AFTER last week’s PISA results, those responsible for delivering children’s education have spoken out about what the results do and do not mean.
Rob Williams, Director of Policy for NAHT Cymru, the school leaders’ union for Wales, said:
“The publication of the PISA results is often a time to look at how the Welsh education is performing compared to other countries.
“However, it is important to look beyond the league table if we are to truly make use of the data, including what good education systems offer.
“High performing systems invest in teachers, reject continual restructures and reforms, and put forward clear long-term visions for education policy. We would urge the Welsh Government to now stick to the current policy path for curriculum reform and investment in the profession.
“Convenient as it is to compare countries, it is important to note that other factors that have an impact on educational disadvantage, such as poverty, do not form part of the judgements on education systems.
“Government tinkering can often be a distraction from what we know works – good quality teaching and leadership. PISA can be a useful indicator but, like all data, we need to use it intelligently and understand its limitations.”
David Evans, NUT Cymru Secretary, said: “Too often in Wales, frequently in reaction to PISA, we have seen knee jerk reactions which have actually hindered educational progress. Indeed, the OECD itself has criticised the Welsh Government in the past for establishing and creating ‘reform fatigue’ in Wales. With the proposals around the new curriculum, new qualifications and potential changes to the way we train teachers and utilise the supply sector, there are already big reforms on the horizon which will have positive impacts.
“Significantly these are changes that the profession itself has welcomed and is prepared to embrace. We now need to create a settled system and get the implementation of these initiatives right. If we do that there is no reason why progress cannot be made across all indicators, including PISA.”
“Although PISA is an international measure, it is none the less a very narrow indicator. It is essential that that we all look very carefully at these results and put them in the proper context,” said Ywain Myfyr, Policy Officer with UCAC.
“We certainly shouldn’t let them distract us from the crucial reforms that are already in progress.
“PISA is perhaps, above all else, a tool for policy makers and there seems to be a consensus in Wales that, policy wise, we’re now moving in the right direction.”
“Although disappointing, these results shouldn’t lead to yet another new initiative or change in policy direction.”
Those views were echoed by Rachel Curley of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, who said: “This is not the time for hand wringing or panic in response to the PISA results. It would have been naïve to expect major improvements since the last set of results four years ago.
“PISA is an important measure, but it is only one measure of Wales’ education system.”
NASUWT Cymru’s Rex Phillips was forthright: “Leighton Andrews turned PISA into a disaster zone for the Welsh Government when he created an artificial crisis in 2010 around the 2009 outcomes.
“Huw Lewis attempted to repair the damage caused by his predecessor by acknowledging that moving to a curriculum fit for PISA was going to take some time.
“Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams AM would do well to just note the PISA outcomes and decide whether to continue in the quest for a curriculum fit for PISA or stand up for a curriculum that is fit for purpose for Wales.”
Globalisation with a difference at Lampeter
AN INTERNATIONAL multidisciplinary conference that aims to explore approaches to the theme of ‘globalisation’ across the ancient world will be held at UWTSD’s Lampeter conference next month.
Entitled “Re-Thinking Globalisation in the Ancient World” up to 30 academic experts from Asia, Europe, South and North America will visit Ceredigion to present papers and take part in discussions at the three-day event. Keynote speakers at the conference include Professor Mark Horton from the University of Bristol and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany and Professor Michael Sommer from Universität Oldenburg.
Conference organiser and Senior Lecturer in Roman History and Archaeology at UWTSD Associate Professor Ralph Häussler said: “We’re very much looking forward to hosting this conference and welcoming so many distinguished experts in the field to Lampeter – it truly is a ‘global’ conference. The purpose of the conference is to provide new insights into cross-cultural interactions and responses in inter-connected and entangled regions of the ancient world.
Methodological issues relating to the theme of ‘globalisation’ will be analysed in different contexts, notably the application of this concept in different regions and different periods of the ancient world. In the 21st century ‘Globalisation’ is a buzzword for our interconnected and fast-moving modern times. But globalisation is not new. Already 2,000 – 3,000 years ago, we can identify comparable developments, like an ever increasing inter-dependency between distant regions of the ancient world. Nowadays, the concept of ‘globalisation’ and of a cosmopolitan society has come under increasing scrutiny for contemporary society. Therefore the study of globalisation with regards to the ancient world will enable us to place this modern debate within a wider historical framework. Everybody is welcome to come along and take part in what promises to be a fascinating discussion.”
