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Education

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

Improving the behaviour of Carmarthenshire Secondary School pupils

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“IT’S almost uncool to want to learn as vaping and bad language is like the new thing”

“It’s very, very, heart-breaking to see a child vaping at age 11”

“I’m genuinely really scared for the generation coming through”

These are some of the comments Carmarthenshire pupils and teachers voice in a campaign which aims to improve behaviour in the authority’s Secondary Schools.

The campaign is a joint effort between the County Council and C.A.S.H – Carmarthenshire Association of Secondary Headteachers.

Across Wales, many teachers have shared experiences of witnessing a deterioration in some pupils’ behaviour since returning to formal education after covid lockdowns. Examples of such behaviour include using offensive language with classmates and teachers, being rude in lessons and vaping in toilets during lessons.

For the benefit of pupils and teachers, Carmarthenshire Council supports their Headteachers in their attempt to act to remedy the situation.

Pupils and teachers from ALL the County’s schools attended an experience-sharing session at the County Hall in July. A cross-section of comments was recorded and used to create a video that is part of the campaign. The video will be shown in all Carmarthenshire Secondary Schools in September and will be shared through social media. Information on the campaign posters and banners will direct pupils to sources where they can get further advice about the importance of improving behaviour.

On behalf of C.A.S.H, James Durbridge said: “As teachers, we understand that there are sometimes complex reasons behind pupils’ misbehaviour and, without a doubt, we want to support those pupils.

“But as the title of the campaign video explains – Our behaviour affects everyone and everything. A teacher cannot teach and a pupil cannot learn in a class when a minority behaves offensively and without respect.

“The behaviour of our pupils today influences their tomorrow.”

Noting that the campaign is an opportunity to press the reset button on behaviour and establish better habits, Councillor Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and the Welsh Language, said: “Our aim in Carmarthenshire is to create young people who, after being educated here, create a life here and contribute to our community.

“Offering them the best possible guidance on how to behave in a way that gives them the best chance to succeed in life is our duty as an authority.”

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Education

Teacher drink-driving on way back from camping trip smelled ‘strongly of intoxicants’

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A TEACHER “stupidly stopped for a drink” on his way home from a family camping holiday before getting behind the wheel, a professional panel has heard. Huw Davies, a former English teacher at Ysgol Bro Teifi in Llandysul, Ceredigion, was more than three times above the legal alcohol limit for driving when he was stopped by police, a professional conduct committee has been told.

The Herald understands that the incident took place on the A40 St Clears to Carmarthen Road on July 30, 2021.

Witnesses were apparently called police after he pulled into a garage and appeared drunk with red eyes and dilated pupils, the Education Workforce Council (EWC) committee was told. Then the teacher came out of the garage. and went “all over the road”, EWC implementation officer Clare Hastie told the Fitness to Practice Committee.

He said police were alerted to a vehicle possibly being driven by a drunk driver on the A40 from St Clears to Carmarthen just before 3pm. Brother Teifi’s police eventually caught up with Davies at the Tesco car park in Carmarthen, where he was seen sitting in the vehicle with the keys in the ignition. When they opened the door, it smelled “strongly of intoxicants”.
breath tests showed he was more than three times the legal alcohol limit for driving and he was charged the next day.

Davies, who appeared at the September 2 virtual hearing, said he was ashamed of his actions and relieved that no one was hurt. But his actions have the “potential to put others at risk,” Hastie said. he told the panel.

The English teacher admitted he “stupidly” stopped for a drink on his way home from a camping holiday while the rest of his family returned separately. Davies told the committee that he has received help from Anonymous and the DDAS Adult Substance Abuse Service.

“I am very ashamed of what I did on July 30 and I am very happy that no one was harmed as a result of my actions,” he told the panel.

Davies described camping with his family in St Davids, Pembrokeshire before the incident.

The weather was rainy so he broke down the tent while the rest of the family left, he told the panel.

