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Education

Categorisation results show improvement

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NEW categorisation information published by the Welsh Government suggests that there has been an improvement in school performance.

Introduced in 2014, the National School Categorisation System places schools into one of four colour-coded support categories to demonstrate the level of support they need – green, yellow, amber and red.

There are now more schools in the green and yellow categories when compared to last year. Green schools require just four days of support and yellow schools receive up to 10 days of support.

This year sees a small change to the factors that decide a school’s category. Instead of just looking at areas such as performance, including GCSE results, there is now a much broader assessment that considers areas such as teacher assessments from other subjects, wellbeing and the quality of teaching and learning.

The National Categorisation System was introduced in 2014 to help identify schools in need of support to improve.

Under the system there are four categories – green, yellow, amber and red. Schools in the green category are deemed to be in need of the least support while schools in the red category are those identified as needing the most support.

This year’s results show that there are fewer schools in Wales in need of the highest levels of support when compared to last year. Similarly, there are more schools categorised as needing lower levels of support.

The purpose of including a broader and more sophisticated range of factors is to understand the kind of support needed by a school and to give parents a better picture of how a school is performing.

Out of over 1,500 schools across Wales only 4 appealed against their category.

In summary:

85.3 per cent of primary schools and 68.3 per cent of secondary schools are now in the green and yellow categories. This increase from last year continues the upward trend since 2015.

There has been a very small rise in the proportion of red schools – those identified as needing most support – by 0.4 percentage points in the primary sector and 2.9 percentage points in the secondary sector.

45 per cent of special schools have been categorised as green, and needing less support, with no schools categorised as red and in need of most support.

Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams said: “I’m pleased to see that more schools are now in the green and yellow categories, which continues with the upward trend we have seen over the past few years.

“These schools have a key role to play in supporting other schools to improve by sharing their expertise, skills and good practice.

“Last September, I announced that to further raise schools standards we would make changes to the school categorisation system following advice from the OECD.

“As well as taking into account a much broader range of factors about a school’s ability to improve, categorisation now places more of an emphasis on discussions about how the school could improve – leading to a tailored programme of support, challenge and intervention.

“I’m confident that the changes we have made to the categorisation process are in the best interests of pupils and will help ensure schools are given the right support at the right time.”

David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union Cymru, said: “There are some real positives in the figures published today. The significant increase in the number of primary schools placed in the green category is particularly pleasing and highlights the trend of good news we’ve seen relating to school standards following on from the recent Estyn report that highlighted the greater cooperation that has been taken place between schools. Of course these are but one measure of performance and while schools and teachers should rightfully be applauded in light of these results we have always warned against seeing them as a definitive picture of how and why schools are performing. The really important take away is to ensure that where support is needed it is delivered, where resources and finances are identified as lacking they are provided and where excellence is identified it is shared across the sector.”

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Education

Examination crisis: teacher’s predicted grades to be given to students

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THE Welsh Government has announced today (Mon, Aug 17) that AS, A level, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate and Welsh Baccalaureate grades in Wales will now be awarded on the basis of Centre Assessment Grades.

This occurred after the outrage of students, causing protests outside the Senedd after hearing that a total of 42% of A-level grades predicted by their teachers had been lowered when the Welsh results were published last week. This was due to the decision to process these grades through an algorithm.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she took the decision to maintain confidence in the system.

Speaking on the decision, Kirsty Williams said: “Working with Qualifications Wales and WJEC we have sought an approach which provides fairness and balances out differences in the standards applied to judgments in schools.

“Given decisions elsewhere, the balance of fairness now lies with awarding Centre Assessment grades to students, despite the strengths of the system in Wales.

“I am taking this decision now ahead of results being released this week, so that there is time for the necessary work to take place.

“For grades issued last week, I have decided that all awards in Wales, will also be made on the basis of teacher assessment.

“For those young people, for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand.

“Maintaining standards is not new for 2020, it is a feature of awarding qualifications every year in Wales, and across the UK.

“However, it is clear that maintaining confidence in our qualifications whilst being fair to students requires this difficult decision.

“These have been exceptional circumstances, and in due course I will be making a further statement on an independent review of events following the cancellation of this year’s exams.

“Other Awarding Bodies across the UK are involved in determining the approach to vocational qualifications. This continues to be the case but it is important that I give assurance to GCSE, AS and A level student at the earliest opportunity.”

This was a decision welcomed by Suzy Davies, Shadow Education Minister.

Commenting on the Decision, Suzy Davies said: “This has been an exceptional time, and this news will come as a very welcome relief for the thousands of A-Level students who last week were looking at grades lower than they were predicted to receive. It will also be a relief to pupils expecting results this week as well as an acknowledgement of quite how much effort teachers put into this.

