgolion, rydych chi'n asesu o ran y defnydd o'r Gymraeg a hyrwyddo'r Gymraeg ym mhob ysgol, felly, ac yn aml yn gwneud awgrymiadau o ran lle mae cryfhau'r defnydd tu hwnt i'r dosbarth, hefyd, o fewn eu gwaith. Felly, byddai'n ddifyr gwybod sut y byddech chi'n asesu hynna. Un o'r cynigion sydd wedi'i amlygu ydy ei bod hi ddim yn ofynnol bod y math yma o brofiadau yn digwydd o fewn Cymru. Oes gennych chi farn ar hynny, yn arbennig o ystyried, efallai, y byddai'n elfen o ran Estyn ac asesu ar lefel thematig, neu edrych mewn i hyn ar lefel thematig? Oes gennych chi farn o gwbl o ran lleoliad hyn, a sut y byddai, efallai, yn effeithio ar rôl Estyn os byddan nhw y tu hwnt i Gymru, hefyd?

Thank you very much. In terms of Estyn, when you do go into schools, you assess the use of the Welsh language and the promotion of the Welsh language in every school, and often make suggestions in terms of strengthening the provision beyond the classroom, as well, in their work. So, it would be interesting to know how you'd assess that. One of the proposals that's become clear is that it's not a requirement that these kinds of experiences happen within Wales. Do you have a view on that, particularly considering the fact that perhaps this would be an element of assessment in terms of assessing on a thematic basis, or looking at this in a thematic way? Do you have a view at all on the location of this and how perhaps it would affect Estyn's role if they were outside Wales?

I think from a financial perspective we try to keep money that’s in Wales in Wales as much as possible, and therefore you’d hope that schools as far as possible would be using providers that are based in Wales. But I think we need to be fairly pragmatic about it, though, as well, and recognise that there may be reasons why some schools will carry out visits and trips that will be outside of Wales, whether that’s in England or even further afield. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you’ve got a clear rationale as to why that is the case, then that’s okay. You’re talking about a very short amount of time within the context of their whole school careers, so going to an adventure activity that’s based in England, for example, is going to have a minimal impact in terms of the development of the use of Welsh.

I think one of the things that we have as a nation is a lot of opportunity for outdoor activities, and we know that there are a lot of English schools that come to Wales for their visits. I think that’s a really good thing, and it’s an opportunity to promote the Welsh language to those who live and have their schooling in England, isn’t it? So I wouldn’t want to see us put an unnecessary barrier in place for schools in that respect.

Diolch am eich ymateb ar hynny. Mae rhai o'r ymatebion i'r ymgynghoriadau wedi sôn am bryderon y byddai'r Bil yn arwain at gynnydd sylweddol mewn cyllid i'r sector addysg awyr agored preswyl, ac y gallai arwain at sefydliadau newydd yn ffurfio i gynnig cyrsiau er mwyn cyflawni dyletswyddi o dan y Bil. Rydych chi wedi bod yn glir o ran beth ydych chi'n credu ydy rôl Estyn, ond ydych chi'n gallu rhoi barn i ni o ran pwy ydych chi'n meddwl y dylai fod yn sicrhau bod darpariaeth ansawdd uchel yn cael ei darparu, ac i ba raddau y dylai buddion addysgol mesuradwy fod yn rhan o'r ddarpariaeth honno?

Thank you for your response to that. Some of the responses to the consultations have raised concerns that the Bill would lead to a significant increase in funding for the residential outdoor education sector, which could lead to new organisations being formed to offer courses to meet duties under the Bill. You've been clear in terms of what you think is the role of Estyn, but can you provide us with a view with regard to who should be ensuring that high-quality provision is being provided, and to what extent should measurable educational benefits form part of that provision?

This largely falls outside of what we're responsible for and can comment on. We have noted that, for example, the number of local authority-run provisions has reduced over a period of many years, and schools are therefore more reliant on either private sector providers or voluntary sector providers for these activities. I guess there is a potential, should this Bill progress, that maybe some local authorities might look at should they reopen or develop some new provision to help their schools meet that requirement, should that be the case. But, really, I don't think it's for us to comment, and I think there will always be a mixed economy in terms of the types of experiences that learners will have as part of these residential outdoor activities, both in terms of where they may stay, in terms of where the actual residential component takes place, and in terms of the actual activities and places that they will visit, things that they will do during the period of time that they're away from the school as well. It's going to cover a range of public, private and third-sector organisations. 


Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dyna'r cyfan gen i, Gadeirydd. 

Thank you very much. That's all from me, Chair. 

Diolch, Heledd. Finally, some questions from Laura Jones. 

Thank you. In your view, who should be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Bill? Thank you. 

First and foremost, it will be part of the curriculum of the school, and, therefore, it will, firstly, be the school's own responsibility to consider how well they are meeting the needs of learners through the provision of those particular experiences. Self-evaluation is really important. It's the starting basis for inspections. We expect schools to evaluate all of the learning that takes place and have their own view on that. I think, beyond that, we obviously have a part to play in this system. Local authorities have a role to play in terms of oversight of some aspects of this work, and there are national bodies as well that also collect information around the use of outdoor residential activities. The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel Cymru, for example, has collected information on the use of those centres. It's their analysis that has shown that inequity, for example, between the most affluent and the least affluent authorities in terms of the current position as to children taking part in these sorts of activities. So, I think there are lots of people who would have a role to play in looking at how well schools are meeting the needs of pupils, should the Bill progress. You can't put that responsibility on any one organisation. 

I would also refer back to what I said at the start—that there are nearly 8,000 studies on outdoor education and only 13 were found to be actually sound and reliable in terms of their study design, methodology and rigour. And it's important to note how challenging it can be to pin any particular impact on just one part of the curriculum that you provide in a school and say, 'Well, it was that learning experience that led to this improvement in a child's communication skills', for example. That can be very challenging. Correlation does not equal causation. You have to be fairly reasonable and pragmatic about what you can deduce from certain types of monitoring activities. I think the voice of pupils is really important in terms of evaluating these kinds of learning experiences. You really want to know what did they feel about it. The voice of families is also important, and also those of professionals. The teachers will be observing and they'll observe changes in behaviours or developments of skills, and those sorts of things can be noted. Again, it partly comes down to the age and stage of development in which the activity is taking place and what the activities themselves are particularly designed to do. So, I think the starting point for monitoring and evaluation would be the schools themselves. 

From what you've just said, what do you think should be measured? And also, do you think there's a risk of placing an additional administrative burden on schools by doing this? 

I hope it wouldn't place any kind of additional administrative burden in that sense, because schools should be self-evaluating. They will be reflecting through the year on the learning experiences, on the development of their children. They're tracking their children's skills and they meet and discuss those through the year. This doesn't change anything in that respect. It's just something else that's part of that journey for that child. At the usual checkpoints and so on, schools will just consider that child's development. So, you wouldn't want to set up an onerous system purely to look at the impact just of that residential per se. You'd expect things like the views of pupils will be captured at the end of it and maybe the views of families, and so on—you know, 'What did you like and what didn't you like?' and 'If we were running this again, what would you do differently?' Everyone's views would be captured as part of that—teachers and so on—as you would do with any of that sort of activity, but you wouldn't want any onerous administrative system around it.

I think, from a national perspective, it creates challenges, because if you introduce a Bill like this, and it will inevitably cost quite a lot to implement, you might want to know, 'Well, we want to be able to report on the benefits that we've seen in Wales as a result of the implementation of the Bill', and I think that will be a real challenge to do that. It would be easier to focus on things like equity and look at participation rates to look at who is not taking up the opportunities, who is not engaging in these, if they become an entitlement, for example. That would be useful information to collect at a national level and consider. But in terms of the actual benefits, that would be really hard to capture unless you had a very well-designed longitudinal study.


Thank you. Would you therefore expect measures to be put in place to track every pupil who has been offered the opportunity, and compliance more generally, then?

That kind of information is already collected to some extent through current systems, but, yes, you may want a slightly more consistent approach to that across Wales should you introduce this, because if it becomes a legal entitlement for every child, then, of course, you need to be able to know whether that entitlement has been delivered for that child during their school career. So, you would have to have some way of capturing that.

Diolch. Thank you, Laura. And thank you very much for coming in this morning for that evidence; we very much appreciate it. It's been very helpful. Diolch yn fawr. You will be sent a transcript in due course just to check for factual accuracy, but just to say a very merry Christmas.

Thank you. Merry Christmas. Nadolig llawen to you all too. Thank you.

6. Papurau i'w nodi
6. Papers to note

We'll now move on to the next item on our agenda, which is papers to note. We have four papers to note; they're set out on the agenda and in the paper pack. Are Members content to note those papers together? I see that everybody is. Thank you very much. So, we will now go into the private session.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:47.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:47.