Skip to content

Essential Skills Wales

Essential Skills Wales (ESW) is a suite of 3 different skills qualifications.

Qualifications are available from Entry Level 1 through to Level 4 in:

  • Communication
  • Application of Number
  • Information Communication Technology (ICT).

ESW has been implemented in Wales since the 1st September 2010. ESW superseded Key Skills.


At entry level, the nature of the assessment will be determined by the awarding body delivering the qualification. However, the assessment must meet the assessment outcomes.

For levels 1 to 4, the qualifications will be assessed via a portfolio of evidence.

Qualification standards

Each level of the skills incorporates and builds on previous levels, therefore for each skill you can view the individual standards as well as progression grids.

Future of Essential Skills Wales

The Review of Qualifications 14-19 (2012) recommends that ESW qualifications are no longer used within the Welsh Baccalaureate at 14-16 years of age.  

ESW content, structure and assessment will be reviewed through comprehensive stakeholder engagement in 2013 – with new qualifications trialed in 2014.  ICT will be replaced by a new Digital Literacy qualification.

If you have any further queries, please visit the Qualifications Wales website (external link).

Essential Skills Wales Comparability Study on Communication Skills Levels 1 to 3

This report is on the outcome of a study on the comparability of standards across the eight awarding organisations offering the ESW Communication qualifications Levels 1 to 3.

DCELLS Update on Skills Qualifications

Here you will find information of developments and changes relating to various Skills qualifications. You will also find further details regarding the implementation of Essential Skills Wales and what this means for current Key and Basic Skills candidates.

Introduction to Essential Skills Wales

Key Skills and Basic Skills qualifications have been central to our skills’ agenda in Wales in meeting the policy aim of ensuring that everyone masters the skills needed in education, work and life in general. The introduction of Essential Skills Wales (ESW) in September 2010 brings clarity and con ...


The aim of the Communication standards is to encourage candidates to develop and demonstrate their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills for different purposes.

Application of Number

The aim of the Application of Number standards is to encourage candidates to develop and demonstrate their skills in using number to tackle a task, activity or problem by collecting and interpreting information involving numbers, carrying out calculations, interpreting results and presenting findin ...

ICT (Information and Communication Technology)

The aim of the ICT standards is to encourage candidates to develop and demonstrate their skills in using ICT to carry out a task or activity by finding, exploring, exchanging, developing and presenting information.

Transitional arrangements for Key and Basic Skills candidates

Here you will find information about the implementation of Essential Skills Wales (ESW) qualifications on 1st September 2010. These arrangements have been put in place for candidates who will still be registered on K&BS after the 31st of August 2010.

Essential Skills Wales (ESW): question and answer brief

This page contains a question and answer brief document for Essential Skills Wales (ESW) with regards to general and policy queries. The document that can be downloaded on this page also contains contact information for Awarding Bodies.