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Education Minister: Schools need to act on numeracy

Education Minister Huw Lewis has demanded that schools here show greater urgency to improve standards of numeracy, in line with Welsh Government agenda.

The Welsh Government introduced the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework in 2012, which is designed to get both key areas being taught in other subjects, across the curriculum.

Annual numeracy tests for pupils aged 7 to 14 began in May 2013.

Estyn praised the initiatives, for raising expectations, and says time spent training has increased.

However, the education watchdog says numeracy is still not seen as a priority in a minority of schools - and only half have developed appropriate plans for improving pupils’ numeracy skills across the curriculum.

Huw Lewis said: "we do need to make sure every school pays much more than lip service to these initiatives."

The Education Minister has announced a new national conference for heads of maths at Welsh schools, on 28 January next year, to share best practice and hear from international experts.

Key findings from Estyn report on numeracy standards

Pupils' skills:

  • The majority of pupils in the survey have an appropriate understanding of times-tables, the four rules of number, place value and fractions
  • However, pupils’ numerical reasoning skills are not strong enough
  • Too many pupils lack confidence with division and percentages, impeding their ability to interpret results and solve problems

Schools' provision:

  • Only around half of schools have developed suitable provision for numeracy, although this is an increase on previously
  • Numeracy is still not a high priority in a minority of the schools inspected
  • Teachers often lack sufficient mathematical subject knowledge to plan and deliver effective lessons
  • In a majority of schools visited, teachers are uncertain of what the term ‘numerical reasoning’ means and how it translates into classroom activities
  • In around half of schools planning is still too superficial and does not raise standards
  • The quality of marking numeracy work is not good enough - and the monitoring of numeracy skills remains underdeveloped

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Numeracy skills 'weak' in over half of Welsh schools

Pupils' numeracy skills are still weak in more than half of primary and secondary schools in Wales inspected by Estyn in the last year.

The education watchdog has released the second in a series of three reports on key mathematics skills among 7 to 14-year-old children, and the quality of their teaching.

The education watchdog has criticised the standards of numeracy teaching in Wales. Credit: PA

Estyn has found some pupils struggling with skills like division and percentages - as only around half of schools have suitable provision for numeracy.

The Welsh Government has made it a priority in recent years - with annual testing and the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework designed to get key maths skills into other lessons across the curriculum.

It is pleasing to note the progress made by around half of the schools we inspected. However, it is important to emphasise that there is still a long way to go before schools make a full and consistent impact on improving the standards of pupils' numeracy skills.

There are still too many pupils who lack confidence in key aspects of mathematics, such as division and working with percentages.

Staff need more support to widen their knowledge and understanding of strategies to help pupils to use numeracy across the curriculum.

– Ann Keane, Chief Inspector, Estyn

Welsh Government: Attendance report is 'encouraging'

The Welsh Government has described Estyn's report into school attendance as "encouraging."

It says it has targeted attendance with increased investment, and including attendance within the banding system for rating secondary schools gives parents "a clear picture of how schools are performing."

Estyn's report makes encouraging reading.

In the last two years the Welsh Government has invested £800,000 to support local authorities and schools in securing long-term improvements in school attendance. The inclusion of attendance data in the All Wales Core Data Sets for schools and local authorities is a key source of information for schools to use in self-evaluation and improvement processes.

In addition, we have introduced school banding, helping to give us and parents a clear picture of how our schools are performing. Attendance forms part of the banding process which provides us with a constructive evaluation process to improve school performance.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Welsh government responds to bullying report

“All pupils should be able to carry out their daily school life free from bullying. We encourage schools and local authorities to study the report closely, learn from those schools where best practice was observed and consider how they can implement those recommendations relevant to them”.

– Welsh Government Spokesperson

It says it has issued a series of materials called Respecting Others which give anti-bullying guidance:

"Included in the guidance are five key sections - homophobic bullying; cyberbullying; bullying on the basis of race, culture and religion; sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying; and bullying involving pupils with SEN and disabilities. We are currently in the process of publicising the guidance more widely."

– Welsh Government Spokesperson

Bullying 'still a concern in Welsh schools'

The report says not enough schools record bullying incidents Credit: PA Images

Inspectors say too many pupils suffer from bullying during their school lives.

A report published today by Estyn also says schools have a responsibility to tackle bullying in all forms under the Education Act 2002, but the ways in which schools deal with bullying varies widely.

'Action on bullying', found that even schools with good strategies to address the problem don't have a common understanding of how important it is to focus on groups of pupils with a higher-than-average risk of being bullied.

They include gay, lesbian and transgender pupils, those with a disability and pupils from a minority ethnic background.

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Education Minister: Improvements in writing needed

Wales' Education Minister Huw Lewis says the good standards in English highlighted in Estyn's report are 'encouraging' - but conceded improvements need to be made.

We recognise that improvements need to be made, particularly in relation to standards of writing and the performance of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Estyn's comments about poor quality marking and feedback also need to be addressed. This is not good enough and has to change.

The challenge now is to raise standards across the board by taking on the recommendations in this report and by learning from those schools where best practice is being observed. Our Literacy Programme will help ensure that the encouraging improvements that have been observed continue in the years ahead.

– Huw Lewis, Education Minister

Reading and writing progress 'still too slow' in Wales

The Chief Inspector of Estyn says the rate of progress in reading and writing is 'still too slow' for pupils aged seven to 14 in Wales.

Reading and writing are the key to success in all areas of the curriculum. Despite the improving trend in the standards of English, the rate of progress is still too slow for 7-14 year-olds in Wales to catch-up with other areas of the UK. Inaccuracies in spelling, punctuation and grammar reduce the quality of writing and affect standards.

However, there are schools that have been successful in raising standards in English and I urge others to download the report and follow the lead outlined in the best practice case studies.

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– Ann Keane, Estyn Chief Inspector

Estyn: Concerns remain about English writing standards

Estyn's report has highlighted a continuing weakness in youngsters' spelling, punctuation and grammar - but praised standards overall Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Pupils in Wales aged seven to 14 are continuing to show a weakness when it comes to spelling, grammar and punctuation, according to the education inspectorate Estyn.

In a report published today, Estyn said concerns remain about standards in writing and higher reading and that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds do not achieve as well as their peers.

But the report also found the majority of pupils aged seven to 14 achieve good standards in English overall, with praise for pupils in English lessons speaking clearly during discussions and responding well to a wide variety of texts.

Brecon High School placed in special measures

Brecon High School has been placed in special measures, after the education watchdog judged it had not made enough progress on "important weaknesses" at the school.

Estyn visited the school in February and found continued problems with GCSE results, attendance, marking and management at the school.

Inspectors will now monitor Brecon High every term.

Estyn judged Brecon High School to have made 'insufficient progress' since it was inspected in 2012. Credit: Google Street View

Chair of Governors, Councillor David Meredith, said the school "has already drawn up an action plan to ensure that Estyn’s concerns are addressed as a matter of urgency. The school has had a difficult history in recent years, and I am confident that this is now firmly behind us."

Another Powys secondary school - John Beddoes in Presteigne - was placed in special measures in December 2012, and will soon be closed.

Estyn says that, around Wales, there are currently eight primary schools, eight secondary schools and five pupil referral units in special measures.

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