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United-Kingdom-Wales:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

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Overview United Kingdom (Wales)

Contents

United-Kingdom-Wales:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

United-Kingdom-Wales:Historical Development

United-Kingdom-Wales:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

United-Kingdom-Wales:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

United-Kingdom-Wales:Political and Economic Situation

United-Kingdom-Wales:Organisation and Governance

United-Kingdom-Wales:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

United-Kingdom-Wales:Lifelong Learning Strategy

United-Kingdom-Wales:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

United-Kingdom-Wales:Organisation of Private Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:National Qualifications Framework

United-Kingdom-Wales:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

United-Kingdom-Wales:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

United-Kingdom-Wales:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

United-Kingdom-Wales:Funding in Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

United-Kingdom-Wales:Higher Education Funding

United-Kingdom-Wales:Adult Education and Training Funding

United-Kingdom-Wales:Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-Wales:Organisation of Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-Wales:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-Wales:Assessment in Programmes for Children over 2-3 years

United-Kingdom-Wales:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-Wales:Primary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Organisation of Primary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Teaching and Learning in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Assessment in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Primary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Organisation of General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Teaching and Learning in General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Assessment in General Lower Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Organisation of General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Teaching and Learning in General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Assessment in General Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Organisation of Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Teaching and Learning in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Assessment in Vocational Upper Secondary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Types of Higher Education Institutions

United-Kingdom-Wales:First Cycle Programmes

United-Kingdom-Wales:Bachelor

United-Kingdom-Wales:Short-Cycle Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Second Cycle Programmes

United-Kingdom-Wales:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

United-Kingdom-Wales:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

United-Kingdom-Wales:Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Wales:Distribution of Responsibilities

United-Kingdom-Wales:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

United-Kingdom-Wales:Main Providers

United-Kingdom-Wales:Main Types of Provision

United-Kingdom-Wales:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

United-Kingdom-Wales:Teachers and Education Staff

United-Kingdom-Wales:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Wales:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Wales:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Wales:Management and Other Education Staff

United-Kingdom-Wales:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

United-Kingdom-Wales:Management Staff for Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Wales:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Wales:Quality Assurance

United-Kingdom-Wales:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Wales:Educational Support and Guidance

United-Kingdom-Wales:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Wales:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

United-Kingdom-Wales:Mobility and Internationalisation

United-Kingdom-Wales:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Mobility in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Wales:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

United-Kingdom-Wales:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

United-Kingdom-Wales:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

United-Kingdom-Wales:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

United-Kingdom-Wales:National Reforms in School Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

United-Kingdom-Wales:National Reforms in Higher Education

United-Kingdom-Wales:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

United-Kingdom-Wales:European Perspective

United-Kingdom-Wales:Legislation

United-Kingdom-Wales:Glossary

This chapter covers the organisation and structure of educational provision for young people aged 11 to 18/19 years.

For the purpose of this description, secondary education is divided into:

In terms of ISCED (International Standard Classification of Education) categorisation, lower secondary (ISCED 2) refers to 11- to 14-year-olds and upper secondary (ISCED 3) refers to 14- to 18/19-year-olds.

There are no programmes categorised as post-secondary, non-tertiary education (ISCED 4) in Wales.

Structure of general lower secondary education

The general lower secondary education articles describe compulsory full-time education for pupils aged 11 to 16.


Types of school

Children usually transfer to compulsory secondary education at age 11, from a local primary school, and most attend a local, publicly funded secondary school.

Publicly funded schools in Wales are known as maintained schools as they are fully funded (i.e. maintained) by the local authority. Different types of maintained secondary schools provide this phase of education. The differences reflect different legal frameworks and governance rather than different study pathways for students. Unlike in England, there are no academies in Wales. Further information about the different categories of maintained secondary school is provided in the article on ‘Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level’. All schools enjoy a high level of autonomy.

All or nearly all secondary schools are comprehensive schools, that is, they are not academically selective, and most are mixed sex. Some schools, commonly referred to as faith schools, are designated as having a religious character.

Students aged 11-16 not attending maintained secondary schools may attend fee-paying independent schools. Parents may also choose to educate their children at home.

Of a total of 1,640 schools in Wales in January 2016, 1,574 were maintained schools. 205 of these maintained schools were maintained secondary schools. (There were seven maintained middle schools in addition, catering for children aged 8/9 to 12/13.) 

Maintained secondary schools can be English-medium, Welsh-medium or bilingual schools. Of the 205 maintained secondary schools in Wales in 2016, 49 were Welsh-medium or bilingual schools.

