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Expert: Focus should be on helping low achievers

Independent education consultant Terry Mackie argues that the key theme from today's report from the OECD, and what should now become a focus for the Welsh Government, is the need to improve how schools support low-achieving pupils.

"It is beyond dispute that Wales has not met the diverse learning needs of all students," he said.

Mr Mackie describes the problem as "fixable", and says there needs to be "differentiating" teaching for individual pupils, intervening where they need extra support.

Welsh Government: 'We are heading in right direction'

The Welsh Government says the OECD's report shows that "the direction of travel we've set is the right one" in terms of improving education in Wales.

Education Minister Huw Lewis said he takes on board a number of recommendations - and that the call for a smaller number of long-term objectives is "sound."

I welcome the report's findings and am heartened that we're already doing much of what has been recommended as part of our reform of education standards in Wales. It's good to see that the direction of travel we've set is the right one.

I was particularly encouraged to see the sentence which says - 'Welsh schools are also positive learning environments with good teacher-student relations and classrooms conducive to learning.' That's good news.

I take on board the recommendations which call for improvements to teacher training and Continuing Professional Development. I agree with the need for stronger school to school collaboration; improved school leadership and raising the esteem in which out teachers are held. These are central to our school improvement agenda.

The call for a small number of clear, long-term objectives is sound. I whole heartedly agree that we should have high expectations all of our leaners, regardless of their background, if they are to gain the skills and qualifications they need to succeed in life.

We know the challenges we face in Wales, the report provides no surprises in that regard.

My overall goal for education in Wales is simple. I want to make sure that every child and young person has a world class education and can then go on and compete within the global market. Anything less than this is simply unacceptable.

– Huw Lewis, Education Minister


Review: Welsh Govt 'lacks long-term vision' for schools

An international review has criticised the Welsh Government's handling of the schools system here, saying it "lacks a compelling and long-term vision to steer its reform efforts."

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), which is behind the influential PISA rankings, says that the speed of reforms made in recent years "has been high, sometimes too high", leading to teachers "feeling increasingly overwhelmed".

It calls for a clear, longer-term strategy from the Welsh Government, with a reduced number of priorities.

Around 20% of pupils in Wales were identified as low achievers in the last PISA tests. Credit: PA

Questions are also raised over the new model of regional consortia for driving school progress - with today's report saying "the school improvement infrastructure is underdeveloped and lacks a clear implementation strategy."

The OECD says Wales should focus on the basics - improving teaching standards by raising the status of the profession, and supplying better training - and providing more personalised learning for a high number of low achievers.

It also recommends changes to the controversial secondary school 'banding' system.

The report was commissioned by the Welsh Government in 2012 to assess education standards, and make recommendations for improvement.

Pupils sat the last set of so-called PISA tests in December 2012, and the results were published in December 2013 - with Wales ranked 43rd out of 68 countries for maths, 41st for reading and 36th for science - all lower positions than three years previously.

Read More: PISA rankings show Wales lagging behind rest of UK

60 new jobs created by manufacturers in Port Talbot

Sixty new jobs are being created in Port Talbot, by manufacturers Freundenberg Oil & Gas Technologies.

The company manufactures sealing solutions for the oil and gas industry. Credit: Freundenberg Oil & Gas Technologies

The German company is investing £11m to turn its three sites in Baglan into one larger base, with staff numbers rising from 237 to 297.

The Welsh Government provided £3m in support, says the decision will also safeguard around 90 jobs, and shows the company's commitment to Wales.

NAHT and ASCL unions urge WJEC to waive GCSE English Language resit fees

Unions NAHT Cymru & ASCL Cymru have written a joint letter to WJEC, asking it to waive fees for re-sitting GCSE English Language units this summer.

A Welsh Government review found no evidence to suggest that WJEC did not follow the correct procedures Credit: PA

More: Immediate recommendations after GCSE grade review

"We have to report that our members are extremely dissatisfied with the position that their staff, pupils and parents now find themselves in" said the letter.

"This is a highly unacceptable state of affairs as young people begin to prepare in earnest for the challenges of the array of summer examinations."

The National Union of Teachers says it has also asked WJEC to waive fees to re-sits this summer.


WJEC 'welcomes findings' of Welsh Govt GCSE review

Exam board WJEC says it welcomes the findings of the Welsh Government's review into January's GCSE English Language results, and said the immediate actions identified are being implemented.

WJEC sympathises with candidates and teachers who have been affected by the unexpected outcomes for these January series units, but hope that this review provides the context for these outcomes and that the steps now being put in place will ensure confidence in arrangements for the summer series and for subsequent years.

– Gareth Pierce, WJEC’s Chief Executive

ASCL: Spare parents and schools GCSE re-sit costs

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru says schools and parents should not be charged for English GCSE re-sits after January's poor results.

The immediate concern must be the fact that we have students who have received grades that do not reflect their abilities and which are far below expectation.

Given that schools and teachers have been exonerated, ASCL insists that schools should not have to pay for these re-sits, at great cost to their budgets. It is also unfair for parents to be asked to pay directly for them.

The minister has an opportunity to show leadership and support ASCL’s call that the cost of these re-sits should not be placed upon schools and parents.

– Robin Hughes, ASCL Cymru Secretary

The union added that the new regulator, Qualifications Wales, should consider "whether any grades at all should be given for January entries".

Angela Burns: GCSE review 'little short of a whitewash'

The Shadow Minister for Education in Wales has described a Welsh Government review into January's English GCSE grades as 'little short of a whitewash'.

After a month of waiting for answers, this report fails to adequately explain to students, teachers and lecturers why exam results were so much lower than predicted.

Students, teachers and parents remain in the dark about how many exam papers will be remarked and how their overall grades will be affected.

The Welsh Government must rapidly learn the lessons of this fiasco and consider delaying the introduction of its five other Wales-only GCSEs to prevent any other young people going through this stressful and distressing ordeal.

– Angela Burns AM, Shadow Minister for Education

The review concluded there was 'no one single aspect' that contributed to the lower grades and said there was no evidence to suggest that WJEC did not follow correct procedures.

Read: 'No one single aspect' contributed to 'low' GCSE grades

Read: Immediate recommendations after GCSE grade review

Immediate recommendations after GCSE grade review

Following its review into claims of low January English Language GCSE grades, the Welsh Government has made a number of immediate recommendations.

The review found 'no one single aspect' contributed and that there is 'no evidence to suggest that WJEC did not follow the correct procedures' - but said the recommendations would 'address the concerns of learners, parents and practitioners' and 'help to build confidence' across the system.

Immediate recommendations:

1 Copies or samples of papers must returned to schools as soon as possible so teachers can begin to look at how they have been marked in relation to the marking scheme.

2 WJEC is to extend registration deadline to allow schools to consider in more detail which pupils should be entered for re-sit in June.

3 Further materials should be produced before the Easter break to explain how the mark schemes will be applied to students' work, in order to increase transparency.

4 Training and new exemplar materials should be made available online before the Easter break, including sample papers. Schools should explain to teachers how marks are given and what they need to do to gain these marks.

5 Free additional sessions run by the WJEC before summer exams must ensure that advice given to schools is consistent with that provided in the examiner's report - and across the board.

6 January units need to be on the online review section of the website immediately.

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