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Education minister on plan to reform vocational education in Wales

WALES’ education minister vowed to ensure parity of esteem between vocational and academic routes as he responded to an independent review.

Jeremy Miles gave a statement to the Senedd on Welsh Government plans to reform vocational education and expand the number of made-for-Wales qualifications.

Mr Miles said collaboration is at the heart of the findings of the review – which was led by Sharron Lusher, a former principal of Pembrokeshire College.

The education minister said qualifications will be reviewed to ensure they are fit for purpose, available bilingually, and meet the needs of learners, employers and providers.

The 120-page report, which made 33 recommendations, explored the pros and cons of establishing a national awarding body for vocational qualifications.

But Mr Miles told the chamber: “While I can see the appeal of such a body … when budgets across the board are under such immense pressure, I accept it cannot be the priority.”

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The would-be first minister accepted the review’s call for a national strategy for vocational qualifications that is aligned with employers’ skills needs.

Mr Miles also backed a recommendation that Wales does not follow the same approach as England, which introduced T-levels – a technical-based alternative to A-levels – in 2020.

He said all level-three learners will have the opportunity to access work experience, adding that statutory guidance for schools on 14-16 learning will be published.

Janet Finch-Saunders, for the Conservatives, warned that Wales is falling behind the other UK nations as she criticised the Welsh Government’s “cloak-and-dagger” approach.

She raised concerns about Qualifications Wales’ plans for skill-based VCSEs, which were announced last week, cautioning that schools have neither the capacity nor the funding.

The Aberconwy MS said: “I have serious reservations around the workload for teachers, who will now have to familiarise themselves with new qualifications, and any additional costs on already stretched school budgets.”

Mr Miles disputed the “cloak-and-dagger” depiction, pointing out that the report was published in September and he was in the chamber answering MSs’ questions.

The education minister welcomed the VCSEs announcement as an important step towards a more coherent, streamlined and focused offer.