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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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Community

Staff experience what dementia may feel like

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During Autumn 2019 Ceredigion County Council staff and elected members were given the opportunity to take part in a Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT). By using specialist equipment and creating a simulated environment, the experience gave an insight into what dementia might feel like.

Donna Pritchard, Corporate Lead Officer Porth Ceredigion and Deputy Statutory Director for Social Services said: “This has been a very thought-provoking experience. It’s allowed participants to physically and emotionally feel what it would be like to live with Dementia and to acknowledge the challenges to overcome that sensory loss brings.”

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. This may include problems with memory loss, thinking speed, mental sharpness and quickness, language, understanding judgement, mood, movement and difficulties carrying out daily activities.

Donna continued: “The Virtual Dementia Tour identifies ways to improve communication for people living with dementia and ways that care and support staff can change their practice to improve their lives and help them achieve positive outcomes. All our staff at residential homes have been trained to ensure that people with dementia are supported in an inclusive environment.”

Staff yn cael profiad o’r hyn y gall dementia deimlo fel

Yn ystod yr Hydref 2019 rhoddwyd cyfle i staff ac aelodau etholedig Cyngor Sir Ceredigion gymryd rhan mewn ‘Virtual Dementia Tour‘ (VDT). Drwy ddefnyddio offer arbenigol a chreu amgylchedd ffug, roedd y profiad yn rhoi cipolwg ar yr hyn y gallai dementia ei deimlo.

Dywedodd Donna Pritchard, Swyddog Arweiniol Corfforaethol Porth Ceredigion a Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Statudol Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol: “Mae hwn wedi bod yn brofiad sy’n ysgogi’r meddwl. Mae’n caniatáu i gyfranogwyr deimlo sut beth fyddai fyw gyda dementia, yn gorfforol ac yn emosiynol, a chydnabod yr heriau i oresgyn y golled synhwyraidd honno.”

Mae dementia yn syndrom (grŵp o symptomau cysylltiedig) sy’n gysylltiedig â dirywiad parhaus o ran gweithrediad yr ymennydd. Gall hyn gynnwys problemau o ran colli cof, cyflymder meddwl, miniogrwydd meddwl a chyflymdra, iaith, deall dyfarniad, hwyliau, symud ac anawsterau’n cyflawni gweithgareddau dyddiol.

Parhaodd Donna: “Mae’r ‘Virtual Dementia Tour’ yn nodi ffyrdd o wella’r cyfathrebu ar gyfer pobl sy’n byw gyda dementia a ffyrdd y gall staff gofal a chymorth newid eu hymarfer i wella eu bywydau a’u helpu i gyflawni canlyniadau cadarnhaol. Mae pob un o’n staff mewn cartrefi preswyl wedi cael eu hyfforddi i sicrhau bod pobl â dementia yn cael eu cefnogi mewn amgylchedd cynhwysol.”

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Education

Seren and Sbarc kick off new series of books with a story to coincide with Rugby World Cup

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WELSH Government and WRU announced a partnership to encourage more school children to use Welsh.

They have been inspiring school children to use Welsh in and out of the classroom for a while, but Siarter Iaith mascots Seren a Sbarc have now moved on to the next level with their very own book. Released as part of a partnership, the book will be issued to all primary schools in Wales to encourage children to read more Welsh and to cheer Wales on in Welsh.

The book, Seren a Sbarc yn Achub (Cwpan) y Bydysawd (Seren a Sbarc Save the Universe (Cup)), written by Elidir Jones and illustrated by Huw Aaron, tells the tale of the heroic characters fighting off monsters and villains using the skills they have learnt through rugby and speaking Welsh.

The book gives children and parents fun way of learning and using Welsh through rugby, as the nation eagerly watches Wales on their World Cup journey.

All primary schools in Wales will receive copies of the book to help inspire the next generation of Welsh speakers as part of the Siarter Iaith.

Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan, said: “As rugby fever grips the country, children right across Wales will be reading about the heroic antics of Seren and Sbarc as they fight off monsters with their fantastic Welsh and sport skills! This exciting project with the WRU is a great way of inspiring the next generation of Welsh speakers, and future rugby players. Rugby is a sport that brings the nation together and the Welsh language is a big part of that.”

To launch the book, Seren and Sbarc joined pupils of Ysgol Bro Allta in Ystrad Mynach for a busy day of rugby practice and sending good luck messages to the Wales team. Dragons players Aaron Jarvis and James Benjamin also joined the Year 5 and 6 pupils as they carried out tasks from the WRU Digital Classroom resource, launched to inspire pupils to achieve in all areas through rugby.

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Education

Ceredigion Schools Succeed in Exam Results

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The GCSE exam results published today (22 August) by the WJEC show that very high standards are being maintained in Ceredigion schools.

 

98.8% of entries for WJEC exams were graded A* to G, with 24.9% of the entries achieving A* and A grades. 72.5% of entries were graded A* to C.

 

Councillor Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said, “We are delighted with Ceredigion pupils’ achievements in a wide range of subjects. They have proven once again that hard work and commitment leads to success. I would like to sincerely thank staff and governors for their leadership and their continued support for our pupils. We wish the young people of Ceredigion the very best as they confidently progress on their chosen path.”

 

The following table provides the figures for Ceredigion and Wales:

           Ceredigion                                                Wales
Grade   A* – A                              24.9%                                                     18.4%
Grade A*-C                                  72.5%                                                     62.8%
Grade A*-G                                 98.8%                                                     97.2%

 

Compared with the Welsh average, an additional 6% of Ceredigion entries achieved A*-A grades and, in the case of A*-C grades, Ceredigion’s entries achieved almost 10% more than the Welsh average.

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