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Education

Action to stop ‘grade banking’

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Pupils must always be put first: Kirsty Williams

EDUCATION SECRETARY Kirsty Williams announced new rules to reduce the number of pupils being entered too early for exams on Monday (Oct 16).

Ms Williams had previously expressed her concern regarding schools abusing the early entry system by entering whole pupil cohorts into Maths and English papers a year early.

An independent review by Qualifications Wales has found:

  • The continued widespread use of early and multiple entry at GCSE poses risks to students and to the system, which are not easily justified
  • The practice encourages a “teaching the test” approach at the cost of wider subject knowledge
  • More than £3.3m was spent by schools on early entry in the last academic year

Qualifications Wales concluded that they are ‘concerned about the extensive and growing use of early and multiple entry’.

In response the Education Secretary has announced that, from summer 2019, only a pupil’s first entry to a GCSE examination will count in their school’s performance measures. The current policy allows schools to count the best grade from multiple sittings.

Kirsty Williams said: “The changes I am announcing today, based on Qualification Wales’ findings, will ensure that the interests of pupils are always put first.

“I am concerned that pupils who had the potential to get an A*, A or a B at the end of a two year course end up having to settle for a C. Too often this is because they take their exam early and are not re-entered again. I want every child to reach their full potential in school. Early entry must only be for the minority of pupils who will benefit.

“GCSEs are designed to be sat after two years of teaching, not one. These changes will ensure our young people access a broad and balanced curriculum, and focus in on what’s best for our children and young people.”

Responding to research published by Qualifications Wales into the growing practice of schools entering pupils for their GCSE exams early, Llyr Gruffydd AM, Plaid Cymru’s shadow spokesperson for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “I welcome the report as it provides a deeper understanding of the issues facing schools and students sitting GCSEs a year early. The cabinet secretary has already indicated her concerns and it’s important that she now acts on the recommendations being made.

“Retaining the option of early entry for some students is important, but it’s clear that too many are being entered for some subjects and this broad-brush approach can put additional pressures on students and cost valuable learning time in schools.

“At a time of growing financial pressure, it’s also worrying to note that early entry is placing an additional cost of at least £3.3m on our schools. The report also highlights that some schools are looking at sharing these costs with parents which is a further concern.

“Schools are under pressure to enter their students early and the Government must change the performance measures that have created this situation. Pupils should only be put forward for examination when they are ready and not to balance other competing pressures.”

Welcoming the Welsh Government move, Darren Millar AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Secretary, said: “Student wellbeing should be at the heart of all decisions made by schools, so the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement is to be welcomed.

“This year’s GCSE results were the worst in a decade for Wales and early entry might well have fuelled this problem.

“Taking exams early isn’t for everyone. Most pupils will need to be given the time to develop their knowledge instead of being pressured to sit tests they simply aren’t ready for.”

NEU Cymru has welcomed the Qualifications Wales report into early entry exams which is calling for a change to the accountability model for schools. The National Education Union say that the way schools are held accountable often leads to unintended consequences within the education system. The Union has long argued for a change to the model to ensure that pupil progress is not undermined by the pressure put on schools to hit certain targets. The union will now look to work with the Welsh Government to find constructive changes that will address these concerns and others relating to how schools are judged.

Keith Bowen, Wales Director of the National Education Union Cymru, said: “We will naturally have to review the full findings of the report over time however the primary recommendations, in principle, appear sensible. It is important that while we seek to limit unnecessary early entry we do not underestimate the value of it for some pupils. The individual circumstances of each pupil need to be assessed and the professional judgement of teachers and head teachers should be respected in making the right choices for learners.

“What is encouraging in the report is the recognition that accountability measures are having unintended consequences on how schools operate. This isn’t limited to early entry but clearly it has had an impact in regards to this particular issue. We hope the Welsh Government do acknowledge the concerns of the report and works with the profession to develop a more innovative approach to assessing school performance. This would allow teachers to continue to offer early entry where appropriate, but to take away the accountability pressure that has put high stakes assessment above pupil progress.”

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Education

Translated teaching materials help Ceredigion children stay safe online

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Children in Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth have had lessons in online safety using newly translated teaching materials.

The deputy headteacher of Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth, Gareth James used the materials to teach children through the medium of Welsh about being safe online. The materials were initially developed by Google and Parent Zone and was translated using Google funding. The Welsh Government endorsed the materials.

Online safety is taught throughout the year in schools across the county. Ceredigion schools have adopted the Welsh Government’s Digital Competence Framework, which includes teaching online safety. The newly translated materials will help schools teach online safety more effectively.

Councillor Catrin Miles is Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said: “The internet is now ever-present in children’s lives. As more and more information and learning opportunities are available on-line, it is essential that we equip our children to make the best use of what is on offer. To do this we have to make sure that they know how to use the internet safely, to be aware of the threats and how to deal with them.

“It’s important that the teaching materials are available in Welsh, and I was delighted to see them being used in Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth.”

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn is the Leader of Ceredigion County Council. She said: “We are committed to increasing and improving Welsh medium education in the county. We are fortunate to have a talented and largely bilingual workforce, but materials such as this are a great help to improve the quality of Welsh medium education in the county.”

Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams AM said: “It was great to attend Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth to see a lesson from Google’s ‘Be Internet Legends’ Programme being delivered. Ensuring the safety of children and young people online is so important and these resources will support learners to consider things like their digital footprint.

