STANDARDISED testing continues to leave pupils and schools distressed, according to a national survey of teachers in Wales.
The research, conducted by NUT Cymru, shows that after four years, the literacy and numeracy tests are even more divisive than ever.
Some teachers have even expressed the view that they are considering leaving the profession rather than continue to subject pupils to the testing regime.
As a result of the survey’s findings, the NUT has again called for a review of the system, which it claims is undermining the impact of the Foundation Phase and hindering children’s emotional and educational progress.
The union says some teachers are questioning their long-term commitment to the profession, with one survey respondent stating: “I want to hang my head in shame for what I’m doing to the mental health of the children in my care. I’m ashamed of being a part of a system where all the encouragement of the past year is wiped away by a cross on a scale which says they aren’t good enough. I have seriously considered leaving teaching rather than be part of this testing regime again.”
In 2012, 33% of teachers said they received contact from parents in relation to the assessments and that these were almost exclusively negative. This year’s results showed that the figure was now 56% with the majority stating it remained negative or mixed at best.
NUT Cymru Secretary, David Evans, said: “Once again we see an alarming level of anger and frustration from teachers when asked about the impact of these tests on pupils and on their working conditions.
“The headline figures are extremely worrying but what is particularly worth highlighting is the fact there is a rising level of opposition to the testing. Far from being convinced by standardised testing, the profession is becoming increasingly disillusioned with the policy.
“Perhaps the most depressing evidence is the anecdotal feedback from teachers in regards to the impact those tests have on their pupils. Children are being left demoralised, in tears and with low self-esteem. This is not the outcome any teacher or parent wants to see and it is certainly one of the reasons cited by teachers for considering leaving the profession.
“There is a new Cabinet Secretary in place at the Welsh Government. These tests are not her policy. We have written to Kirsty Williams with the details of this survey and hope a fresh pair of eyes can lead to a new way of thinking, in particular for the very youngest children and in light of the Donaldson recommendations around a less intrusive approach to assessment.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We believe the best way to ensure children make regular progress is to make sure they never fall behind and that this can only be achieved through careful monitoring and assessment of their progress. The national reading and numeracy tests were introduced so that practitioners could gain a clearer picture of pupils’ reading and numeracy skills and use that information to support their progression.
“Our guidance is very clear that there should be no undue preparation for the tests and that all schools are expected to maintain a broad and balanced curriculum throughout the school year. While familiarising children with the format of the tests is good practice, drilling children is never acceptable because it will almost certainly generate feelings of negativity.
“We have taken a number of steps to minimise the impact of the tests on schools’ workloads. Through the Education Improvement Grant, we provide funding to schools which allows them to bring in invigilators, markers or clerical help. We also provide a supported marking service for the Numerical Reasoning tests which we know from feedback is highly valued by practitioners.
“Professor Donaldson’s report ‘Successful Futures’ makes clear that testing is an important element in the range of assessment techniques available to schools but that improvements can be made. Our move to online adaptive tests in 2018 will deliver this.”
While the union reports that 97.5% of respondents did not believe the tests were a positive experience for pupils (up 4% from the original 2013 survey and overall 86% of teachers felt the tests had added to their workloads), the proportion of teachers in Wales who provided responses was very low indeed.
There are around 25,000 teachers in Wales. Even taking into account that not all of those teachers are members of the NUT, a figure of 287 respondents is a very small sample upon which to base definitive conclusions.
Swansea University appoints new Chancellor
PROFESSOR Dame Jean Thomas is an Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, immediate past Master of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and current President of the Royal Society of Biology.
Professor Thomas carried out her first duty as Chancellor this week, when she presented degree awards to graduates on Monday, during Swansea University’s winter degree ceremonies (Jan 8-10) to be held at the Great Hall at the University’s Bay Campus.
Professor Thomas is an alumna of Swansea University (then known as University College Swansea, University of Wales). In 1964, she graduated with a First Class BSc in Chemistry, and in 1967, she was awarded a PhD in Chemistry.
She immediately took up a Beit Memorial Research Fellowship at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and two years later joined the academic staff of the Biochemistry Department, University of Cambridge, where she has worked ever since and become Professor of Macromolecular Biochemistry in 1991.
