Education Comparison Likely to Highlight Wales' Failings; Schools in England Have Been Given a Glowing Report from the Nation's Chief Inspector. Are There Lessons to Be Learned in Wales? Education Correspondent Gareth Evans Reports

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 10, 2013 | Go to article overview

Education Comparison Likely to Highlight Wales' Failings; Schools in England Have Been Given a Glowing Report from the Nation's Chief Inspector. Are There Lessons to Be Learned in Wales? Education Correspondent Gareth Evans Reports


EDUCATION in Wales will undergo its biggest test in a little under three months time.

The influential Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) results are published again in December and the Welsh Government is already bracing itself for bad news.

Standards in Wales were desperately poor last time countries were pitted against each other in 2010, and critics fear the relative infancy of newfangled education policies will prolong the agony for its schools system.

While each of the home nations is given its own Pisa breakdown, the cumulative UK position depends entirely on its constituent parts. If reading, maths and science scores dip further in Wales, then the eyes of the world will again fall on Cardiff Bay for all the wrong reasons.

And it's not just reputation at stake - experts predict a poor Pisa showing will inevitably impact on a country's economic prosperity. Perform badly and industry is less likely to invest.

News that England's schools system is making "genuine and radical" advances will not go down well this side of the border.

Addressing a conference of headteachers yesterday, England's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said changes introduced last September had had a "galvanising effect" on schools.

He hailed an overhaul of education watchdog Ofsted's in-spection framework for an "unprecedented rate of national improvement" in school performance.

Under the new system, schools judged to require improvement at two consecutive inspections and who are still not providing a good education at the third face being placed in special measures.

Sir Michael said: "Headteachers are using the 'requires improvement' judgement as a way of bringing about rapid improvement in their schools, especially in the quality of teaching. And the national improvement we are seeing is all the better for taking place under the terms of a more rigorous school inspection framework.

"I am determined to use the power and influence of inspection to improve our school system. The message from Ofsted is unequivocal - the acceptable standard of education in this country now starts at 'good'."

Across England, 16,652 (78%) of state schools were judged to be good or outstanding at their last inspection, while about 4,696 (22%) were found to require improvement or be inadequate.

Of those, around 640 (3%) were inadequate.

The outlook in Wales is more bleak, and while Welsh inspectorate Estyn introduced its own revamped framework three years ago, it has only served to re-enforce the scale of challenge afoot.

Earlier this year, Wales' chief inspector Ann Keane revealed that there are more schools under-performing and in need of extra support than she had anticipated.

In her third annual report she said 48% of primary schools and 54% of secondary schools required a follow-up visit, with inspectors returning at a later date to consider whether sufficient improvements had been made.

Estyn's shorter, sharper inspections put greater emphasis on those underachieving, and a scaling-back of core inspections focuses resources where they are needed most. …

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