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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

Careers advice for deaf children

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THOUSANDS of young deaf people across Wales will benefit from tailored careers advice for years to come thanks to a new partnership.

Careers Wales, which gives free and impartial careers guidance to young people, has joined forces with the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru to help better meet the needs of the country’s 2,500 deaf young people.

The partnership was established after deaf young people revealed they were worried about how being deaf would affect their employment prospects.
Concerned that young people wrongly thought their deafness was a barrier to employment, the two organisations held two focus groups to ask deaf young people about the careers advice they’d received and how it could be improved.

The results showed that deaf young people were often low on confidence, unaware of their rights and knew little about Government funding or technology that could help them in the workplace or higher education.

In response to the findings, the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru will now work together with Careers Wales and provide training to its careers
advisers to enhance their understanding of deaf awareness, accessibility and the key careers information that affects deaf young people.

The partnership means that current and future generations of deaf young people in Wales will benefit from more accessible and tailored careers advice.

As a result, thousands more across Wales could receive the knowledge, confidence and encouragement they need to make informed career choices and pursue their chosen ambition.

Previous research from the National Deaf Children’s Society with over 100 deaf young people across the UK showed that two thirds would hide their deafness on a job application, while almost half (45%) did not feel supported by their school or college when thinking about choices for the future.

Debbie Thomas, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Careers Wales and with this extra training, careers advisers will be able to give deaf young people the crucial advice they need in a format that’s tailored to them.

“Deaf young people are just as capable as hearing young people, but all too often they’re held back by the myths and misconceptions that surround deafness and the workplace. This needs to change.

“There’s an entire generation of deaf potential out there and this is a really positive step towards fully unleashing it.”

Nerys Bourne, Head of Services to Young People at Careers Wales, said: “We’re very pleased to be working with the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru to enhance our commitment to providing effective careers guidance and coaching to deaf young people in Wales.

“Providing this additional training to our advisers will enable them to focus more efficiently on the specific needs of young people within this group and to support them with a tailored and empowering careers advice service.

“We believe that this is a positive step towards equipping deaf young people in Wales with the right knowledge, awareness and confidence to succeed in their chosen career path.”

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Education

Officers celebrate completing first programme with University of South Wales

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A GROUP of eight Dyfed-Powys Police officers are celebrating becoming the first in England and Wales to complete a new graduate diploma in policing.

The PCs mark the end of the Graduate Diploma Professional Policing Practice at the University of South Wales (USW) with a virtual celebratory event on Friday, February 5th. A traditional formal graduation will take place once social distancing restrictions have been lifted and it is safe to celebrate in person.

Having experienced a combination of university lectures and academic learning with life on the beat, the officers are the first in Wales and England to complete the Degree Holder Entry Programme (DHEP) and gain a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.

With backgrounds ranging from sports management to criminology and biology, the officers are now based across the force as fully licensed police officers responding to calls and investigating incidents.

Superintendent Ross Evans, force lead for Learning and Development, said: “This event marks the end of two years of hard work by our students, who are the first police officers in England and Wales to complete the DHEP course.

“Not only have they been the first cohort to combine real-life policing experiences on division with academic learning, but they have successfully managed this while reacting to the operational changes and challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I have no doubt that the theory and practice of the diploma, coupled with the support from USW and our in-force learning and development department, will have put them in very good stead as they begin their careers with Dyfed-Powys Police in earnest.”

The DHEP forms part of the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF) and is a two-year graduate diploma.

Dyfed-Powys Police and USW are working in collaboration to deliver the PEQF initial entry programmes to all new police officer recruits, whether through the DHEP or Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA), and support students academically and occupationally.

From the first day of the course, the group became both serving police officers and USW students. Student officers gained independent patrol status by the end of the first year, and were required to complete an Operational Competency Portfolio by the end of year two.

Supt Evans added: “This is a new approach to police training, and one we have embraced and embedded at Dyfed-Powys.

“The PCs from this course are already passing their learning on to the next cohort of officers, and we are confident that their unique skills and experience will enhance the force and the service we provide to our communities.

“My thanks go to the students themselves, who have shown dedication and commitment to both their university work and their policing duties, as well as their families and friends for their support over the past two years.”

Peter Vaughan QPM, Director of the International Centre for Policing and Security at USW, said:  “We are incredibly proud to be partnered with Heddlu Dyfed-Powys Police (HDPP) and to be celebrating this significant achievement with the graduates of our first Policing Practice programme.

“Congratulating these Dyfed-Powys student officers on becoming the first in Wales and England to achieve their Graduate Diploma under the PEQF marks a very important occasion for us all and we very much hope that they have enjoyed studying with us as much as we have enjoyed teaching them.

“The professionalisation of the education provided to those who enter the police service at the rank of constable is a fundamental aim of the PEQF and we are proud to be contributing to this important endeavour with our partners at HDPP.”

Dafydd Llywelyn, Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner said: “I’d like to congratulate each and every one of the eight graduates for their fantastic achievement in gaining this new and innovative qualification.

“Gaining a qualification where the study methods include a combination of experience out on the beat, and also an academic input from both our Dyfed-Powys Police Learning and Development team and lecturers at University of South Wales, provides an excellent foundation for developing a successful career in policing, and I look forward to working with all eight graduates here in Dyfed-Powys, and hopefully see their careers developing further.”

Jo Noakes, Director of Workforce Development at the College of Policing, said: “The College is pleased to congratulate Dyfed-Powys’s eight newly confirmed police constables on completion of the Degree Holder Entry Programme. This is a significant milestone in the adoption of the new initial entry routes into policing as they are the first in England and Wales to complete any of the new programmes for police constable.

“We would like to commend Dyfed-Powys on their enthusiastic and positive approach to the challenge of bringing the new learning programmes to life. This is a huge achievement, particularly in the context of the national police uplift programme and the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Education

Pupils at Ysgol Bro Pedr asked to self-isolate as COVID-19 case confirmed

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A SMALL number of pupils at Ysgol Bro Pedr, Lampeter have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days following the confirmation of a COVID-19 case at the school.

The Contact Group have been asked to self-isolate as a precautionary measure in the first instance. All confirmed contacts of the positive case must remain at home for 14 days to reduce the possible spread of the virus to family, friends and the wider community.

In addition, pupils travelling on the same bus as the confirmed positive case have also been contacted and asked to self-isolate for 14 days again as a precautionary measure in the first instance. These pupils come from more than one Year Group from Ysgol Bro Pedr.

Due to the strong procedures that have been put in place in the school, only a small amount of pupils are having to self-isolate. All parents have been contacted by the School.

The Council urges all parents to refer their children for a test if they develop any of the symptoms, which are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.

Parents should also be aware of other symptoms early on, such as headaches, tiredness and general aches and pains usually associated with the flu.

You can apply for a test on https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.

No further details will be provided regarding this matter.

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