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Heat shields and silver bullets

Betsan Powys | 21:01 UK time, Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Another day, another report into the Welsh education system.

The purpose of this one was to examine its structure - in a nutshell are the 22 local education authorities still fit for purpose - or do we need to move to a regional or even national system?

The recommendation, since you ask, was for a move to four regional consortia, which would concentrate expertise and - hopefully - free up more money for the front line.

Like most recent reports into education in Wales, the authors found it impossible to resist casting a very critical eye on the current situation in schools. But unlike the reports to date, this one came very close to attacking some of the few sacred cows still standing in the sector.

At this morning's lobby briefing, the First Minister deflected questions relating to pupil under-attainment in recent years with the two magic words "Foundation Phase", the learn through play programme for all 3-7 year olds.

Ministers would shy away from the phrase "silver bullet" but it seems to be working very nicely as a heat shield against the criticism that standards have slipped.

Has this section of the report, then, knocked a small but significant hole in that shield?

"Overall, we conclude that outcomes in respect of literacy are problematic at virtually all stages of education from the Foundation Phase through to further education.

"We are hopeful that the learning methods which are the essence of the Foundation Phase will help raise standards of literacy and numeracy and their application in everyday life. It is important that children are taught well initially and then those with difficulties are identified early on can be supported subsequently.

"This can be done if diagnostic testing is introduced for literacy and numeracy towards the end of the Foundation Phase. We stress that diagnostic analysis is required to help assess that a child's development is on course and that appropriate teaching methods are in use.

"A Foundation Phase without such analysis is not well founded."

And it goes on to say, "If we are not careful standards will regress rather than improve because of the introduction of the Foundation Phase."

The point that seems to be made is that while successive ministers and teaching unions have made a virtue of the lack of continual testing of Welsh pupils, in fact, that can serve to mask poor performance until it's too late.

And on an even more basic level, Wales may well be the "envy of other countries" due to the Foundation Phase, according to ministers, but without testing - how do we know that?

While it's seemed for a while that the days of 22 local education authorities are numbered, for all Leighton Andrews' rhetoric, there was a significant hit in today's report for successive education ministers, who, it says, have basically taken their eye off the ball.

"Logically, it appears that since the Minister takes action in placing a Recovery Board to ensure that standards are raised in the performance of a LA then it should be the Minister through the national education department that should hold LAs to account for their performance in a robust and systematic way.

"It is abundantly clear that this does not take place currently."

Today's statement in plenary on the report, like much of today's business, had a somewhat valedictory air about it. It will, of course, be the next Assembly Government, formed soon (hopefully fairly soon, say us veterans of the 2007 negotiations) after the elections on May 5th to confront many of these issues.

In the meantime, the small matter of those elections. All three other parties have signalled their intent to take on Labour over their record on education. Plaid Cymru seem to be casting aside any notion of collective responsibility for the past four years when it comes to this particular policy area and are looking to carve out their own distinctive space.

Both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats are also going to put this front and centre of their campaigns. The recent PISA figures are an opposition politician's dream of course, internationally recognised, clear and unequivocal, and damning. That "downward spiral" headline from today's report will be heard a fair few times in the coming weeks too.

So how do Labour respond? That heat shield is going to need some serious reinforcing, but Mr Andrews, through a series of speeches soon after coming to office which cleverly pre-empted much of what was in today's report and its equally gloomy predecessors, has tried to draw a line under the past and look to the future.

If Labour are returned to power next month, either alone or in coalition, few in the Bay are prepared to bet against him returning to his current role. And that may be one of the best defences his party will muster in the coming weeks.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Alas, the school system is broken due to a combination of low expectations, poor teachers and teaching, inefficient LAs and a clueless government.

    The call of back to basics is admittedly over used, but in education we really do need to see a return to the fundamentals of teachers teaching and learners being made to learn.

    Rearranging the deckchairs (yet again) won't due this.

  • Comment number 2.

    There seems to be a case for parents taking the initiative and establishing "Free Schools", oops, the Assembly coalition government won't allow us .....

    ..... they are the experts, so they would have us believe.

  • Comment number 3.

