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Hundreds of jobs created following Canadian IT firm expansion plans

First Minister Carwyn Jones with Michael Roach, President of CGI Group in Montreal earlier this year. Credit: Welsh Government

£3.2 million in business finance from the Welsh Government has secured 620 new jobs at information technology firm CGI in Bridgend. Elsewhere US car exhaust firm Tenneco-Walker is opening its new factory in Merthyr Tydfil today - creating over 220 posts.

CGI is an important employer in south Wales and I am delighted it has committed to continuing to develop its workforce in the region. Today’s announcement is excellent news for the region with 620 new skilled jobs that will yield knock-on benefits for local businesses and the wider community. The Welsh Government has recently awarded CGI anchor company status in recognition of its economic contribution and commitment to on going expansion in Wales. I look forward to continuing to work closely with the company to support its contribution to the Welsh economy.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Carwyn Jones met CGI's president during a visit to Canada in July, when he awarded CGI the status of an anchor company in the Welsh economy. It's been given Skills Growth Wales' largest ever training grant and the statements after the meeting in Canada hinted at further expansion in Wales.

CGI describes its Welsh business as delivering "a range of outsourcing, application services and infrastructure services to clients across the UK" and claims to be the fifth largest independent information technology and business process services firm in the world.

The announcement is being made on the same day the Economy Minister Edwina Hart officially opens Tenneco-Walker's new manufacturing facility in Merthyr Tydfil.

The car parts manufacturing company's investment in this new plant has been supported by the Welsh Government.

It will create 224 jobs and help maintain a further 36 and will complement the company's existing plant in Tredegar.

"Tenneco-Walker's decision to open another factory in the vicinity reflects the productivity, loyalty and calibre of the staff they employ...It is a major vote of confidence in Wales and I am delighted that support from the Welsh Government helped encourage the investment here as other locations were under consideration."

– Edwina Hart, Economy Minister

Education Minister says new PISA target not less ambitious

The Welsh Government has dropped next year's target for Wales to be in the top 20 of international education league tables. The so-called PISA tests compare pupils' skills in reading, maths and science. Wales is outside the top 30 and behind the rest of the UK in all three. The Education Minister says that instead, he wants to see Wales reach average PISA scores by 2021.

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Five-year vision for Welsh education outlined

The Welsh Government has today set out its vision for education for 3 to 19-year-olds from 2015 to 2020.

The 'Qualified for Life' plan aims to develop a strong workforce, an engaging curriculum, internationally respected qualifications, and education leaders working together to improve standards.

The plan contains few new announcements, but rather ties together existing policies, such as the creation of new GCSEs, changes to A-levels and a stronger emphasis on the Welsh Baccalaureate.

The Welsh Government has changed its target for the Pisa rankings - and will introduce an annual 'Wales Education Report Card' from 2015.

Underpinning all of this is the simple aim that every child and young person should benefit from excellent teaching and learning. Today's document sets out where we want to be by 2020 and how we will ensure we get there.

It is a must read for everyone in the sector and will help to realise our ambition of an education system that is the best it can be, and among the best in the world.

– Huw Lewis AM, Education Minister

Welsh Government expected to downgrade Pisa target

The Welsh Government is today expected to downgrade its target for Wales to be in the top 20 of international education league tables by next year.

The so-called Pisa tests compare the performance of 15-year-old pupils around the world in key subjects.

When they were last taken in December 2012, Wales ranked 43rd out of 68 countries for maths, 41st for reading and 36th for science.

The Pisa tests compare the performance of 15-year-olds around the world in key subjects. Credit: PA

Those rankings are all lower than the previous occasion in 2009, and behind both the rest of the UK and the Pisa average.

Former Education Minister Leighton Andrews pledged to reach the top 20 positions when the tests are next taken in December 2015.

His successor Huw Lewis has also stuck by the target, despite slips in performance.

Mr Lewis is today due to set out the Welsh Government's plan to improve the education system over the next five years.

The 'Qualified for Life' plan will focus on building a strong workforce, an engaging curriculum, respected qualifications and effective collaboration.

