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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

Minister visits to celebrate new curriculum and partnership work at Ysgol Glan-y-Môr

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YSGOL Glan-y-Môr school was visited last week by the Minister for Education Kirsty Williams. Mrs Williams was visiting the school to celebrate the school’s work in STEM subjects, and their strong working partnerships with local primary schools.

During the visit Mrs Williams met staff and pupils from the school and its four feeder primaries, Pembrey Pwll, Ysgol y Castell and Burry Port, and saw some of the projects that the schools have worked together upon as they look to develop the new Curriculum for Wales.
During the visit Mrs Williams was also able to unveil a plaque to celebrate the schools work with the Wolfson foundation that has enabled the school to revolutionise the technology available to young people in the school to aid their learning. The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity that supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts and humanities. Since it was established in 1955, over £900 million (£1.9 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 11,000 projects throughout the UK, all on the basis of expert review.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “It was a pleasure to visit Ysgol Glan-y-Môr today to meet the staff and pupils and hear about their fantastic approaches to learning’”

“I am very grateful and impressed by the quality of engagement the school has had in the process of developing the new curriculum; they have gone above and beyond its duty, and have excelled especially within the fields of Science and Technology.

“I can’t overstate the importance of developing STEM skills and knowledge, especially for our young women. These skills can offer rewarding careers and exciting opportunities that can bring learning alive, preparing them for the world of work.”

Mrs Sharon Cole, Chair of Governors said: “The Governing Body are delighted with the fantastic achievements of Glan-y-Môr schools students, teachers and Senior leadership team. It is with great pride that we witness our school grow from strength to strength and truly reap the rewards of our motto of “success through effort”. As we move into a new era, with a new curriculum for Wales that will allow our children to thrive in the future, together with the Wolfson Foundation Investment and an already strong STEM ethos, we are excited to witness great potential unfold at Glan-y-Môr.”

Mr Paul Jones, Headmaster of the federation said: “Following an excellent inspection – STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) had been identified by ESTYN as an outstanding feature of the school, and had been developed into a best practice guide. Developing ambitious and very capable learners with these sort of transferable skills is hugely important to us a school as we prepare all our learners for further education, training or employment.”

Mr John Jones, Head of School said: “Once again it is great to be able to celebrate exciting times at Glan-y-Môr. We are always looking for the next step in our journey, and even though recently classified as a “green” school for the third successive year we are keen to move ever forward. When inspected in 2017 we were praised for the way that we were developing the skills in our students, but it was commented that we lacked the facilities to enable them to develop and show these skills. Our work with the Wolfson foundation has enabled us to redevelop the facilities around STEM in our school, and our students now have the facilities to match their potential as the school continues to grow.”

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Education

Llanelli: Leavers’ Prom for Pen Rhos Pupils

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PUPILS in Year 6 at Llanelli’s Ysgol Pen Rhos were able to bring their time in primary education to a wonderful close with a leavers’ ‘Prom’ party (June 13). This was the second year group of pupils to leave the newly-established school in Seaside, which opened in April 2018.
The event was organised by parents of the school who wanted to give the pupils a send-off to remember as they embark on the next chapter in their journey.
School teacher Mr N Davies said: “It was a lovely opportunity for pupils to come together to celebrate the end of their time in Ysgol Pen Rhos. They have worked extremely hard throughout the year and deserve to enjoy every moment before their transition to secondary school.
“We would like to extend a big thank you to parents, teachers, the entertainers at ‘Starlight Celebrations’ and of course the parents who arranged the event and made it a success.
“The school wishes the best of luck to all pupils in their future endeavours.”

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Education

Llanelli: Ysgol Pen Rhos thanked for charity boost

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A RECENT charity event held at Llanelli’s Ysgol Pen Rhos was a great success after it raised hundreds of pounds towards a worthy cause when staff and pupils turned up for school wearing their own clothes instead of normal schoolwear. Each participant donated £1 to a cause which has a personal connection to one member of the school’s staff.

Deborah Jayne Griffiths has been an LSA at the school for 27 years and is raising funds to provide community defibrillators.

On Saturday (Jun 15), she took part in a skydive at Swansea Airport to raise money for a cause which means a lot to her.

June 15 was the fourth anniversary of the passing of her son, Cameron Jervis, who would now be twenty-two years old. Cameron passed away in his sleep four years ago.

Deborah said: “The school, they said that they’d come up with a money-raising scheme to help towards the purchase of the defibrillators.

“My sister Lindsay Kennedy who also works as an LSA designed t-shirts #jumpforcam for the tandem skydive, which I’ll be wearing as I jump. My older sister Sharon Evans, who works in Heol Goffa also as an LSA, plus her friend Sian will also be jumping.

“I’m petrified of heights so this will be a big deal for me. Cameron had wanted to do a skydive when he was eighteen, sadly he never had the chance, so this is for my boy. He was eighteen when he passed away in his sleep. All the money raised will go into Cameron’s Memorial Account, we then distribute to local communities. We have already had one defibrillator put up in Dafen Park. That has already been used a few times to help saves lives within our community.

“Ideally I want to raise money to be able to provide as many as I can. All the staff have had the defibrillator training here at Ysgol Pen Rhos which is obviously a worthy skill to learn.

I want to thank everyone for their support, this includes family, friends, staff and of course the pupils.”

There is a JUSTGIVING page on Facebook if anyone is happy to donate to this fantastic cause.

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