    Yet another " nail in the coffin" in the reputation of public administration as a whole if providing education services to welsh children.The current situation is the classic one where the "blame"game has and will continue until radical changes are made,which will return responsibility down to head teachers to run schools inproper and non-political manner. What "impact" has the dash for increasing welsh speaking schools had on english speaking children,and the additional funding for such schools. When it comes to actual "facts" on school performances/funding/absentee levels of teachers/discipline/expulsions etc etc we might as well live in China. We need to get politicians in total out of the service and fund children through education vouchers on strictly equal basis and encourage setting up chariteable bodies to run school. The waste of millions on virtually empty schools would be cut immediately as parents would be expected to fund any shortfall above "voucher" level. In conclusion if you remove education from 22 Local Authorities what is point of keeping that number in existence. There is no local democracy in reality as my councillor told me all the real decisions through administrate directions are made by WAG!!.

  • Comment number 4.

    I would agree we need parents to take the initiative, not to create "free schools" but to become actively involved in their children's education. At the moment so many parents (but by no means the majority) regard school as free child care and take no part in the education of their children.

  • Comment number 5.

    Another clear case of failure from the WAG. Education is a devolved area and we in Wales have suffered as a result of the inept Welsh Assembly

    Fact we have far too many LEA's - we are a small Country we do not need 22 LEA's which are simply job creation schemes for the cronies of Labour/Plaid

    Fact the "funding gap" between that exists between Wales and England is as a result of Labour/Plaid creating jobs for their cronies in LEA's

    Fact £m were wasted on creating a Welsh Bac - when a perfectly good International Bac was in place

    How many failed teachers/ head teachers have been disciplined or dismissed in Wales in the last ten years?

    What can we conclude from this? That our children have been let down by power hungry politicians at Cardiff Bay!

  • Comment number 6.

    These posts are all heading in the basic direction that those in charge have lost their way. Will we see contrition, humility, failing management given the boot, maybe even an apology?....sorry slipping into my dream world again, I forgot we are dealing with buck passing, jargon spewing politicians here.
    I would take slight issue with post 4 - regardless of your involvement with your children's education we all pay good money in taxes to ensure the "professionals" are doing a good job. I do not see schools as a daycare facility, butI do not want a plumber to charge me £60/hour to rectify a problem and expect me to use my tools and do the job for him!

  • Comment number 7.

    Let’s face it, Labour’s record in government, both in Wales and in the UK has been disastrous.

    The people of Wales are doubly paying the price for Labour’s failure in Cardiff and in London. Today’s report shows that the economic recovery is ‘lagging’ in Wales – not that it’s powering ahead in the rest of the UK, either.

    The creation in 1996 of twenty-two local authorities by the then Tory government, each with an education department led by a highly paid director was madness. People were promoted beyond their competence to fill some of these posts. It’s left a legacy difficult to reverse. The relative decline in educational standards in Wales pre-dates the Assembly, but has sadly continued.

    I don’t blame the teachers – those at the coalface of education, as I’m sure they are as dedicated and professionally qualified as you will find anywhere, despite working in a difficult overly bureaucratic system. They cannot speak out about the problems they face for fear of affecting career progression, or of even losing their jobs.

    The role of the Labour-led Assembly (pre-2007) and Welsh Assembly Government (post 2007) has not been inspiring -it has lacked vision. Twelve years of Labour in Wales has been woefully bad for the country. I think it stems in part from having too many safe seats – a similar problem exists at Westminster – because forty seats are based on FPTP.

    A radical shake-up is needed. Importing the Tory ideas of Michael Gove is not the answer – their value remains to be proven over time.

    The one area of success has been in the growth of bilingual schools throughout Wales, as is evidenced by the increasing demand for places. Last week I met a young woman, neither of whose parents spoke Welsh, but who had the foresight to send their daughter to a Welsh medium primary school and a bilingual comprehensive school. Her fluency in both languages was remarkable even though she lives in a predominantly English-speaking community. She confirmed that she had received an excellent education from talented and dedicated teachers and that being bilingual was a tremendous asset.

  • Comment number 8.

    #5

    What is or are LEA's?