Ms Hastie said Davies began teaching English at Ysgol Bro Teifi in 2016 but has had spells of absence and left by mutual agreement with the official departure date at the end of the summer break of 31 August 2021.

Most recently he has been working as a substitute English teacher through an agency at Queen Elizabeth High School in Carmarthen. Davies told the hearing that he felt supported in his part-time job and fortunate to be receiving help from Alcoholics Anonymous and that he has yet to return to driving due to health issues.

Colin Adkins, a NASUWT teachers’ union official representing Davies, described him as a recovering alcoholic and said he was getting the help he needed. The committee had received good character references from Queen Elizabeth High School and Davies had no previous failures in his teaching career.

“We accept that driving a motor vehicle exceeding the limit three times is potentially dangerous for Mr Davies and other road users. Nevertheless, there were no accidents,” Mr Adkins told the panel. “While I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of the crime, I do want to put it in the context of it taking place entirely in his personal life.” and no other person was harmed by his conduct.”

Mr Adkins added: “Here you have someone who is a recovering alcoholic who is receiving medical support. Davies was faced with two allegations, both of which he admitted and which the EWC Committee found to be substantiated.”

The allegations were that he was found guilty of driving under the influence on August 19 last year after a breathalyzer measured 120mg in 100ml of breath, resulting in a council order and a nine-month driving ban held a license and that the conviction constituted an “offence” relevant to his eligibility as a registered teacher.

In issuing a reprimand, the committee considered his open admission and remorse at both the trial and the professional hearing. Committee chair Michelle McBreeze said Davies took steps to address the personal and health issues that led to her. She said the teacher provided positive testimonials and character references, including from her last manager at Queen High School, Elizabeth, and although there was a risk of recurrence, it was small.

McBreeze called it “a serious incident.” conduct,” but Davies “took full responsibility for his actions and has shown clear remorse and remorse.” An asset to the profession, he added.

“The purpose of a warning is not a punishment. Mr. Davies’ behavior was unacceptable and must not happen again. The warning lasts two years and will be disclosed to employers,” said Ms McBreeze.

Mr Davies has the right to appeal to the High Court within 28 days

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Education

Carmarthenshire GCSE students celebrate results

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is congratulating all of the county’s students that are receiving their GCSE results today, Thursday 25th August 2022.

This year’s assessment and qualification process have returned to the pre-COVID-19 pandemic format of examinations which included adaptations to accommodate the ongoing effects of the pandemic that leaners and teachers have had to contend with. After two years without exams, students have had the opportunity to show what they’ve learned and what they can do through exams and assessments.

Whilst this year’s results are not directly comparable with any other year, overall in Wales, outcomes are higher than when exams were last sat in 2019 , but lower than 2021 when there was a different method of assessment.

In Carmarthenshire 72.1% of all entries have been awarded an A*-C grade representing an increase of 1.2% since examinations were last sat in 2019. This is higher than the national average of 68.6%.

27.2% of entries achieved an A*-A grade representing a significant increase of 5.9% in comparison to 2019 and again higher than the national average of 25.1%.  91.6 % of entries achieved an A* – E grade.

Speaking on behalf of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr. Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language said:

“We are so happy for those young people who are receiving their well-earned GCSE grades, congratulations to you all.”

“Carmarthenshire County Council is very proud of our young people’s achievements, as are we of the support and commitment given by their teachers, support staff, families and friends. Thank you all for your hard work in what has been a challenging couple of years, due to the COVDI-19 pandemic. We wish you all well in your future endeavours.”

In a joint statement, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Wendy Walters and Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gareth Morgans added:

“We are extremely proud what of has been achieved by our learners and they fully deserve these results. This year, for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19, our GCSE learners have sat examinations. The pandemic, however, has loomed large over their preparations and they, along with their teachers, support staff, families and friends, have had to display resilience and dedication to achieve these fantastic results. We are grateful to you all.”

“We would also like to thank our schools and their staff for their continued hard work and commitment to providing our learners with the very best opportunities to succeed.”

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