SCHOOLS across Wales have been accused of ‘gaming’ the examination and qualification system at GCSE level and failing pupils in the process.
The issue has arisen following a report from Qualifications Wales, the regulator of non-degree qualifications and the qualification system in Wales, which has alerted the Welsh Government to the high risk that overall GCSE results will decline in Wales due to the widespread practice of entering children a year early into GCSE examinations in order to ‘bank’ results, with able pupils denied the chance to improve their grade at a later examination.
Almost two thirds of Year 10 pupils were entered for the English GCSE in the last exam cycle.
The same practice in England led to the UK Government intervening and making adjustments to school league tables, so that only the first attempt at examinations counted towards schools’ performance.
And Kirsty Williams, the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Welsh Government, has said she may now intervene to prevent or curtail Welsh schools from putting Welsh pupils forward to sit GCSEs a year early.
In an interview on BBC Wales’ Sunday Politics, Kirsty Williams said: “What I’m concerned about is that children that, perhaps had the potential to get an A* and A or a B at the end of a two year course end up having to settle for a C because they do it early and they’re not re-entered again.
“I want children to fulfil their potential in school. I want early entry to be only for the children who will benefit from it.
“When I see such large numbers as are being reported as being entered, that’s something I am concerned about.”
Qualifications Wales said the problem is particularly acute this year due to a more rigorous curriculum and examination programme.
The body is scheduled to complete a review and report to the Welsh Government in September this year on the issue.
Welsh Government advice is that decisions about early entry into GCSE’s must be made ‘in the interests of the individual child’. In May, however, the Welsh Government’s Director of Education, Steven Davies, claimed in evidence to an Assembly Committee that schools have conducted early entry ‘to test the system’.
Mr Davies continued: ‘There are also those out there who are gaming.’
Mrs Williams’ stance on the subject has been welcomed by Adam Price AM.
Adam Price has been making representations regarding early exam entry to the Welsh Government since the start of the year having been contacted by a local maths tutor who had seen a dramatic rise in demand for private tutoring.
The Plaid Cymru AM also met with the Education Secretary in May to express concern that pupils may not be reaching their full potential.
Mr Price says he welcomes the willingness of the Education Secretary to intervene but said options for early entry should not be closed off to everyone.
Adam Price said: “I first made representations to the Education Secretary back in January having been contacted by a local maths tutor who had seen a dramatic rise in demand for private tutoring. His concern was that pupils were being entered for early examination but did not have time to actually finish the course before sitting the exams.
“Whilst it seems attractive for pupils to ‘bank’ a good grade early and take some pressure off a year later, many pupils will miss out on a better grade if they were to be given the opportunity to complete the course over the longer and traditional two year timescale.
“Early entry for exams is not a new phenomenon – this has always been a feature of GCSEs at the discretion of teachers and it should not be closed off entirely. But there does seem to be widespread change this year with almost two-thirds of all pupils in Wales being entered a year early.
“I welcome the Minister’s comments that she is prepared to intervene depending on the findings of her review, but the pressure on schools and teachers must be considered as part of this investigation.
“We all want what is best for our school pupils. The education system should support pupils who need the full two years of study, and allow teachers to make decisions on how pupils can best reach their individual potential.”
Ceredigion Schools have already produced more than 300 visors
MORE than 300 face-visors have already been produced by staff at Ysgol Bro Pedr, Ysgol Penglais, Ysgol Bro Teifi and Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi.
These face-visors provide much needed protection for front-line workers in Ceredigion. The visors are produced on the schools’ 3-D printers.
Plans are in place to produce another 2,000 of these vital visors.
Meinir Ebbsworth, Corporate Lead Officer – Schools said, “We are extremely grateful to our staff who are using their expertise and school equipment to help others.”
Ceredigion County Council are proud of the contribution that our schools are making during this difficult and challenging times, and to all our staff and volunteers who have shown such goodwill to help others.
Ceredigion pupils receive Holocaust survivor experiences
To mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Ceredigion pupils had the opportunity to hear the story of a Holocaust survivor.
On 27 January 2020, it was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Dr Martin Stern MBE was five years old when he was arrested at his school.
His journey was a difficult one being close to death on a few occasions. Dr Stern moved to Britain in 1950 and became a Doctor. These days, Dr Stern is educating young people about what happened. On 29 January 2020, he came to Aberaeron to talk to a hall full of Ceredigion’s young people.
Meinir Ebbsworth, Corporate Lead Officer for Schools said, “75 years ago, the world saw images of people coming out of the camps and coming to terms with what had happened. We are so grateful to Dr Martin Stern for coming to Ceredigion to share his story and experiences. It is not easy to talk about a very dark time in the world’s history. I hope our pupils have considered what we had heard. Due to the overwhelming silence in the room when Dr Stern was speaking, I think they really appreciated the afternoon.”
The afternoon was jointly organised by Ceredigion County Council’s schools service and ERW.
Bronze-medal winning hairdresser on the road to Shanghai
Hyfforddiant Ceredigion Training (HCT) continue to lead the way in skills competitions across the UK. The latest success story is Bayley Harris, who recently qualified as a Level 2 hairdresser at HCT.
After succeeding in demanding regional and national qualifying rounds, Bayley earned a spot in the grand final of the WorldSkills UK competition which was held from 21 to 23 November 2019 at the NEC in Birmingham.
The competition took place over three full days, with Bayley having to compete in five different categories including dressing long hair, cutting, colouring, bridal hair and barbering. She finished in third place out of a total of ten top-class hairdressers, earning her the bronze medal in the awards ceremony.
As a result of her outstanding performance, Bayley has been selected for the Squad UK for the prestigious international WorldSkills Competition which will take place in Shanghai, China in 2021.
HCT hairdressing tutor Carys Randell, congratulated Bayley for doing so well in the competitions, as they were very intense and of an extremely high standard. She went on to add, “I am so proud of Bayley for coming third in the UK, and I look forward to supporting her on her next journey in Squad UK.”
The WorldSkills competition in Shanghai will feature over 1000 of the world’s most talented apprentices and students competing in over 50 different skills as they battle it out to be named the World Champion in their respective vocation.
Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services and Life-long learning. She said, “It’s great to follow Bayley’s journey within the hairdressing industry. This latest award is a credit to her. Bayley shows where you can reach if you put your mind to work with the support of Ceredigion Training. Good luck in the UK Squad.”
All staff and learners at HCT would like to congratulate Bayley in her most recent competition success and wish her all the best in her bid to represent the UK in China in 2021.
Hyfforddiant Ceredigion Training (HCT) offers a range of vocational courses for people of all ages, including Hairdressing, Childcare, Business Administration, Information Technology, Carpentry, Plumbing, Electrics, Blacksmithing, Motor Mechanics, and Welding. For more information, find HCT on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HyfforddiantCeredigion, or visit the website: http://www.ceredigiontraining.co.uk/hafan.
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