Helping you understand Welsh law


Section 56 of the Qualifications Wales Act 2015 (the QWA 2015) transferred responsibility for regulating and quality assuring qualifications under Part 5 of the Education Act 1997 from the Welsh Ministers to a newly established body known as Qualifications Wales. Qualifications Wales is now the independent body responsible for regulating all academic or vocational qualifications awarded in Wales, other than a foundation degree, a first degree, or a degree at a higher level. The intention is to strengthen the oversight of qualifications and of the qualification system in Wales. The Welsh Ministers continue to have a duty to keep under review all aspects of the curriculum for maintained schools or maintained nursery schools or maintained nursery schools under section 29 of the Education Act 1997. They also have responsibility for reviewing all aspects of school examinations and assessments except for those leading to the qualifications defined in the QWA 2015 (i.e. those that are the responsibility of Qualifications Wales).

Qualifications Wales is responsible for the effectiveness of the qualification system – and for public confidence in the system. In pursuing this the QWA 2015 sets out a series of matters to which Qualifications Wales must have regard, and confers a number of functions on Qualifications Wales including the recognition of bodies that award qualifications (awarding bodies) and the approval or designation of qualifications. The Act enables Qualifications Wales to work with the Welsh Ministers to prioritise qualifications for approval based on their significance for learners and employers, and gives Qualifications Wales the ability to restrict the number of forms of a priority qualification that may be approved.

Qualifications Wales can place conditions of recognition on awarding bodies and can place conditions on its approval of qualifications provided by awarding bodies (see Part 5 of the QWA 2015). It can therefore regulate both the awarding bodies and the qualifications provided by them. Awarding bodies who do not meet recognition criteria set by Qualifications Wales  will not be able to have forms of qualification approved or designated and those qualifications will not be able to be provided on publicly-funded courses of learning for under 19s (see Part 6 of the Act).

If an awarding body has failed or is likely to fail to comply with either its conditions of recognition as an awarding body, or that it has failed or is likely to fail to comply with the conditions of approval attached to its qualification, Qualifications Wales has powers in Part 7 of the Act to either give directions to secure compliance with conditions or to impose monetary penalties.

Part 8 of the Act provides Qualifications Wales with various powers including the power to provide services in connection with its functions or in relation to qualifications awarded in Wales. It is also required to keep under review its role in the Welsh qualification system and the role of awarding bodies. It must also prepare and publish a statement of its policy in respect of how it will exercise certain functions – see the list of matters in section 47, so that there is clarity about its approach to its work, particularly its regulation role. While carrying out its regulatory activities, Qualifications Wales is also required to have regard to the principle that they should be carried out in a transparent, accountable, proportionate and consistent manner, and targeted only at cases in which action is needed (section 54).

The Schedules set out provisions for the establishment and membership of Qualifications Wales, the transfer of staff from the Welsh Government to Qualifications Wales, make further provision about the recognition of awarding bodies and lastly makes consequential amendments to primary legislation (such as the amendments to Part 5 of the Education Act 1997 to remove the regulatory powers of Welsh Ministers).

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