WALES’ Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams has welcomed the nation’s significant improvement in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study.
PISA is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in member and non-member nations intended to evaluate educational systems by measuring 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading in PISA.
The PISA assessment is regarded, with some misgivings among educational experts, as a guide to education policies’ performance across 79 participating countries.
For the first time since Wales began participating separately in the PISA studies, Wales has caught up with the international average in all subjects. The results record Wales’ best ever scores in reading and maths and improvement in science
Kirsty Williams said: “For the first time, Wales is in the international mainstream, thanks to the efforts of our teachers and students.
“We have caught up, we are continuing to improve in all areas and, as a nation, we must be determined to keep up this momentum.
“This is positive for teachers, parents and students and the nation as a whole, but not perfect.
“We can go further still.”
Following the 2015 results, the Education Minister set a challenge to improve the proportion of top-performing learners.
The number of high performing students in reading rose from 3% in 2015 to 7% in 2018, with a 4% to 7% increase in maths and a 4% to 5% increase in science.
Wales saw an improvement in its ranking compared to other participating nations.
Kirsty Williams added: “Today’s news is positive for our young people and education system. We are continuing to improve in all areas and we’ve got more top performers than ever before.
“Our increase in high-performers is a big step forward. It’s a culture change for Wales. But there’s still more to do, as we’re not quite at the OECD average for this aspect yet.
“Not only have our overall scores gone up, but we’ve also reduced the attainment gap. We can be proud that in Wales we truly partner equity with excellence.
“We are heading in the right direction with our reforms. Our National Mission has charted the right course. The OECD is telling us to move forward with confidence.
“That’s why we are delivering the biggest ever investment in our teachers, have developed the biggest ever professional learning programme and are striding ahead with our new curriculum.”
UCAC, the Welsh education union, has called for all concerned to make wise use of the data.
Dilwyn Roberts-Young, UCAC General Secretary said “This year’s PISA results provide a wealth of information about various aspects of our education system. The headlines are comparatively encouraging – and everyone concerned is to be congratulated on that. However, we must be careful to go beyond the headlines.
“It appears that some of the reforms that have already been implemented are beginning to pay off. But we must remember that the major reforms to the curriculum, assessment arrangements and accountability systems have yet to be put in action. We now need to concentrate on effectively implementing those reforms over the coming years if they are to help us on our journey towards improving education for all in Wales.
“The report draws attention to concerns about pupils’ wellbeing – with higher than average levels being reported of feeling miserable or worried. Also, schools in Wales were more likely to report that insufficiencies of physical resources – especially textbooks and ICT equipment – were hampering their efforts.
“UCAC strongly believes that we need to keep to the reform route that we have set, whilst ensuring sufficient levels of funding, resources and time for teachers. Alongside those reforms, we need to continue and expand our efforts to support the wellbeing of everyone within our school communities.”
Commenting on the results in Wales in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said: “PISA results have not been kind to Wales in the past, and this latest set of results is a real boost at a time when we are introducing a transformational new curriculum in Wales. We are delighted that performance in maths has continued an upward trend and with the recognition that Wales is roughly in line with the OECD average in reading, science and maths.
“Of course, we want to do a good deal better than this in the future and our national ambition is to make our education system among the very best in the world.
“We would always caution people against over-claiming or over-blaming any one factor on the difference in results between countries. PISA is just one measure of an education system and cannot possibly tell the full story about our schools.
“However, today’s results are a positive step forward, and we extend our congratulations to our students and teachers.”
David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Pisa offers some benchmarking against other countries but it is only one measure of performance and we would do well to avoid any suggestion that a Pisa ranking is the ‘be all and end all’ of a country’s educational performance. It is not!
“This years’ results clearly show that Wales has improved in all 3 areas tested and we know that the Welsh Government has set a target for the next round of tests that will place our results above the OECD average if achieved. We are confident that our members’ professionalism and desire to provide the best education service will bring improvements in every performance measure but are conscious that we need to ensure that our priorities for youngsters in our schools are the correct ones.
“Providing the necessary resources and tools to embed the new curriculum in Wales has to be a primary focus which will reap its own rewards. That and striving to secure pupil happiness and wellbeing should be the emphasis for the Welsh Government going forward.”
Award wants to unearth College talent
THE SEARCH is on to find the cream of Carmarthen’s creative photography and film talent, as one of the nation’s most prestigious student photography awards is now open for entries.
The annual ‘EIZO Awards’ organised by a leading manufacturer of monitor solutions, EIZO, is designed to champion creativity behind the lens and provide a vital career kick-start to talented students looking to follow in the footsteps of the UK’s photography greats.
Coleg Sir Gar students across creative disciplines such as commercial and editorial photography and film direction can enter the awards to be in with a chance of winning the top prize – an EIZO ColorEdge monitor and exclusive placement with one of the world-renowned judges.
This year, the EIZO award is open to film submissions as well as photography entries.
Now in its 4th year, the judges for this year’s awards are all UK-based professional photographers and include; Tim Flach a London based animal photographer; Helen Jennings, an esteemed editor, consultant and curator whose specialisms include visual arts and Alistair Taylor-Young, a British photographer and film director whose impressive client list boasts Dior, Bloomingdales and Fendi.
There will be three total winners, one chosen by each of the judges. One of the former winners of the 2018-19 award is Jimmy Lee (26), a previous student from University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, who commented: “I entered the award as EIZO is a well-established brand in the creative industry. It was a great opportunity to connect with professionals in the creative network. My advice would be to be yourself and submit the work that you really enjoy!”
Hayley Osborne, Head of Marketing and Communications for EIZO Limited, added: “There is a wealth of photography talent across the UK and so our awards are designed to unlock that skill, flair and imagination. By working closely with universities, we want to champion the creative photographer film and image-makers of the future and give students the best possible platform to showcase their work. We’d love to see what the students of Carmarthen have to offer!”
