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.”
New lease of life for rescue dog
A DOG that could hardly walk has been given a new lease of life after a 3D printed leg was made for him by CBM, a research company established by UWTSD.
Rescue dog Duke, an Irish retriever, was born with a birth defect in his front right leg and faced having it amputated.
But he is now running around after Swansea printing firm CBM made him a leg similar to blades used by Paralympians.
New owner Phil Brown, from Bristol, said it had been ’life changing’.
When Duke was found abandoned by the Irish Retriever Rescue (IRR) charity in Ireland in 2016, his paw was deformed and he could not walk on all fours.
He was taken to the pound and rehomed with foster owners the Browns, who have since adopted him as their own as they could not bear to part with the loveable pooch.
After a massive fundraising campaign by the charity Duke has been fitted with a state-of-the-art prosthetic by CBM, after narrowly avoiding having his foot amputated.
His new owner said Duke, who is now three, was delighted by his new ’super leg’ which meant he was walking on four paws for the first time.
Mr Brown, who owns other dogs which Duke is enjoying playing with, said: “He had a very tough start in life.
“This is an absolute life changer for him, it really is. He can now walk on it, he can now run at a slow speed.”
Mr Brown said the three-dimensional leg was about a year in a making, and a few months down the line Duke is getting so much use out of it he has already had to have it refurbished.
The leg was entirely printed out of a machine apart from a rubber foot, some Velcro and foam at the top to make it more comfortable for Duke.
CBM product designer Benjamin Alport said creating Duke’s leg was a real challenge for the team, who worked with his new owner and a consultant orthopaedic surgeon on the design.
“We had to go down and assess Duke. We had to consider right down to the thickness of the hairs because you have to take into account the smallest things,” he said.
Kellogg’s backs breakfast clubs
KELLOGG’S is celebrating 20 years of championing breakfast clubs by offering schools across the country the chance to get their hands on £1,000.
To mark the anniversary, the cereal giant will be giving a £1,000 grant away every school day of 2018.
Schools can apply for a Kellogg’s grant by visiting http://bit.ly/2FxJWQn.
The scheme marks the 20th anniversary of the Kellogg’s Breakfast Club programme, which has provided £3 million of investment to schools and 70 million bowls of cereal since 1998.
Research shows that breakfast clubs help with everything from attendance and attainment to alleviating hunger and providing pre-school care.
They are a lifeline for many teachers as 68 per cent of teachers believe pupils would struggle to concentrate in class without their breakfast club, according to a report by Kellogg’s.
Kate Prince, from Kellogg’s, said: “We believe all children should have the opportunity to start the day with breakfast so we’re proud to have spent 20 years supporting so many schools across the UK.
“The £1,000 we’re offering in 2018 underpins our pride and continuing commitment to our breakfast club programme.”
Kellogg’s currently has 3000 schools signed up to its network, offering them a range of resources and provisions to help them operate sustainable and effective breakfast clubs.
Former minister lectures on Facebook and democracy
THE EVER increasing influence of social media on democracy will be the focus for a public lecture at Aberystwyth University on Thursday, March 22.
Facebook, The Media and Democracy will be delivered by Former Welsh Government Minister Professor Leighton Andrews of the Cardiff Business School.
Hosted by The Global Communications Research Centre and the Aberystwyth Law School, the lecture takes place at 4:10pm in the Main Hall of the Department of International Politics.
Facebook now has over two billion users across the globe and owns other key communication applications including Instagram and WhatsApp, giving it unprecedented market power.
It is a major player in shaping whole societies through its role in media dissemination, civic organization and as an electoral platform.
Professor Gary Rawnsley, Director of the Global Communications Research Centre and Professor of Public Diplomacy, said: “We are looking forward to co-hosting the lecture with Aberystwyth Law School on such a hot topic. Facebook is constantly changing the face of politics, engagement and democracy at an unprecedented speed and arguments for and against regulation are evolving on a daily basis.
“The role of social media is changing the future of society and democracy, but following the recent controversy regarding ‘Fake News’ in the USA and UK, its dominance is under challenge from regulators and law-makers. The lecture will raise regulatory questions around big data and the internet platforms.”
Professor Leighton Andrews will be introduced by Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University.
Professor Andrews is now Professor of Practice in Public Service Leadership and Innovation at Cardiff Business School.
He served as Minister for Education and Skills and Minister for Public Services in Carwyn Jones’s Welsh Labour Governments between 2009 and 2016, and Deputy Minister in Rhodri Morgan’s One Wales Government from 2007 until 2009, and was the Assembly Member for the Rhondda from 2003 until 2016.
Prior to his election to the National Assembly in 2003, Professor Andrews had a successful career in the private, public and voluntary sectors, and was the BBC’s Head of Public Affairs in London from 1993-1996, during its Charter Renewal campaign.
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