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Education

Concerns over robustness of new Welsh GCSEs PLANS for Wales only GCSEs

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welsh gcsePLANS for Wales only GCSEs have been criticised by the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives. The changes are planned from next September. The new qualifications include two new GCSEs in maths, new GCSEs in English Language and Welsh Language, revised English and Welsh Literature GCSEs, a more rigorous Welsh Baccalaureate, and revised A levels and AS qualifications. The Welsh Labour government say that the new qualifications will place a greater focus on developing skills, particularly literacy and numeracy. The revised Welsh Baccalaureate will be graded at all its levels. At advanced level the grading structure and its size will be equivalent to an A level, further increasing its currency with Higher Education.

Education Minister, Huw Lewis, explained the reasoning behind the changes. He said: “In developing these key educational reforms we established a firm body of evidence, through the independent Review of Qualifications. We consulted with businesses, schools, colleges and universities to get their views on how qualifications should change. These improved qualifications will meet the needs of young people and help support the Welsh economy. The new qualifications will motivate, reward, and reflect the efforts of our young people.

They will be recognised as a mark of excellence; trusted, valued and respected by employers and universities not only here in Wales and the UK, but internationally.” The Welsh Government accepted 42 recommendations for qualifications for 14-19 year olds, proposed by the Review of Qualifications, and has been working collaboratively with educationalists and other partners to develop the new qualifications. The reforms have been welcomed by some. Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at Oxford University, said: “We expect our students to be independent thinkers, highly motivated and prepared to be flexible.

I truly believe that these new qualifications, especially the refocused and strengthened Welsh Baccalaureate, will help develop students in that direction. The revised qualifications have the support of the business community.” Ceri Assiratti, Head of People Services at Admiral Group said: “As an employer, strongly rooted in Wales, we are pleased that the Welsh Government has considered the needs of business and made them an integral part of these new qualifications. The new Welsh Baccalaureate, for example, with its various challenges, will ensure young people are equipped with the right skills to take forward their careers.”

Responding to the Welsh Government’s statement on qualifications, Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Education, Simon Thomas said: “The top priority for the qualifications system in Wales is to secure its credibility. The new Wales-specific GCSEs and revised Baccalaureate should provide a credible measurement of pupils’ skills and, therefore, be portable.

For this to happen we need to ensure that staff have the right training and that the new qualifications are marketed properly, in order to ensure confidence in the system. The 2012 GCSE fiasco must not be repeated and that’s why the Welsh Government should support these new qualifications with the establishment of a new independent qualifications body to ensure confidence in the system.” However, Andrew RT Davies, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives said: “There has been concerning evidence that some independent schools do not believe that the Welsh Labour Government’s new qualifications are sufficiently robust and that they are concerned that they may not be recognised around the world

.The fact that some state schools are considering entering students for English GCSEs already betrays a lack of confidence among teachers, parents and governors in Labour’s new qualifications. Wales’ poor standing in the international rankings for educational performance will not help and I fear that the consequences for Welsh pupils could be profound, particularly if UK universities do not apply the same weight to these new qualifications when considering Welsh applicants for entry.”

 

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Education

School’s concern over ‘inappropriate use of images of staff and pupils’

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THE HEADTEACHER of a Pembrokeshire primary school has written to parents and guardians following concerns over certain social media activity.

Mrs Clare Hewitt, of Neyland Community Primary School, said that it filled her “with great sadness” to have to email parents and guardians of pupils at her school.

She added that the school had alerted the police regarding the matter.

Mrs Hewitt said that it came to light that there had been “inappropriate use of images of staff and pupils for TikTok pages and Messenger groups.”

The school said it is asking that all parents, where their child uses social media, to check social media accounts to ensure that they are being used appropriately and safely,

Parents or guardians with concerns have been asked to telephone the school on Monday or to contact Mrs Hewitt by email.

Parents and guardians of pupils were contacted by email on Saturday night (May 15).