Both universities and students can now download a copy of the EIZO Awards brief and find details on how to enter including terms and conditions at www.eizocolour.com/eizo-award/. Entry submissions are now open and close on Thursday 14th May 2020. Judging will commence in May next year, before the winners are announced in June 2020.
‘Skills Olympics’ date for Zack
UWTSD’s Software Engineering Degree Apprentice Zack Evans (pictured centre) will join 137 apprentices and students at WorldSkills UK’s talent programme for the ‘Skills Olympics’ in Shanghai, China in 2021.
The announcement was made this month by the education and skills charity which manages the UK’s entry into the ‘Skills Olympics’, known officially as WorldSkills, which has also set out its ambition over the next decade to use its ongoing participation in this global event to bring back innovation from other leading world economies to the UK to help create a world-class skill system to support economic growth, productivity and competitiveness.
Zack, a first-year Software Engineering Degree Apprentice employed at Inngot Ltd in Swansea’s city centre, represented the University alongside Paul Lawrence and James Dunhill at The UK’s largest skills, apprenticeships and careers event, WorldSkills Finals which took place on November 21-23 at Birmingham NEC – and was awarded a silver medal.
Over the three days, there were competitions in 70 different skills across the Digital, Technology, Engineering, Construction and Hospitality industries with finalists having to a set task or series of tasks in their respective skill area within a limited time and front of the 70,000 plus visitors attending the event.
WorldSkills UK’s goal is to mainstream the excellence in teaching, training and assessment to be received by the young people in the WorldSkills UK elite team announced this week, so more and more young people all across the UK can also benefit from world-class training methods.
It has a global reach with over 80 countries and regions participating in the event, and this provides WorldSkills UK with unique access to skills innovation from around the world. Through its Productivity Lab programme, WorldSkills UK announced it is seeking to work with partners in education, training and business to use this insight to mainstream global best practice to raise standards in everyday training to world-class levels. It believes this focus on excellence will inspire more young people, from all backgrounds, to take up apprenticeships and technical education as a prestige route to success for them and their employers.
Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK said: “It is fantastic to see such a strong squad of young people all of whom are aiming to represent the UK on the world stage in Shanghai.
“They will be flying the flag for the UK, demonstrating to the rest of the world that we are developing the high-quality skills needed to help us to trade internationally and attract inward investment across all of the UK to creating and maintain jobs. Now more than ever, we need to invest in excellence in training for the next generation if we are to remain competitive globally and help create a thriving economy.
“Congratulations to all of those on the WorldSkills UK Talent Programme, they really are the high flyers of their generation and should help inspire young people and parents everywhere – turning vocational snobbery on its head – showing that choosing a technical career is a clear route to success in work and life.”
The apprentices and students on the WorldSkills UK Talent Programme will now spend the next 18 months in training. This is fitted around their study and employment commitments before they face the ultimate selection test next year to secure a place in the team that will represent the UK at WorldSkills Shanghai 2021.
Bridget Moseley, Head of UWTSD’s Apprenticeship Unit said: “This is fantastic news. I am absolutely delighted that Zack’s abilities have been recognised at this level and that he has been given the opportunity to demonstrate them on the world stage.”
Barry Liles, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Skills and Lifelong Learning at UWTSD said: “The University is so pleased for Zack having been selected to compete for a place in Team UK for Shanghai in 2021. We will now do our utmost to support Zack during this development period, working with both WorldSkills UK and the Inspiring Skills Excellence Project in Wales. Zack’s success shows the importance of the vocational skills pathway that exists in the region where commencing their studies in a further education college, in Zack’s case Neath Port Talbot College Group, with progression to higher education locally develops young people who can compete on the World stage and achieve vocational excellence.”
More Welsh students head to uni
NEW DATA show the number of students from Wales enrolled at universities in the UK increased by 2.6% last year.
The number of Wales-based students at UK Higher Education Institutions rose to 99,310 in 2018/19, from 96,780 in 2017/18, putting an end to a six-year decline.
The overall increase was driven primarily by a rise of 9.2% in postgraduate students, from 16,665 to 18,200, the second year in a row the number has risen. This follows the introduction of additional support for post-graduate students in Wales.
The figures, published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, show admissions to Welsh universities also increased to 121,880, up from 121,010 the previous year.
The number of postgraduate enrolments in Welsh universities increased by 5.9%, while full-time undergraduates remained at a similar level to 2017/18.
The Welsh Government has been reforming student finance in Wales, following a review of higher education funding led by Professor Sir Ian Diamond which reported in 2016.
The reforms include an increase in the amount of total support available to £17,000 and a move to help students with their day-to-day living costs, rather than for tuition fees only.
The reforms also include improved support for Master’s students, designed to make access to post-graduate qualifications accessible to more graduates.
The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has previously set a goal of a 10% increase in the number of Welsh post-graduate students by the end of this Government term.
The figures published today show a 33% increase in enrolments by first-year postgraduate students from Wales since 2015/16.
The Welsh Government also introduced improved support for part-time students from the academic year 2018-19. There was a 6.9% increase in first-year part-time undergraduates from Wales.
In response to the figures, the Education Minister said: “I want to make higher education more accessible to people from Wales, so these figures are welcome.
“The number of enrolments is especially pleasing given that the number of 18-year-olds in Wales has fallen in recent years.
“Since I accepted the recommendations of the Diamond Review three years ago we’ve reformed our support for undergraduates and postgraduates from Wales, making ours the most generous student package in the UK.
“Improving access to higher education is a key driver of social mobility.
“I’m particularly pleased with the increase in post-graduates, by more than 1,500, which play an important role in supplying talented researchers and innovators to help grow our economy.”
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