“It is reassuring that the Minister has listened to the Welsh Conservatives and other parties in the Welsh Parliament, but especially pleasing that she heard the voices of young people up and down the country.

“These students – at A, AS, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate, and Welsh Baccalaureate level – will now have the confidence to plan their future education or career aspirations, and reach their potential.”

The Education Minister also promised an independent review of the events “following the cancellation of this year’s exams”.

Students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep them.

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Education

Swansea University appoints new governing body Chair

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Swansea University is pleased to announce that Bleddyn Phillips has been appointed as its new Chair of Council.
Mr Phillips, who joined the University’s governing body in May 2017, has been appointed Chair for a four-year term replacing Sir Roger Jones, whose term of office came to an end in September 2019.

Mr Phillips said: “It is a great honour to be appointed Swansea University’s Chair of Council. As a Welsh-speaker, with strong roots in Llanelli and Gower, and with both parents having studied at Swansea, I have long felt an affinity with the University and have been delighted to serve on the Council.

“I want to acknowledge the contribution made to the University by Sir Roger Jones over almost 14 years and I very much look forward to working with, and serving, the University as it celebrates its centenary in 2020 and beyond.”

Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said “It will be a privilege to work with Bleddyn as we develop our new strategic plan and look forward to beginning our second century in 2020.”

Mr Phillips is a lawyer by profession, a former commercial director at oil companies BP and Total, and later Global Head of the Oil and Gas practice at the international law firm, Clifford Chance LLP. He is Director of Llanelli Scarlets RFC and was a trustee of the Wales Millennium Centre from 2012-2018.

The Council is the University’s governing body, which approves the mission and strategic vision of the University, long-term academic and business plans, key performance indicators and overall standards. The Council assures that the University discharges its duties in accordance with the Welsh Quality Assessment Framework.

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Education

Experts attack Welsh Government’s proposed smacking ban plan

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PROMINENT academics have criticised the Welsh Government’s bill to criminalise parental smacking during a public debate at Swansea University.

Tonight, experts from the fields of sociology and criminology and parenting studies poured scorn on the plan during an Academy of Ideas debate on state intervention in the family.

A panel of three academics discussed the merits or otherwise of the smacking legislation, which is due to be debated by AMs for a third time in January next year.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University and outspoken critic of the Scottish smacking Bill, said: “No longer treated like citizens, as adults who have an opinion and a basic level of autonomy to raise our children, we have culture change imposed from on high – we are made ‘aware’ by the new authoritarians holding the stick above us.

“The smacking act is a disgrace. It is a form of brutality that undermines parents, weakens the meaning of freedom, and will go on to destroy many loving families who dare to think and act differently to the modern elitists.”

Dr Waiton added: “The brutality of the smacking act will mean that a light smack on the hand or bottom of a child will be a criminal offence. Hard smacking is already illegal, but to the middle-class anti-smacking zealots that was not enough. Children, they argue, need equal protection from assault. The very language they use is alien to the millions of parents who occasionally smack rather than assault their children.

“Parents know that smacking a child is a form of discipline often done out of love and concern rather than something that is abusive and criminal.”

Criticising the way politicians at the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have engaged with parents on the smacking legislation, he said: “The new elite think a lot about consultation and inclusion. The reality is a process run by a small section of society, politicians and professionals, who exist in their own bubble and are distant and disconnected from ordinary people.”

Ellie Lee, Professor of Parenting Research at the University of Kent also spoke out on the Welsh Government’s plans.

“Within the context of an authoritative child rearing relationship, aversive discipline including smacking is well accepted by the young child, effective in managing short-term misbehaviour and has no documented harmful long-term effects.”

She added: “It should be the concern of professionals who work with parents to respectfully offer them alternative disciplinary strategies rather than to condemn parents for using methods consonant with their own, but not the counsellors beliefs and values.”

The Professor accused the Welsh Government of using the “full force of the criminal law to attack people who disagree on the comparative merits of using smacking rather than something like timeout”, saying it is a “bureaucratic imposition on parents”.

Only one academic – Dr Gideon Calder, Associate Professor in Sociology and Social Policy at Swansea University – spoke in favour of Government interventions like the smacking ban.

Dr Calder argued that intervention is justifiable in some instances and said something like the smacking ban is not necessarily authoritarian. He said: “the point of the legislation is to safeguard children from potentially harmful interactions.”

Commenting on the debate, Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, said:

“The criticism levelled at the Government’s smacking plans tonight by experts in the fields of sociology, criminology and parenting studies should be a wakeup call to Ministers.

“Experts are not convinced that the plan to outlaw parental smacking is viable, needful or helpful in terms of improving child protection.

“I hope AMs hear the concerns of these academics as well as their constituents and scrap the smacking ban bill when it’s voted on in January.”

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