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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

Free School Meals for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 from September 2022

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CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL will be offering Free School Meals from the Autumn term onwards to all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children.

This comes following Welsh Government’s announcement to offer Free School Meals for primary school pupils across Wales, starting with Reception classes from September 2022.

In response to the current rising cost-of-living, this is a positive step forward in ensuring that no child goes hungry while in school and tackling poverty in our County.

From Monday 5 September 2022 onwards, all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 Children in Ceredigion schools will be offered Free School Meals, extending the offer beyond what needs to be done by September.

Ceredigion County Council and Welsh Government are committed to implementing this scheme quickly and would ask for your patience as we build catering capacity to ensure a successful phased implementation and work towards a whole school roll-out over the next three years.

The Council are working with Welsh Government to develop a process for you to be able to request a free meal for your child/children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 from September 2022, trying to avoid any unnecessary burden for you.

If your child is currently in receipt of free school meals and/or any other associated benefits, these will not be affected.

Wyn Thomas, Cabinet Member responsible for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: “The Government’s aim is for Welsh Local Authorities to provide a free school meal for Reception pupils in September 2022. The Council has taken advantage of the flexibility of the scheme and so more pupils in Ceredigion will benefit from the offer of a free meal for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils in September 2022 in the County’s schools.”

Further information will follow by the end of term.

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Education

Tropical disease research boosted with ”future leader” joining Aberystwyth University

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A WORLD-LEADING study of tropical diseases at Aberystwyth University has received a major boost with an internationally-recognised scientist joining from The Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge.
Dr Gabriel Rinaldi, from Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), has been awarded the prestigious Future Leaders Fellowship by the UK Research and Innovation body (UKRI). He will join the university in August to take up the fellowship.
The award celebrates leading early career academics in the UK and provides them with support to continue their research into society’s biggest problems.
Dr Rinaldi’s ambitious research project, which will take place over the next four years, will be focused on better understanding the biology of blood fluke schistosomes, parasitic flatworms that are responsible for a major neglected tropical disease affecting low and middle-income countries.
Schistosomiasis affects more than 250 million people per year worldwide, in particular developing countries in the tropics. The number of deaths is hard to estimate but it can cause liver, intestine and urogenital damage, as well as having a detrimental impact on child development, including their ability to learn.
Treatment relies on a single drug but signs of resistance to it are emerging. This means that new strategies for controlling the disease are urgently required.
Dr Rinaldi’s research will focus on the early intra-mammalian development of the parasite and its unique sexual biology. By using cutting-edge molecular biology approaches, he aims to reveal key factors involved in the early development of male and female parasites and their interaction with the host. This will ultimately reveal vulnerabilities that will be exploited with novel control strategies, including drugs and vaccines.
He will enrich the existing parasitology strengths within Aberystwyth University and contribute to the Barrett Centre for Helminth Control’s efforts in controlling parasites responsible for agricultural, veterinary and biomedical diseases.
Dr Rinaldi said: “This distinguished fellowship will enable my transition from a staff scientist working within a team to an innovative leader of my own helminth developmental biology programme at Aberystwyth University. The scale and duration of the fellowship allow for a very ambitious research project, facilitating the generation of novel lines of research.
This opportunity will also broaden my professional foundations for a long-term research program focused on schistosome development, its unusual sexual differentiation among other parasitic flatworms and interaction with the hosts.”
UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “The Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with the freedom and generous long-term support to progress adventurous new ideas, and to move across disciplinary boundaries and between academia and industry.
“The fellows announced today provide shining examples of the talented researchers and innovators across every discipline attracted to pursue their ideas in universities and businesses throughout the UK, with the potential to deliver transformative research that can be felt across society and the economy.”
Karl Hoffmann, Director of Barrett Centre for Helminth Control at Aberystwyth University, said: ”We are incredibly pleased that Gabriel has been successful in securing this prestigious UKRI Fellowship and are thrilled to welcome he and his research team to Aberystwyth. Gabriel’s team will join an established infectious disease research community at the University and lead to expanding our international reach and reputation in this area.
“Importantly, outcomes of Gabriel’s research will lead to urgently-needed new strategies for controlling schistosomiasis in people living in some of the most resource-poor communities on the planet. This research is essential to meet the World Health Organisation’s goal of schistosomiasis elimination in the next decade.
“Gabriel is well positioned to meet this challenge head-on and we can’t wait to begin working with him on this international agenda.”
Dr Iain Donnison, Head of Department – Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences, added: “Dr Rinaldi’s award is well-deserved recognition of his enormous talent as well as the importance of the research project. Aberystwyth University undertakes world-leading research in parasitology, and this project underlines the importance of such work to addressing the impacts of schistosomiasis. The development of new disease management policies and therefore reduction in transmission of such a neglected tropical disease, has the potential to deliver significant societal benefits.”
Dr Rinaldi received his MD degree in General Medicine and PhD degree in Molecular Parasitology from University of the Republic, Uruguay. Thereafter, he worked as postdoctoral Research Fellow at George Washington University and most recently as Senior Staff Scientist in the Parasite Genomics team at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

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Education

Professor of Medieval History takes on Society Presidency role

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PHILIPP SCHOFIELD, Professor of Medieval History and Head of the Department of History and Welsh History at Aberystwyth University, has been elected as the President of the Economic History Society.
Established in 1926, the Economic History Society is the leading learned society for economic and social history.

Its primary purpose is to support research and teaching in economic and social history.

The Society publishes The Economic History Review: a Journal of Economic and Social History, one of the world’s highest-rated social science and history journals.

The organisation also runs a major annual international conference, sponsors a variety of scholarly publications, promotes economic and social history in schools, provides postdoctoral fellowships and promotes the role of women in the field.

Working alongside other societies and professional bodies, the Society also acts as a pressure group to influence government policy in the interests of history.

Professor Phillipp Schofield will serve as the President of the Economic History Society for a period of three years, having been elected in April 2022.

Professor Schofield commented: “It’s an honour to have been chosen by my peers to lead this important organisation and help implement its strategy and policies. I also look forward to using the role to promote the study of economic history and to support this important subject area.”
Professor Phillip Schofield.

Phillipp Schofield is Professor of Medieval History and Head of the Department of History and Welsh History at Aberystwyth University. He received his D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in 1992, having previously completed his degree in Ancient and Medieval History at UCL. His research focusses on the medieval agrarian economy, with particular reference to the medieval English peasantry.

His current projects include investigation of the response to dearth and famine in medieval England and litigation over debt in interpersonal pleadings in manorial courts. He was an editor of the Economic History Review from 2011 to 2017.

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