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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

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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.

'World class' development pledge for Wales' teachers

Every school in Wales is to be encouraged to give every teacher "world class" professional development throughout their career, following an announcement today by the Education Minister.

Huw Lewis described the move as a "new deal" for teachers. It follows a critical report earlier this year by International think tank, the OECD, which said teacher progression polices in Wales were under-developed.

Welsh Government: 'New deal' for teachers' training

The Welsh Government has announced a 'new deal' for teachers' training and development, and said it will raise the status of the profession.

Teachers will have the opportunity to access high-quality professional learning at every stage of their career that will improve overall performance in the classroom and improve the attainment levels of Welsh learners.

The Education Minister says schools will need to produce plans for how to develop their teachers. Credit: PA

Education Minister Huw Lewis said: “In short, we need a radical step change in how we support the professional development of those working in Welsh education, from initial training onwards."

"From 2015, through the introduction of School Development Plan Regulations, I want to see all schools outlining exactly how they intend to develop their staff to enable them to meet their professional learning goals and address the school’s improvement priorities."

“It’s time to start raising the status of the profession. We need to raise the profile of teaching in Wales and in turn raise the status of teachers, leaders and support staff in our public life. That’s why our new deal is so important."

A recent report by the OECD into the Welsh education system criticised standards of recruitment, development and career progression for teachers here.

I'll look at evidence, not speculation says minister

Education Minister Huw Lewis has defended his "rapid review" of the GCSE English results in January, when some schools' pupils perform significantly worse than expected. He said it will focus specifically on learners and will be based on evidence not reckless speculation. The review will focus on:

  • The teaching of the revised specification for GCSE English Language - the performance of the pupils and how well prepared they were.
  • The support and guidance given to teachers and schools about the changes to the specification.
  • The WJEC’s role in setting the exam, marking it and awarding it.

There is no denying that there are issues which need to be addressed, but the impact is not severe across all schools. It certainly would be premature and reckless to suggest that this is an all Wales problem. The WJEC have compared data from 102 schools that had 20 or more entries for equivalent units in both January 2013 and 2014. There is of course more data to be analysed. However, based on that data we know there is an identifiable issue on some of the units entered by students in 36 of those schools.

16.4% of entries for units at these centres saw an average drop in outcomes of at least one grade. Set against this we have identified 29 schools where on some of the units entered by students there has been an increase of at least half a grade in unit outcomes. 12% of entries for units at these centres saw an average increase in outcomes of at least half a grade. It is important to remember that almost half (48%) of all centre entries were within what would be regarded as the normal variation – on average up or down half a grade.

It is also important to note that these are unit level results not final qualification results – we’ll know those in the summer. I won’t jump to any conclusions. The rapid fact-finding exercise I have ordered will get to the bottom of just how this has happened and what we and the WJEC can do to support learners and centres both for this summer and beyond. What must not happen is reckless speculation and point scoring when the future of young people is at stake.

– Education Minister Huw Lewis AM

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HE Review to report back before the next election

Education Minister Huw Lewis has signalled a major review into how higher education in Wales is funded will report back in 2015. Previously, he said the panel, led by Sir Ian Diamond, needed until 2016 to consider all the issues.

The Minister said the cross-party review will focus on access and long term financial sustainability. Currently Welsh students pay £3500 in fees, with the Welsh Government paying the rest, wherever in the UK they study. But, opponents say only those who stay in Wales should receive support.

Headteacher: PISA skills 'must be aligned to curriculum'

Schools in Wales are being urged to consider extra testing for GCSE pupils to improve our standing in the international league tables.

It comes after Wales performed relatively poorly in recent PISA tests, which compare results across different countries.

Now the Welsh Government Education Minister wants 15-year-olds here to be tested every year - but teachers say the idea is a "distraction".

Huw Lewis: PISA success 'key to Welsh economy'

Education Minister Huw Lewis said youngsters should be equipped with skills that translate to the workplace and life Credit: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Education Minister Huw Lewis has insisted success in PISA tests is key to the future of Wales' economy.

In plenary today, Mr Lewis said: "Andreas Schleicher of the OECD is absolutely correct when he said - 'Your education today is your economy tomorrow'.

"The cost of a low skills base is potentially huge to the Welsh economy. I can't emphasise enough how important it is that we equip our young people with skills that translate to the workplace and life.

"We want to be a highly skilled nation delivering on our jobs and growth agenda. Welsh workers should have the skills employer's value and want; skills for long term employment - a better grasp and understanding of literacy, numeracy, problem solving and reasoning. The skills that PISA assesses.

"I want that message to be heard loud and clear. Schools, parents and teachers need to understand the wider ramifications of PISA.

"It's not testing for testing sake, it's a way of us seeing exactly where we are in the world and whether we are giving our young people the skills to support the economy and skills to find work in the future."

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