 

Curriculum and assessment

The National Curriculum (Curriculum for Wales) is statutory in compulsory secondary education.

Under the Education Act 2002, the National Curriculum is divided into key stages, of which the following two are taught at secondary school:

  • Key Stage 3 (KS3) for pupils aged 11 to 14 (secondary, ISCED 2)
  • Key Stage 4 (KS4) for pupils aged 14 to 16 (secondary, ISCED 3).

 In Key Stage 4, pupils also work towards external qualifications, most commonly the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) single-subject qualifications. Under the Qualifications Wales Act 2015, schools may offer any qualifications approved for teaching to the particular age group, but only certain qualifications and combinations of qualifications are recognised in the National School Categorisation System. This, along with the statutory requirements for the curriculum and assessment, is an important influence on the curriculum and study programmes offered by schools.

There is no distinct vocational branch in compulsory secondary education, but the ‘Learning Pathways Framework’ for 14- to 19-year-olds (introduced in 2010 by the Learning and Skills (Wales) Measure 2009) aims to ensure that young people aged 14+ have access to a range of subject choices / study programmes to meet their individual needs. These may include vocational courses and qualifications.


Structure of general and vocational upper secondary education 

Young people aged 16 to 18/19 are not required by law to be in education. They may choose at this stage to continue their education at school, transfer to a further education college, join the workforce and/or follow a government-supported vocational training and work programme such as an apprenticeship or traineeship.

 

Study programmes

Under the ‘Learning Pathways Framework’ for 14- to 19-year-olds, young people aged 16-18/19 have access to a wide range of study options. The Welsh Government funds programmes in 12 sector subject areas and a general education programme.

Students electing to follow a programme of post-compulsory, full-time general, academic education usually take GCE A Levels which are most often offered in school sixth forms. Vocational programmes are usually offered in further education (FE) colleges. In practice, however, it is possible to combine elements of both general and vocational routes in both schools and FE colleges. This depends on the limitations of an institution’s provision. Further education colleges usually offer a range of full-time general academic programmes, similar to those available in schools, as well as a wider range of vocational programmes. 

Although most post-16 programmes in schools and further education colleges are intended to be of a maximum two years’ duration, the funding framework applies up to age 19. For this reason, the age range 16–18/19 is adopted throughout this description.

The articles on ‘Teaching and Learning’ and ‘Assessment’ in General Upper Secondary Education explain the general academic GCE A Level ‘pathway’ and more about the Learning Pathways framework, while the articles on ‘Vocational Upper Secondary Education’ provide information about vocational courses in the context of the Learning Pathways.


Legal framework 

Although the age groups they cater for and the programmes they provide overlap, schools and further education colleges operate under different legal frameworks, described below. In addition, although overall responsibility for the education service in Wales rests with the Welsh Government, much of the legal framework for education is shared with England, reflecting a common history.

 

Schools

There is no single framework Act for secondary education and most legislation for schools applies to both primary and secondary schools.

The following brief list of Acts of Parliament covers key aspects of school structures, curriculum and assessment. For a fuller list, see the Legislation chapter.

  • The Education Act 1996: This consolidation Act repealed and re-enacted schools legislation from the Education Act 1944 onwards. In terms of compulsory education, it specifies that, up to the age of 16, parents are responsible for ensuring that their child receives ‘efficient full-time education suitable to’ his / her ‘age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise’. The Act also provides a definition of secondary education.
  • The Education Reform Act (ERA) 1988: This introduced a National Curriculum for Wales with the aim of giving pupils an entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum, and with a view to setting standards for pupil attainment and to support school accountability.
  • The Education Act 2002: This re-enacted the curriculum requirements of the ERA; introduced a modernised framework for teachers’ pay and conditions, appraisal, qualifications and provision about misconduct; and introduced new arrangements for school governance along with a new regulatory regime for independent (privately-funded) schools.
  • The School Standards and Framework Act 1998: This established a new system for the categorisation of maintained schools as community, voluntary (aided or controlled), or foundation schools. It also placed local authorities under a duty to promote high standards of education, extended their power to intervene in failing schools, and set out their duties in relation to the provision of childcare and nursery education.

 

Further education colleges

Most further education colleges are statutory corporations set up under the Further and Higher Education Act (FHEA) 1992. This took further education institutions out of local authority control and is the principal piece of legislation governing further education in England and Wales.

