29 Dec 2003 01:15 PM

Education and Lifelong Learning Minister, Jane Davidson, today (Monday 29 December 2003) announced that Key Skills Qualifications in Wales will no longer need external tests and that from September 2004 the qualifications will be assessed solely by a portfolio of evidence of candidates ability to apply the skill.

The Minister said: "I have always said that I want to reduce unnecessary assessment burdens when suitable opportunities arise. Key Skills are central to many of our plans for the future of Education and Training in Wales and I would not contemplate making any changes that would undermine their value or rigour.

"The removal of the tests will be accompanied by improvements to the portfolio assessments and the associated quality assurance and I am confident that teachers and other providers will do a thoroughly professional job when assessing candidates’ portfolios.

"Research by ACCAC has shown that the tests do not add value to the Key Skills Qualifications and that they can be a barrier to take up of Key Skills.

"I am pleased that ACCAC will be working with its sister regulatory authorities, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), in England and the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) to strengthen portfolio evidence.

"This is excellent news for key skills. It is excellent news for the Welsh Baccalaureate. It is excellent news for our plans for 14-19 education."

Research carried out by the Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority for Wales (ACCAC), the Welsh Assembly Government’s principle advisors on qualifications issues, has revealed that:

 there is no evidence that the external tests add any rigour to the assessment of the Key Skills Qualifications;

 some centres are no longer implementing Key Skills Qualifications because of what they believe to be an assessment burden;

 some centres are reluctant to implement Key Skills Qualifications until what they consider to be an assessment overload has been addressed;

 practitioners and employers in the work based route consider the tests as a barrier to take-up; and

 many candidates are opposed to the test component and view it as an unnecessary hurdle.

The research also revealed wide ranging agreement that portfolio evidence is the most valid assessment of key skills.

Key Skills are an important part of the Core of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification that is being piloted in schools and colleges throughout Wales. The Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification is also important feature of plans for 14-19 education, set out in "The Learning Country : Learning Pathways, 14-19".


 Key Skills Qualifications in Application of Number, Communication, and Information Technology were introduced from September 2000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the package of reforms to post-16 qualifications that followed the Qualifying for Success consultation in 1997.

 Initially a combined Key Skills Qualification, covering each of these 3 Key Skills was implemented.

 After a review of the Qualifying for Success reforms, following their first year of operation, it was decided that the Application of Number, Communication, and Information Technology should be available individually as free-standing Key Skills Qualifications.

 At present the assessment of the Key Skills Qualifications comprises an external test and a portfolio of evidence to demonstrate candidates’ ability to apply the skills.

 In many cases candidates can be exempted from the test. For instance, if they have recently obtained a good GCSE in English or Welsh, they may be exempted from the test for Communication at level 2.

 ACCAC’s research on the value of the tests in the assessment of Key Skills has fed into a wider review by the regulatory authorities (ACCAC, QCA and CCEA) and forms part of the regulatory authorities’ report.

(29 December 2003)