In 2007, she was elected as the 38th Master of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and served for 10 years –the first (and still only) female Master since the College was founded in 1473.
She has received numerous awards and honours throughout her career, and has served on many national bodies. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society, elected in 1986, of the Academy of Medical Sciences and of the Learned Society of Wales; and a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and of the Academia Europaea.
She holds honorary degrees and fellowships from several Universities and Colleges, including an Honorary Fellowship from Swansea University, awarded in 1987.
She served as Biological Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society for five years from 2008, as a Governor of the Wellcome Trust for seven years from 2000 and as a Trustee of the British Museum for 10 years from 1994, and has also served, inter alia, on the Councils of SERC and then EPSRC. She is currently President of the Royal Society of Biology (and previously President of the Biochemical Society), a Trustee of the Wolfson Foundation and a member of the Scientific Advisory Council for Wales.
She became a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1993 for services to Science, and in 2005 a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to Biochemistry.
Speaking of Professor Thomas’ appointment, Swansea University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard B. Davies said: “We are extremely honoured to welcome Professor Dame Jean Thomas as our new Chancellor. Professor Thomas’ academic reputation precedes her; her career has been exemplary, and inspiring.
“Swansea University continues to grow and develop, in terms of its high-quality facilities and in terms of its reputation as an internationally-renowned research-led university.
“As we approach our centenary, in 2020, and commence the next stage of the University’s development, Professor Thomas is ideally placed to reflect our values of academic excellence innovation, and great ambition.”
On her appointment as Chancellor, Professor Dame Jean Thomas said: “When I first graduated from Swansea University many years ago, I could not have imagined that one day I would have the honour of serving as its Chancellor. The University continues to achieve and expand, and I am very much looking forward to being part of this exciting ambition as we move towards the Centenary in 2020.”
Professor Dame Jean Thomas succeeds the late Rhodri Morgan, First Minister of Wales, who was Chancellor of Swansea University between 2011 and 2017.
Aber hosts Festival of Law and Criminology
THE LEGAL implications of driverless cars, and can kids as young as 10 really tell the difference between ‘criminal’ and ‘naughty’ behaviour will be two of the many themes discussed at the inaugural Festival of Law and Criminology at Aberystwyth University.
Organised by Aberystwyth Law School staff, the one-day event takes place at Aberystwyth Arts Centre Cinema on Friday, January 19 between 10am and 5pm.
Also on the agenda will be abuse of the elderly, the future constitutional status of Wales, the politics of Higher Education, and how lawyers can be poets and songsmiths.
Described as ‘art in progress’ and a day of serious, fun, controversial, inspiring or unusual talks and conversations, musical and poetic interludes and other ‘happenings’, the event will also feature an irreverent stroll through the history of the Department.
The morning programme concludes with ‘Tell us something we don’t already know about Law and Criminology’, a panel show organised by Aberystwyth Law School students.
Entry is free and open to everyone.
“The Festival celebrates the people and work – past, present and future – of Law and Criminology at Aberystwyth University,” says organiser Dr Uta Kohl, Director of Postgraduate Studies at Aberystwyth Law School.
“We are delighted that Lord Elystan Morgan, Dyfed Powys Police & Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, Assembly Member Mark Isherwood, Wales Online’s Paul Rowland and long standing friend and supporter Dr Tim Brain, former Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary will be joining colleagues from the Department for a varied day that should be informative and entertaining in equal measure, and offer something of interest to everyone, be they students, staff, alumni or members of the local community. All are welcome.”
In a 30 minute address Aberystwyth University law graduate and member of the House of Lords, Lord Elystan Morgan, will ask whether Wales’ future status in a devolved UK should be that of a Dominion.
Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, a lecturer at the Department until his election in May 2016, will be interviewed by criminology lecturer Dr Kathy Hampson on the criminality of children – ‘Keeping Kids out of Trouble’.
The afternoon session opens with Paul Rowland, editor of WalesOnline and editor-in-chief of Media Wales, discussing ‘The Politics of Higher Education’ with Aber alumnus and Conservative Assembly Member for North Wales Mark Isherwood.
And the penultimate session of the day will see Aberystwyth graduate and former Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary, Dr Tim Brain, discuss ‘Policing by Consent – Myth and Reality’.