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NASUWT: Welsh Government 'missing the point'

Wales's largest teachers' union, the NASUWT, says that while it welcomes the end of the 'discredited and flawed banding system,' there are questions over whether investment in the new colour-coding is an effective use of resources.

The new system at least has the merit of allowing all schools to go 'green.' However, the Welsh Government continues to miss the point that what's needed is investment in the school workforce, not back-room bystanders.

The driver for school improvement rests in effective and fair performance management processes and access to professional development, rather than the duplication of the work of the school inspectorate by local authorities and the consortia.

– Rex Phillips, NASUWT Wales organiser

Plaid Cymru: Scrapping banding is 'step in right direction'

Plaid Cymru has described the replacement of the controversial banding system with a new school categorisation model as "a step in the right direction."

This new categorisation system for schools is a step in the right direction, but there is still a need for improvement in measuring and raising education standards.

Plaid Cymru always warned that banding did not provide a whole view of a school’s performance. We believe that pitting schools against each other is destructive and should not happen.

Plaid Cymru has said from the very beginning that the volatility of the banding system would not prove an effective way to raise school standards, and many educational professionals agreed with us. I am glad that the Welsh Government has now seen sense and scrapped the system of banding.

We have always called for support for underperforming schools and hope that the new system will provide this support. The fact that support services are to be provided by the education consortia means that there is work to be done to strengthen the consortia.

– Simon Thomas, Plaid Cymru education spokesperson

Party of Wales Shadow Education Minister Simon Thomas has welcomed the replacing of the banding system with a new way of assessing school standards.

The Mid and West AM said scrapping banding was a step in the right direction as the Welsh education system moves to improve standards.

“It is disappointing that the Education Minister has not allowed for proper scrutiny on this matter by making a statement in the Senedd.

“An incoming Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would have scrapped the banding system after the 2016 election, so I’m glad the present Welsh Government has replaced it now.

“We have always called for support for underperforming schools and hope that the new system will provide this support. The fact that support services are to be provided by the education consortia means that there is work to be done to strengthen the consortia.

“Plaid Cymru is has always been clear that a strong education system is the foundation of a strong economy, and that is why we will always strive for excellence.”

ASCL union: New school ranking system 'promising'

Headteachers' union ASCL Cymru has welcomed the introduction of a new system for ranking schools in Wales to, saying "it has real promise."

It replaces the controversial 'banding' system for secondary schools.

Accountability is important and necessary. But poor accountability helps no one.

This new system has benefited from lengthy discussions and will take account of more of the things that matter. It has real promise. Implementing the model will need care and we will be looking closely at lessons learnt along the way.

The minister and his officials have been listening. He is acting decisively to find a more intelligent way to ensure our schools are accountable and we applaud him for it.

– Robin Hughes, ASCL Cymru General Secretary

New colour-coded school rating system replaces banding

A new school rating system has been outlined by the Welsh Government.

It will replace the controversial banding model for secondary schools.

Primary schools will also be ranked - including the smallest ones.

Schools will be placed into a colour-coded system: green for the best, yellow then amber, and red for those struggling. These ratings will be released each January, starting in 2015 - on the My Local School website.

Primary schools will now be included in school rating system. Credit: PA

Schools will be judged according to key performance measures but with a self-evaluation from schools, on their leadership, teaching and learning, taken into account after analysis from regional advisers.

Banding was heavily criticised by unions and opposition parties as too volatile, with some schools jumping several bands in a year, and crude, based on a small number of data methods.

The data that will be used for ranking secondary schools has not been revealed yet - it is now due in October.

For primary schools, pupils' performance in key subjects at age 7 and age 11 will now be used, alongside attendance rates - and the scores compared with other schools with a similar number of pupils from poorer backgrounds.

The performance data will be taken from over three years, rather than one under banding, in an attempt to stop volatility, and allow fair judgement of smaller primary schools.

Schools will be placed into the colour bands, but not given individual scores, and the system is no longer relative - they could all theoretically climb to the top.

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