WALES’ education minister vowed to ensure parity of esteem between vocational and academic routes as he responded to an independent review.

Jeremy Miles gave a statement to the Senedd on Welsh Government plans to reform vocational education and expand the number of made-for-Wales qualifications.

Mr Miles said collaboration is at the heart of the findings of the review – which was led by Sharron Lusher, a former principal of Pembrokeshire College.

The education minister said qualifications will be reviewed to ensure they are fit for purpose, available bilingually, and meet the needs of learners, employers and providers.

The 120-page report, which made 33 recommendations, explored the pros and cons of establishing a national awarding body for vocational qualifications.

But Mr Miles told the chamber: “While I can see the appeal of such a body … when budgets across the board are under such immense pressure, I accept it cannot be the priority.”

The would-be first minister accepted the review’s call for a national strategy for vocational qualifications that is aligned with employers’ skills needs.

Mr Miles also backed a recommendation that Wales does not follow the same approach as England, which introduced T-levels – a technical-based alternative to A-levels – in 2020.

He said all level-three learners will have the opportunity to access work experience, adding that statutory guidance for schools on 14-16 learning will be published.

Janet Finch-Saunders, for the Conservatives, raised concerns about Qualifications Wales’ plans for skill-based VCSEs, which were announced last week, cautioning that schools have neither the capacity nor the funding.

The Aberconwy MS said: “I have serious reservations around the workload for teachers, who will now have to familiarise themselves with new qualifications, and any additional costs on already stretched school budgets.”

Hefin David, who represents Caerphilly, raised his report on transitions to employment, stressing that collaboration between secondary schools and post-16 institutions is vital.

The Labour MS pointed to the NPTC Group of Colleges and Llanidloes High School as an example of collaborative practice, suggesting a pilot project to spread the approach.

Closing the statement on February 6, Mr Miles said a key challenge is removing obstacles in the design of the system that make it harder for schools and colleges to work together.