Becoming a teacher
TO TEACH in a Welsh state school, you must have a degree, and gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) by following a programme of Initial Teacher Training (ITT).
All teachers in Wales are also required to register with the Education Workforce Council (EWC).
In Wales, most training programmes are university or college-based, and you have a choice of programmes delivered in English or Welsh. QTS awarded by the Education Workforce Council in Wales is automatically recognised in England.
UCAS Teacher Training is the scheme to use to apply for the main postgraduate routes leading to QTS. If you don’t already hold a degree, you can apply via UCAS Undergraduate for teacher training programmes, to graduate with QTS.
Some more specialised teaching routes – including the Welsh Graduate Teacher Programme and Teach First – are not managed by UCAS and have a different application process. These training options offer different routes to gain QTS, depending on your professional or academic background.
University-led PGCE or PGDE
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) training programmes are available for prospective primary and secondary school teachers. You’ll get classroom experience by spending time teaching and being trained in at least two schools, as well as time at the university or college you’ve chosen, working with a group of other students and being taught by university staff.
Typically a one year programme, students must complete a minimum of 120 days in a school, among blocks of study at their chosen training provider. Spaces on popular teacher training programmes fill up quickly. Places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so apply early.
Graduate Teacher Programme
For prospective primary and secondary teachers wishing to study for their Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in Wales, the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) is an employment-based route into teaching which offers a way to qualify as a teacher while you work. Programmes typically last for one year and require students to pass a newly qualified teaching year.
The GTP is very similar to School Direct (salaried) programmes in England, but is managed and delivered by the three regional teacher training centres in Wales:
- North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education
- South West Wales Centre of Teacher Education
- South East Wales Centre for Teacher Education
There are a limited number of primary and secondary places available on the GTP in Wales each year. Applications are made directly to the regional teacher training centres. For more information, see Discover Teaching in Wales.
Teach First: Leadership Development Programme
This option combines leadership development and teacher training, giving applicants the chance to become an inspirational leader in classrooms that need it the most. It is a two year salaried programme leading to a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) qualification. Following five weeks of intensive training, you’ll continue to learn on the job while you work towards QTS.
Bachelor of Education (BEd) degrees
Bachelor of Education (BEd) teacher training programmes are an undergraduate route for those who would like to follow a career in teaching, and graduate with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). BEd programmes typically last three years, and are a popular route for prospective primary school teachers. Some providers do offer secondary-level BEd programmes for specific specialisms.
Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc) with QTS
Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) are popular with prospective secondary school teachers, and focus on developing specialist subject knowledge required to teach. Not a common route for those wanting to study for primary teacher training programmes, most providers only offer BA and BSc with QTS for secondary teaching.
Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE): Introduction to Secondary Teaching
This Wales-only training route is for prospective secondary teachers who may not have any formal academic qualifications, but do have a passion for maths, science, or design technology. This route gives you the chance to earn the credits needed to meet the entry requirements for BSc (Hons) degree programmes, enabling you to work towards QTS in three years.
Full-time undergraduate and postgraduate Initial ITE courses attract funding in the same way as other undergraduate degree programmes.
This means full-time students will be able to apply for student finance for fees and living costs in the same way as undergraduates on any other higher-education course.
In addition, the Welsh Government offers incentives for top graduates to train to teach in designated subjects, particularly sciences, modern languages, Welsh, and ICT.
Eligible students who are ordinarily resident in Wales and started full-time postgraduate ITE courses in the current academic year could also get a Fee Grant of up to £4,954.
Grants are also available, depending on the subject studied, for eligible ITE students undertaking full-time, pre-service PGCE PCET/FE courses.
Student teachers starting postgraduate secondary ITE courses and training through the medium of Welsh may be able to get the Welsh Medium Improvement Scheme grant. This is aimed at student teachers who need extra support to raise confidence in their ability to teach effectively in Welsh.
Student teachers on some employment-based teacher education courses will be paid a salary by their school. This will be at least equal to the minimum point on the unqualified teacher pay scale, but their school may choose to pay more.
Information on employment-based routes in Wales can be found under the ‘Employment-based routes’ section of the Teacher Education and Training in Wales website at http://bit.ly/1fFu5Ap
Students can also attend School-centred Initial Teacher Training courses in England if they have been designated to receive funding by the Welsh Government.
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