    Is it a collection of grocers' LEAs by any chance?

  • Comment number 9.

    Debates over something like education always become very emotive, unfortunately.

    Some people are always quick to jump on the chance to criticise those that they disagree with ideologically (Labour or Plaid mostly, though PC have had little to do with education in Wales), but I don't believe that education is really that bad in Wales.

    There are many Welsh schoolchildren that get the required grades to attend prestigious universities. Is the Welsh education system failing those?

    I have a feeling that a wider problem with Welsh (and indeed UK wide) society is in fact leading to some children leaving the education system without being educated to the expected standard. It might be a dire mistake to focus too much on an education system which is pretty good overall because it doesn't address these wider social problems of poverty and low expectations and aspirations.

    Oh, and one final thing - I think that one "white elephant" which still remains sacrosanct is the people employed to teach. They shouldn't be above criticism if they're not doing a good job.

  • Comment number 10.

    @7 So Welsh medium schools are on the up but the standard Education in Wales as a whole is in tatters and declining with every report. Coincidence?

  • Comment number 11.

    When you write at #7 Bryn Teilo …

    “The one area of success has been in the growth of bilingual schools throughout Wales …” might it be the resources that have been denied education as a whole have created this nirvana, whilst the remainder is reduced to preparation for life by “tweet” …

    … your statement that implies great success in a specific sector of education, whether faith based or any other educational criteria, speaks volumes for the cynical politics of Wales where a less than holistic vision is creating a stratified society.

    #8, LEA OR LEA’s …

    … it must be your objective in life to belittle people whilst hiding behind anonymity, pathetic is the word that comes to mind.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ #6, mr beige wrote:

    "I do not see schools as a daycare facility, butI do not want a plumber to charge me £60/hour to rectify a problem and expect me to use my tools and do the job for him!"

    Maybe that analogy is not the best, mr beige. Would you pay the mechanic 60 pounds an hour and then not bother to take your car to the garage? Would you pay 2000 pounds for a nose job, and then go 12 rounds with David Haye? Would you pay 1000 pounds for an espresso machine and then use it to shred wood? Would you pay 30 pounds an hour for a personal trainer and then binge on cream cakes all day? When you pay for something which you consider valuable, you then give that thing the proper care and attention... if you don't, then you can hardly blame the person who sold you the goods or service.

  • Comment number 13.

    3. TellingmewhatIknowalready wrote:

    “..... We need to get politicians in total out of the service and fund children through education vouchers on strictly equal basis and encourage setting up chariteable (sic) bodies to run school.”

    The education vouchers, suggested by the Tories, are an attempted con on the public. They are a nothing but a discount for the parents who send their children to private schools. Nothing more, nothing less.
    Also, “Charitable bodies to run schools” sounds very much like private education.

    So, your suggestions sound like a charter for the “haves” at the expense of the “have nots” Nice.

  • Comment number 14.

    #10

    I was referring to the expansion in the number of Welsh medium schools over the last forty years as being a measure of the success of the policy of bilingual education – the demand is there for it and increasing. There is no evidence that these schools are receiving disproportionate funding. They are administered by the same local education authorities on the same basis as other schools.

    Are you implying that the growth of Welsh medium education is in any way responsible for the relative deterioration, and it is relative, in the education provided in schools in Wales generally? No report has said that. There are undoubtedly many schools in Wales which provide a high standard of education.

    I don’t agree that the system is in ‘tatters’ – the reports suggest that schools in Wales generally are performing less well on a number of criteria as compared with the rest of the UK. Evidently that needs to be addressed and remedied. Since the inception of the Assembly Labour has been responsible for education policy in Wales, and is therefore responsible for any shortcomings.

    #11

    Your ‘holistic’ vision would be the abolition of Welsh medium schools, I suppose? The tenor of your comments makes me suspect your ideal society would be the assimilation of Wales into England and the demise of the Welsh Language. Like it or not, Wales is a bilingual country. Hundreds of thousands of parents want their children to learn Welsh – they pay their taxes to fund the education system, so their needs have to be catered for.

