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.”
Aber academic’s exhibition of theatre architecture and performance space
AN ACADEMIC from Aberystwyth University has been appointed to the international artistic team behind the world’s largest exhibition of theatre design and scenography.
Dr Andrew Filmer from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies has been appointed to curate the Performance Space Exhibition for the 15th Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space which takes place from 8–18 June 2023 at the Pražská Tržnice in Prague, Czech Republic.
Established in 1967, the Prague Quadrennial (PQ) brings the best of design for performance, scenography and theatre architecture together to be experienced by professional and emerging artists as well as the general public.
Dr Filmer will be one of the PQ curatorial team which is responsible for offering the festival’s participants a fresh look at the artistic production of our times in performance design and scenography.
The PQ 2023 theme is ‘Rare’, and will take into consideration the strange and precarious world of uncertainty we live in.
Scenographers, set designers, spatial artists, architects, theatre designers, and performers from over 90 countries will use their imagination and creativity to help people envision what the world and theatre could look like in the post-pandemic future.
Dr Filmer, a Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Performance, said: “It’s a great honour to take on the role of curator of the Performance Space Exhibition for the PQ in 2023. The PQ is an inspiring event that brings people together to experience and discuss the richness of performance design and scenography. My hope is that the Performance Space Exhibition in 2023 will offer an expanded sense of what performance space can be in a variety of settings, environments and cultures.”
Dr Filmer’s appointment extends a history of involvement by staff from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies in the PQ.
Professor Simon Banham, the current Head of Department, was PQ Commissioner of the Weather Exhibition in 2015 and part of the UK Gold Medal winning exhibition in 1994.
Mr Richard Downing’s work was displayed as part of the UK exhibition in 2007 and he was invited to lead a Space-Lab Workshop in 2015.
Both were invited to design and curate the PQ SharedSpace Symposium in 2014.
Originally from Sydney, Australia, Dr Filmer joined Aberystwyth University in 2008.
His research explores the sites of encounter between performance and architecture.
He is currently working with National Theatre Wales on the Ever After Project<https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.tandfonline.com%2Fdoi%2Ffull%2F10.1080%2F23322551.2020.1856304&data=04%7C01%7C%7Cc54248e7523c4c3e8ee908d94080c335%7Cd47b090e3f5a4ca084d09f89d269f175%7C0%7C0%7C637611744029985411%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=7EE6DuZVF2kOnTZlBpJ3QkZn546ZVxe07TwaK6G607g%3D&reserved=0> which is exploring theatre and performance in the era of COVID-19, and considering how the processes of theatrical production and theatre aesthetics might be reconfigured in the light of the conditions imposed by the pandemic and in the post-pandemic future.
Aber to teach nursing in boost for NHS in Wales
ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY will offer nursing qualifications for the first time, after new healthcare investment plans were given the go-ahead.
Health Education and Improvement Wales has awarded a contract to Aberystwyth University to educate both adult and mental health nurses until the end of this decade.
The first nursing students will arrive for their studies at Aberystwyth University in September 2022.
The decision has been hailed as a major boost for the health service, especially in mid Wales.
The new degree courses will also offer students the opportunity to study up to half of their course through the medium of Welsh.
Reacting to the announcement, Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure commented:
“This is excellent and exciting news for everyone here in Aberystwyth. A big thanks goes to everyone who has been a part of developing our plans. We are very grateful for the consistent support of our partners, including the local health boards and Ceredigion County Council, without whom this exciting development would not be possible.”
“Supporting the community needs, in close co-operation with our partners, is central to our civic mission; and establishing nursing education here will be an important part of that. It will benefit the local recruitment and retention of nurses, as well as the potential to inspire new models of healthcare delivery which will be of benefit to everyone. Our plans will also make an important contribution to enhancing mental health and Welsh-medium provision locally and beyond.”
“During the pandemic, the hard work and commitment of our nurses, and that of other NHS and care workers during this turbulent time, has been nothing short of extraordinary. It is a great honour that Health Education and Improvement Wales has put its trust and investment in us, so that we can deliver on our exciting plans to educate nurses here.”
