I have been spending a few days thinking about my next blog and in the meantime I have had the opportunity to do some research into the different educational skills qualifications that exist within the UK. II would like to share one of them with you.
This is what I know about a baccalaureate that includes soft skills & personal effectiveness learning. Let me start by clearing one thing up. People have commented that my blogs may be blinkered and only talk about skills learning at the expense of academic learning. This is not true, in fact I think that academic learning is very important as young people need technical skills and knowledge for specific careers. Some young people may need more of a focus on soft skills based on their own personal learning circumstances. My focus however is on promoting soft skills to be taught as part of a balanced curriculum for the ALL young people.
This brings me to the Welsh Baccalaureate (WB) for first teaching in 2015. I am sure that all Welsh teaching colleagues will know and be working towards this as I write. The more I think about it, the more I think that the WB is a really creative and progressive move to cater for the needs of ALL learners, employers and further/higher education providers.
This is why the Welsh Government wanted to make the change; “We are building a qualifications system that helps prepare young people for further learning and the world of work by developing and testing the knowledge, skills and qualities higher education institutions and employers want.” The key thing here is that the Welsh Government wanted young people to achieve the ‘skills and qualities needed’; therefore academic and skills based! The qualification is at three levels to cover Key Stage 4 and Post 16.
For the purpose of this blog; can we agree that young people need soft skills? If we can, then the WB is designed to strike a balance between the need for an academic education and the need for skills learning (see diagram). The WB gives the opportunity for all students to gain English, Maths and 3 other qualifications of a vocational or more academic nature. This would suit the needs of ALL learners. We then move on to the Skills Challenge Certificate. This is a significant part of the WB that creates the opportunity for skills based learning on the 4 areas as can be seen in the diagram. These areas are based around “applying skills learning to real world scenarios” (Welsh Government, 2014) via a plan, do, review process:
- Digital Literacy
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Planning and Organisation
- Creativity and Innovation
- Personal Effectiveness
What makes very interesting reading is the idea of ‘personal effectiveness’ which is a qualification provided by ASDAN recently branded as ‘worthless’ by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan. She has even suggested that she would ‘make it illegal for any school to use public funds to carry on with a qualification about Personal Effectiveness’. I find this very sad for all the young people in England. They will not even be allowed to have the choice of studying a valuable qualification like this.
The WB is also recognised by universities in the UK and this quote further adds fuel to the argument that the Education secretary is not listening; “The WB will develop and assess the skills that universities tell us young people need for learning, work and life” (Welsh Government, 2014).
I hope you can see therefore that this works well for young people?
One final thought; and I don’t mind admitting to the promoting of a certain awarding body with a charitable status. If learners have to develop these skills then there are programmes that could be used in Key Stage 3 to prepare them. There are Welsh schools using ‘The Key Steps Award’ provided by ASDAN which offers national accreditation for lower level learning but follows the same plan, do and review process around the same key areas as the WB. Schools have identified this as a great building block towards the new WB.
This is therefore what I believe makes a good blueprint for how skills and academic learning can work together. I would like to see a future Education Secretary be a bit more creative and allow soft skills/personal effectiveness qualifications that cater for the needs of ALL learners, employers and further/higher education.