The Conference will start at 8:30am on the 8th May and come to a close at midday on the 10th May 2018. More information can be found here
Creative coding challenge for schools
ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY’S Computer Science Department is calling on primary school pupils across Wales to take part in a unique coding competition combining poetry, Welsh mythology and creative computing.
The challenge to children aged 7-11 years old includes animating a poem by Eurig Salisbury, a lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh & Celtic Studes as well as an award-winning writer and former Children’s Welsh Poet Laureate.
Alternatively, contestants can also choose to animate a Welsh myth or legend – from the Mabinogion, for example.
There will be prizes for the winning teams as well as a visit to the winning entry’s school by a team of computer scientists from Aberystwyth University who will hold a day of educational coding activities.
The aim of the competition is to encourage children to give coding a go and to learn new skills for the workplace of the future.
Organiser Dr Hannah Dee, Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Computer Science Department, said: “Coding is a digital skill which will only increase in importance. People often think that coding is just spreadsheets or numbers. This contest aims to show that it’s much than that – you can code pictures, animations, and even poetry. Creative coding is something everyone can have a go at, particularly using Scratch, a kids’ programming language.
“We have four top prizes this year with winners awarded either a Pi-top Laptop or Kano Computer Kit or and we are grateful to both companies for their sponsorship and support.”
Fellow organiser and lecturer Martin Nelmes said: “As a Department, we visit schools the length and breadth of Wales with our coding activities and find that creative coding like this really fires students’ imagination. We held our first coding competition last year and the entries were inspirational. I can’t wait to see what pupils come up with this year.”
First prize in last year’s competition went to Johnstown School in Carmarthenshire, with second place going to Ysgol Gynradd Pentrefoelas in Betws y Coed in Gwynedd, and third to Brynnau School, Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taff.
Eurig Salisbury, a lecturer in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies, said: “It was a privilege to be part of this coding competition last year and to see young children take up the challenge of creative computing to illustrate one of my poems. It’s a fun activity but it’s also educational with coding becoming an increasingly fundamental skill to those growing up in the early part of the 21st century.”
Further details about the competition and how to enter can be found on the website of the Department of Computer Science.
Pupil Deprivation Grant boosted
SCHOOLS across Wales are to share in over £90m in 2018-19 to help their most disadvantaged learners, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced.
The Cabinet Secretary has written to schools across Wales to confirm how much they will directly receive in 2018-19.
In addition to over £90m committed this year, £187m has been guaranteed for the remainder of the Assembly term, so that schools have the stability to plan ahead.
The Pupil Development Grant (PDG) helps schools tackle the effects of poverty and disadvantage on attainment and is targeted at learners who are eligible for Free School Meals or are Looked After Children.
Schools use the PDG in a number of different ways, including nurture groups for children who may be socially and emotionally vulnerable, out-of-hours school learning, on-site multi-agency support and better tracking of pupils as they progress through school.
This year, the PDG for the youngest learners (pupils aged 3-4 years old) has increased from £600 to £700 per pupil. This builds on last year’s doubling of financial support from £300 to £600 per learner in the early years.
Primary and secondary schools will continue to receive a rate of £1,150 per learner, and this rate also continues to apply to learners in education other than at school (EOTAS).
From this year, schools will also have greater flexibility to support learners who have been eligible for Free School Meals in the previous two years.
Advisers and coordinators from education consortia are also on-hand to provide extra support and guidance for schools on using the funding.
Kirsty Williams said: “Reducing the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers is at the heart of our national mission to raise standards. This is one of the most effective ways in which we can break the cycle of deprivation and poverty.
“Time and again, teachers have told me how much of a difference PDG funding has made in raising aspirations, building confidence, improving behaviour and attendance and in involving families with their children’s education.
“Teachers have also called for greater certainty around future PDG funding and that’s why I’m pleased to be able to guarantee allocation levels for the next two financial years and reaffirm our commitment to the grant for the lifetime of this Assembly.
“We have always said that the PDG is there to support all pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals, not just those that are struggling academically. That’s why I want schools to ensure they are supporting more able pupils as well.
“I would also encourage all schools to make full use of the PDG advisers and coordinators from the education consortia – they’re there to help when it comes to making the best use of the funding and ensuring that we raise attainment across the board.”
An independent evaluation of the PDG last year found that many schools consider the funding to be ‘invaluable’, with further evidence from Estyn and the Welsh Government’s raising attainment advocate, Sir Alasdair MacDonald, showing the majority of schools are making well thought out decisions on how to spend the funding.
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