Professor Treasure added:
“Over the years ahead, our ambition is to play an even bigger role in educating healthcare professionals. Given everyone’s experiences during the pandemic, there is perhaps no more important time to prioritise investing in the next generation of talented young people who will be responsible for the welfare of us all.”
Chris Jones, Chair of Health Education and Improvement Wales said:
“This has been a huge piece of work reflecting the importance of high quality healthcare education and patient care in Wales. The approaches to widening access and grounding training in our communities will equip our students to serve well the needs of the population going forward.
“Thank you to everyone involved including stakeholders who helped shape the contracts and in turn the future of healthcare education. We’re looking forward to working with Universities and Health Boards to bring this modern approach to life and equipping students with the skills, knowledge and experience to embark on successful and fulfilling careers.”
The proposals to establish nursing education were developed by Aberystwyth University in co-operation with a number of partners including the Hywel Dda, Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys local health boards as well as service users and carers.
University to host industry summit online
SUPPORTING industry’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic is a key priority for the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).
The University has a track record for working with industry through knowledge transfer, research innovation, workforce development and by providing a ready pipeline of skilled students and graduates, in partnership with employers.
In addition, UWTSD’s MADE Cymru initiative was established to support manufacturing industries in Wales to adapt to the challenges of Industry 4.0.
The initiative, funded by the EU via the Welsh Government, aims to support the economic recovery of manufacturers in Wales by offering part and fully funded training to businesses to upskill staff, as well as research and development that improves processes and products to reduce waste and costs.
In addition, UWTSD and MADE Cymru have organised an Industry Summit to be held online between June 8-10 to inform, engage and inspire businesses during this critical period of post-Covid recovery.
Expert speakers will be sharing their insights including James Davies from Industry Wales, Carol Hall, Regional Investment Manager, Development Bank of Wales, Chris Probert, Innovation Specialist, Welsh Government and Geraint Jones, Knowledge Transfer Adviser at KTN.
The line-up also includes Welsh manufacturers who will be sharing their own experiences, including Tim Hawkins, Managing Director, Markes International, Julia Chesney-Roberts, Commercial Manager, Riversimple, Angus Grahame, Founder of Splosh and Jacques Bonfrer, Co-Founder and Team Lead, Bot-Hive.
There will be guest talks from circular economy expert Eoin Bailey and lean author Daryl Powell and an opportunity to find out about the range of services offered by the University.
Graham Howe, Executive Head of the MADE Cymru project at UWTSD says: “This Industry Summit aims to explore issues and challenges facing manufacturing in Wales so that we can work together with employers to find solutions.
“We always start with asking a manufacturer what their biggest problem is today and look at how we can help them with it.
“We aim to unravel potentially confusing challenges like these. Our approach begins by looking at what companies need to increase their productivity and competitiveness.
“We aim to lead the businesses we work with through a journey of continuous improvement – a journey that makes the most of Industry 4.0 technologies and their ever-growing digital capabilities to help solve the specific problems faced by each company.
“All of the feedback we receive from businesses shapes our curriculum – we want to produce employable, digitally literate graduates who can contribute to their workplace from day one”.
Alison Orrells is CEO and Managing Director of Safety Letterbox and has been one of the organisations participating in the MADE Cymru initiative.
She said: “It was important to keep innovating and investing to set us apart and come out stronger. It’s been intense but we had a game plan – now it is all about business future-proofing, being agile, collaborations and being adaptable.”
Covid-19 has affected every part of a business and shifted the focus from production to survival.
UWTSD recently led a round table discussion with Welsh manufacturers about the future of manufacturing in Wales.
That discussion found that their outlook is positive about the future.
Manufacturers accelerated their adoption of new technologies to enhance and optimise production.
With many employees on furlough, managers took the opportunity to rethink and invest in better IT, particularly communications, training and diversified into new product areas. They looked to local colleges and universities to help shift perceptions of jobs in manufacturing and demonstrated the career opportunities and pathways available.
They also loosened their reliance on overseas imports and looked for suppliers in the UK to minimise future risk of disruption.
All sessions of the Industry Summit are free to attend and places can be booked on the UWTSD website: https://uwtsd.ac.uk/made/made-cymru-industry-summit/
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