Plans to introduce a Welsh baccalaureate in secondary schools and colleges in Wales next year have attracted the interest of Whitehall, writes Tony Tysome.
According to Jane Davidson, the Welsh Assembly's education and lifelong learning minister, the progress of the baccalaureate's pilot year will be watched closely by Westminster officials and ministers to see if it holds any lessons for the development of a broader post-16 curriculum in England.
Some business leaders who say A-level standards are falling have called for the introduction of a baccalaureate to give students a wider education experience.
Ms Davidson said Welsh devolution had provided an opportunity for Wales to develop a distinctive qualification that could have valuable lessons for the English system. "How you develop a qualification will be different in different parts of the UK. We should be talking to each other to see if things are applicable," she said.
The Welsh baccalaureate is being piloted by 20 schools and colleges, ready for the first students to start in September 2003.
It will embrace existing qualifications including A levels, vocational A levels, GCSEs and key skills. It will add a core curriculum incorporating preparation for work; Welsh language and culture; European awareness; citizenship, health and social awareness; and community activities.
To monitor progress, education experts from the University of Bath will join a development team that will also include members of the International Baccalaureate Organisation, the Welsh colleges organisation Fforwm, and the Welsh Joint Education Committee, which will award the qualification.
Ms Davidson said: "Introducing the baccalaureate is part of our commitment to provide the most appropriate form of education for everyone in Wales. Because we are using existing qualifications within an overarching framework, the baccalaureate can run alongside the present system."