The core of the legislative framework set out in the FHEA 1992 remains in place. In addition:

  • The Further Education and Training Act 2007 gave the National Assembly for Wales the power to make measures in the field of further education and training.
  • The Learning and Skills (Wales) Measure 2009 provided the legal framework for the Learning Pathways programme and aimed to ensure that young people have access to a wide choice of study pathways suited to their individual needs.
  • The Education (Wales) Measure 2011 made provision for collaboration between local authorities, governing bodies of maintained schools and further education institutions to ensure effective and efficient provision for young people up to the age of 19.

Note: Where post-compulsory, post-16 education in Wales is provided full-time in the sixth form of a school, it is considered to be secondary education and is subject to schools regulations.  

More detailed information on the legal framework for particular aspects of education is provided in the various articles within this chapter.

Note on devolution: The National Assembly for Wales has the power to legislate in devolved areas of responsibility, including nearly all aspects of education and skills. This responsibility was devolved by the Government of Wales Act 1998 and subsequent legislation. Since devolution, education policy has been developed to meet Welsh needs and priorities. Subject to approval by the UK Parliament, the 2016 Wales Bill will set out the next steps for devolution. It is proposed that this includes the transfer of control of teachers’ pay and conditions to the National Assembly. This is currently a matter for the School Teachers’ Review Body for England and Wales. Further information on devolution and the legislative framework in Wales is provided in the article on the ‘Main Executive and Legislative Bodies’.


Main national policy aims and general objectives 

The long-term aims, vision and objectives for education of the fifth National Assembly for Wales, elected in May 2016, are guided by the Welsh Government’s overarching education improvement plan – Qualified for Life. Focused on providing an education system in which all learners benefit from excellent teaching and learning, the four strategic objectives of Qualified for Life prioritise: 

  • support and development for the education workforce
  • an engaging curriculum for all children and young people, which develops an independent ability to apply knowledge and skills
  • a system of qualifications that are credible and relevant for future learning and employment
  • a self-improving education system in which leaders at all levels work together to provide mutual support and challenge to raise standards in all schools.

In formulating the plan, the Welsh Government took account, in particular, of Wales’ underperformance in the PISA 2012 international survey of educational achievement; the 2014 OECD review of education in Wales; and the 2013 Hill report on the education system.

 

Policy aims and general objectives for 11- to 16-year-olds

In compulsory secondary education (for 11- to 16-year-olds), as in the primary phase, there is a focus on raising levels of achievement by improving the fundamental ‘building blocks’ of education through the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework and associated National Reading and Numeracy Tests for 5- to 14-year-olds; through strengthened programmes of study in English, Welsh and mathematics; and through the strategic action plan aimed at raising standards of literacy and numeracy.

It is intended that achievement will be further supported and improved by the introduction of a new ‘curriculum for Wales’ for children and young people aged 3-16, to be available for use from September 2018. Based on the recommendations of the Donaldson report (Successful Futures), published in February 2015, the new curriculum will see literacy, numeracy and digital competence taught as cross-curricular subjects. The design and development of the new curriculum is being facilitated by a network of ‘pioneer schools’. Drawn from across Wales and representing a range of different schools, these schools embody the vision for a self-improving education system in Wales, working with other schools, across Wales’ four regional education consortia, with Welsh Government and with wider stakeholders. 

 

Policy aims and general objectives for 16- to 18/19-year-olds

For young people aged 16 to 18/19, the impetus is on ensuring that young people have access to high quality courses and qualifications, which will enable them to move on from education with the skills, knowledge and qualifications they need for further study or employment. Under the ‘Learning Pathways Programme’ for 14- to 19-year-olds, for example, the Welsh Government now funds a range of learning programmes for 16- to 19-year-olds. These include 12 programmes in sector subject areas such as engineering and manufacturing technologies; health, public services and care; arts, media and publishing; and science and mathematics, as well as general academic programmes leading to qualifications such as GCE A Levels.

 

Policy for Welsh-medium education

To support the vision of a bilingual Wales and the Welsh Language Strategy, the Welsh Government has also developed a Welsh-medium Education Strategy. This sets out the Government’s ambition for a country where Welsh-medium education and training are integral parts of the education infrastructure and for an education system that makes it possible for more learners of all ages to acquire a wider range of language skills in Welsh. Under the strategy, there is a particular aim to ensure more high quality opportunities to study or train through the medium of Welsh under the 14-19 Learning Pathways.

 

Article last reviewed January 2017.