“With the resources due to be launched bilingually on Hwb shortly that will mean that all pupils in Wales can benefit from the programme.”

Vicki Shotbolt is the founder and CEO of Parent Zone. She said: “It is essential that children learn to think carefully and critically about what they do and see online. Parent Zone has teamed with Google to teach younger children the essential tools they need to become safe and confident online explorers, helping them be resilient, kind and positive in this digital age.”

Rosie Luff, Public Policy Manager at Google UK said: “We are delighted to visit Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth today to help teach children about how to Be Internet Legends. By getting acquainted with what we believe are the five core areas of online safety, we want to prepare children to have a safe and positive experience online.”

Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth has played a part in designing the Welsh Government’s new curriculum as a Pioneer School for the last three years. The school is leading the way in beginning to embed the principles of the new curriculum, including online safety in particular.

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Education

What 3 words links with UWTSD

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UWTSD recently welcomed Richard Lewis, Travel and Tourism Consultant at what3words to the University’s Institute of Management and Health.

Richard delivered a guest lecture to students from International Travel, Tourism, Events and Leisure Resort Management on the benefits of using the new system that has divided the world into 3m x 3m squares and given each a unique 3-word address. It means that every place around the world has been given a reliable and precise address.

Jacqui Jones, Programme Director said: “We were delighted to host Richard’s lecture and hope it is the start of an exciting relationship between What3words & our Tourism Programmes at UWTSD to explore this innovative new travel development.

“We strongly hope that this initiative will become a catalyst enabling our industry partners from the tourism & events sectors to benefit from the use of what3words. Our students are already using the app and will also use it as part of their educational tourism adventures to Qatar, Malaysia, Switzerland, Singapore & London in the New Year. They are also all looking forward to helping the Tourism & Events industry launch the Welsh version of what3words in 2020.”

Co-founded in London in 2013 by Chris Sheldrick, what3words is designed for travellers making their way around the entire globe. Currently available in over 30 languages, the revolutionary technology is available to more than half of the world’s countries in at least one of their official languages.

3-word addresses are also listed by tourism boards and incorporated into major travel guides like Lonely Planet, EatOut and Secret Luxury Hotels, as well as digital guides like Saudi Tourism and TripWolf. Mercedes-Benz has also created its own series of luxury local guides after launching what3words voice navigation in its vehicles.

The unique system, accessed by downloading the app, is also being used by a number of British Police Forces and other UK Emergency Services including South Wales Fire and Rescue and South Wales Police, to respond to incidents more effectively. Police Force call-handlers are able to send an SMS that contains a link to the what3words browser map site, where they can see their location and read the corresponding 3-word address. Help is then dispatched to that precise location.
what3words has a team of over 70 people, across offices in London UK, Johannesburg ZA and Ulaanbaatar Mongolia.

In early 2018, Daimler took a stake of around 10%, following a Series B raise of £17 million led by Aramex. Prior to this, investors include Intel Capital, Deutsche-Bahn and Horizons Ventures.

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Education

RSPCA looks for Compassionate Class

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DO YOU have a class full of animal lovers who want to make a difference in the animal welfare world?
The RSPCA has launched its Compassionate Class competition for 2020 – which is an innovative programme that encourages children to develop compassion and empathy through the lens of animal welfare.
This year’s entrants will follow in the footsteps of the Year 3 class at Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof who were recognised as 2019’s ‘Most Compassionate Class’ across England and Wales.
Last year around 700 schools took part with the Cardiff school impressing judges with their Welsh-language animation, which incorporated into a short production several key animal welfare messages.
Compassionate Class takes an interactive, discussion-based approach to develop emotional literacy and consider the welfare needs of animals. These PSHE Association-accredited resources are designed to provide an exciting learning experience as well as supporting schools in the delivery of spiritual, moral, social and cultural education (SMSC) for 7 – 11-year-olds.
Through a series of enquiry-led activities, children will consider what it means to be compassionate, understand the needs of different types of animals, and work collaboratively to develop empathy skills for their school lives and beyond.
The programme – which is now open and closes on March 23 – finishes with the chance to enter the Most Compassionate Class awards.
Dave Allen, Head of Prevention and Education at the RSPCA said: “We are very much looking forward to this year’s Compassionate Class which is about developing compassion and empathy through the lens of animal welfare and the programme encourages children to think about the needs of animals and help them to realise that animals have feelings and are sentient.
“The activities teach children about the five animal welfare needs, while the resources get them talking and debating about the importance of animals and creates an awareness of how we should respect them and each other. In turn, we hope this will help to create a kinder society in the future.
“We were just blown away with Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof last year and we can’t wait to see what participating schools come up with this year.”
Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof’s animated video featured the rules people need to follow to keep animals safe and healthy in a whole series of environments.
Year 3 teacher Nia Norman at Ysgol Gymraeg Coed y Gof, said: “We felt taking part in Compassionate Class would be a great opportunity for the children to build compassion towards animals and hopefully each other as a result. The children loved learning about animals, their habitats and their needs. They were all very passionate about protecting animals’ environments and what we as individuals can do to help preserve them.
“I’m super proud of the children, they worked so hard. We were thrilled to hear that we had won. We didn’t really enter the competition to win but to be able to complete the project with the children so that they would have an end product for which they would be really proud.
“The children were so excited when they found out we’d won. We hope that they will always remember that they are national winners although, of course, they’re winners for us every day!”
For more information, or to sign-up your school, visit www.rspca.org.uk/compassionateclass

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