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Education

Major prize for UWTSD lecturer

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A UWTSD academic has been awarded the prestigious Henry Stopes Memorial Medal.
Based at the University’s Lampeter campus, Dr Martin Bates accepted the outstanding contribution award from the Geologists’ Association during an online ceremony on Friday 7 May. This prize is awarded just once every three years for exceptional work in the archaeological field and specifically ‘on the Prehistory of Man and his geological environment.’
During his career, Dr. Bates has been involved in several major discoveries within the UK archaeological field including the Dover Bronze Age Boat, the Clactonian Elephant butchery site in Ebbsfleet, the Harnham terminal Lower Palaeolithic site near Salisbury.
He discovered the Happisburgh human footprints in Norfolk (the oldest presently know in the world outside Africa).
It was noted during the presentation that the Henry Stopes Medal had been awarded to Dr Bates for his “significant contributions to understanding the geological environment of prehistoric human occupation of Britain and elsewhere over the last 40 years.”
It was also noted that in the spirit of the Geologists’ Association he was “generous with his time and expertise to colleagues, students and members of the public alike.”
Following the awards ceremony, Dr Martin Bates commented: “It is incredible to be recognised in this way and I’d like to thank the Geologists’ Association for this honour.  
“However, this award really reflects the support I have received through my career from a whole range of specialists who have provided me with the data I have used in my research. Without them I would not have been able to do what I have done”
“I think this all goes back to my very early days spent on the beaches of West Wales being dragged along on Saturday fieldtrips led by my father for students studying geology at Aberystwyth.  He has a lot to answer for!”

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Education

Students relying on free school meals fell further behind

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THE ATTAINMENT gap between disadvantaged primary school pupils and their classmates has grown in mathematics by one month since the onset of the pandemic, according to interim findings published this week by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

The findings are drawn from an ongoing EEF-funded study that aims to understand changes to the gap which might have occurred due to the periods of partial school closure resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

While disadvantaged pupils’ outcomes in mathematics seem to have been hit hardest by the first national lockdown, the attainment gap did not widen (or shrink) during the Autumn 2020 term.

Thar suggests that gaps caused by Covid are unlikely to close without intervention.

The research is based on assessment data collected by FFT Education from 132 primary schools prior to and after the first national lockdown.

The report did not measure the impact of school closures on overall learning progress (sometimes referred to as learning loss) but, instead, looked at the differences in progress between pupils eligible for free school meals and those that are not.

Data from reading and maths assessments (PIRA and PUMA tests) taken in Autumn 2019 was used as a baseline to track the trajectory of the attainment gap.

Pupils whose data was included in the sample were all in Years 1 to 5 (5-to-10-year-olds) during the academic year 2019-2020.

Reading and maths tests were administered to these same pupils on their return to the classroom in September 2020, and then again towards the end of the Autumn term 2020.

Disadvantaged pupils’ performance in the tests was compared to that of their classmates to examine changes to the attainment gap which might have resulted from the first period of partial school closures.

The analysis of these results indicates that pupils from socio-economically deprived backgrounds have fallen further behind in maths since the onset of the pandemic.

Contrary to previous estimates, this study found no discernible change to the disadvantage gap in reading.

The findings also highlight the difficulty of combatting educational inequality in classrooms.

Data collected from PIRA and PUMA assessments taken at the end of the Autumn term 2020 indicate the return of all pupils to school in September has not been sufficient in narrowing the gap.

Further analysis is currently underway.

A final data set will be collected in June 2021 to examine whether the disadvantage gap narrows, widens, or remains stable.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Today’s research gives us more evidence of the enormous impact school closures have had on young people, especially those from low-income homes.

“The research indicates the need for long-term, sustained support for schools as they work to accelerate the progress of their disadvantaged pupils.

“To mitigate against the long-term impact of lost learning, large government funding is required. The cost of failing to act now will be a catastrophe for young people from low-income homes.”

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “The pandemic has brought the significance of social and educational inequality into sharp focus.

“Research studies like this one are providing clear evidence that substantial existing gaps have grown further due to the disruption to learning caused by the pandemic.

“In strategizing an approach to recovery, we are presented with the opportunity to go beyond restoring the learning lost during partial school closures, and work towards rebalancing the scales for disadvantaged pupils.”

Researchers from FFT Education said: “Our study makes a fresh contribution to the research on the effects of COVID.

“We find that attainment gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers have widened slightly in maths, but not reading.

“We also find that there were surprisingly weak associations between school responses to COVID – for example, phoning students during the lockdown – and attainment.”

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