Qualification development

How are qualifications developed in Wales?


The development of qualifications such as GCSEs, A levels, vocational qualifications and the Advanced Skills Baccalaureate Wales is an extensive process that involves many subject stakeholders. This is to ensure they provide learners with an opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills to succeed. 


Welsh Government, Qualifications Wales (QW) and WJEC, all have distinct roles and responsibilities within the development of qualifications in Wales. 



WJEC and qualification development


Managing qualification development


Many people are involved in the development of new qualifications within WJEC, including the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) and the Qualifications Development Management Group (QDMG).


Developing a qualification is not something that can be done in isolation. ELT and QDMG involvement ensures that we have a consistent approach across qualifications, where appropriate, and that any new qualification can be developed efficiently, and can be assessed reliably and accurately.


When a qualification is being developed, the staff directly involved are:

  • an assistant director
  • a qualifications development officer
  • a subject officer
  • a team of subject specialists (usually current teachers) appointed to produce the specification sample assessment materials and resources for teachers and students.


The development process   


The qualifications we develop must meet all relevant regulatory criteria (rules) published by QW. We must ensure we are clear on all aspects of the regulatory criteria which apply to these qualifications.


Our draft materials, including the specification and sample assessment materials, are submitted for review by QW. We make amendments responding to feedback until QW is content to approve the qualification.


We engage closely with QW while they develop the relevant criteria as these define, not only the nature of the assessment (e.g. whether it includes coursework or whether it is assessed by exams only), but also the key topics which have to be covered by the subject content. 


There are rigorous quality assurance checks throughout the qualification development process. We also engage with subject specialists including teachers of existing WJEC qualifications, to ensure our new qualifications meet the needs of students in Wales.


Developing a new qualification: the five stages

Icon for Proposal developed Icon for Rationale and first drafts submitted and reviewed
Proposal developed

WJEC submits a proposal to develop a qualification, which may be responding to an agreed reform programme or to market demand. It outlines the need to develop the qualification and our plans to develop sample assessment materials, teaching guidance, resources and professional learning events.
Rationale, draft specification and Sample Assessment Materials developed

WJEC and subject specialists, including teachers, produce a draft specification and sample assessment materials addressing regulatory criteria from QW. WJEC produce a qualification rationale explaining decisions made and how the qualification will be structured and assessed.

Rationale and first drafts submitted and reviewed

QW staff and their own subject specialists, receive and review our rationale along with the first draft materials.

Feedback and further drafts

WJEC develop an updated set of draft materials to take account of feedback received from QW on the first draft. Further drafts may be developed, if necessary.

Qualifications approved

When QW approves the draft specification and sample assessment materials, we publish them on our website in Welsh and English.

How long does the process take? 


Timescale to develop a qualification   


It typically takes between 18 months to two years, though significant changes, as in the example below, can take longer.  


Because most learning programmes in schools and colleges have a duration of two years, the total time between initial discussions with the regulator until the first awards is typically around four and a half years:

  • about 18 months for qualification development,
  • publication of the approved qualification one year in advance of first teaching and,
  • nearly two years from when students begin their studies to when they take their exams.