    Would you be in favour of the abolition of private and fee paying public schools, as it could be argued that they really do create a ‘stratified society’? As for faith-based schools they operate on the same basis in Wales as in England, but that is another issue.

  • Comment number 15.

    sorry Arihfach, if my analogy was bad yours is awful. I take great care of my kids as I do consider them "valuable" and do all I can to educate them to the best of my ability - should those who don't have that ability just give up on their children or look to those who should do the job and pick up a pay cheque to do their best? My point is how much does parent involvement (which seems to be all the rage at the moment and an expected increasing burden on parental guilt ) become a smokescreen for paid professional managers to offload their responsibility?

  • Comment number 16.

    @14.........The policy of bilingual education – the demand is there for it and increasing. There is no evidence that these schools are receiving disproportionate funding. They are administered by the same local education authorities on the same basis as other schools.


    Absolutely wrong and the comment shows the writer has no current knowledge of Education funding. I may not provide details but am informed enough through my personal involvement to state that the funding allocations are not treated on an equal basis as categoric fact. Don't forget the £600 per pupil that the Assembly steels from Education funding as allocated by Barnett. I do accept that Barnett is not ring fenced but the facts remain that Education is devolved to the Assembly but Teachers pay and conditions are not. The result is that schools have to pay teacher salaries based on funding that they do not receive. Budgets are delegated to governing bodies and quite simply 80% of those budgets have to be used to pay salaries and on costs. The funding of 'Education' in Wales is not fit for purpose and pupil standards are unlikely to change until there is a substantial improvement in the amount of money provided to schools in their delegated budgets. Taking out a large number of the 22 LA structures will improve the spend provided the people displaced are made redundant and not recycled.

  • Comment number 17.

    #11

    Sweet Mr LEA's of life?

  • Comment number 18.

    #11

    Seriously, if the debate is about education, educated responses are called for. For example, #16 refers to "the £600 per pupil that the Assembly steels from Education funding..." it is open to misinterpretation (a Corus of disapproval, perhaps?) and along with extraneous apostrophes, it is therefore in this context fair game for some gentle teasing.

  • Comment number 19.

    #16

    We await the unprovided 'details' gained through 'personal involvement' with bated breath.

    It's true that the Assembly Government has a Welsh medium education policy. The policy reflects the growing demand for it. As the sector expands, then it will naturally incur increased expenditure. For example, additional funds are provided for the establishing and maintenance of new schools (all new schools, Welsh medium or not) with initial low numbers of pupils, as set up costs are higher. That happens in England too. Would you argue that parental demand should be frustrated?

    Much of the rest of your comment reflects the daft devolution settlement imposed on Wales by the 1997 Act, where some aspects of, for example, education are devolved, whilst others are not. You can't blame the WAG for that. The Assembly was not responsible for setting up 22 LEAs in 1996, although it is now responsible for local government. The costs of reorganisation both in monetary and upheaval terms are high.

    Better devolution is required. Wales has performed relatively poorly in a number of areas, compared to Scotland, which had a much more favourable and clearer devolution settlement. Scotland is more favourably funded too.

  • Comment number 20.

    13.the "voucher" system was an attempt to give parents a direct subsidy to allow them to "control" where their children were taught,and by implication a direct say in the employment of heads etc,and also the school ethos,like discipline/uniforms etc etc. Its called taking some form of direct responsibility for the services you require and also the taxes you pay for such services. Having seen LA's in action the absolute waste,and distortion of policies to suit political ends has had disastrous impacts on many children's life chances. Having talked to retired teachers from Comprehensive schools it appears the main problem is the complete lack of discipline/self respect from many (not all) of the children from lower economic/social groups.The creation of welsh medium schools has allowed the "creaming" of children from self assertive families from either welsh/english,or english only backgrounds and this division will have serious consequences for the health of welsh society in future years. We are going to have a bilingual elite managing the public services to their benefit and the english only speakers are going to be at bottom of pile. Why cannot we have full information provided on welsh education service showing exactly where the cash is going,and how the individual schools are performing. Secrecy is not a good vehicle for the running of public services,rather the general public should be given information and make of it what they will.

  • Comment number 21.

    16. dontblameme wrote:

    “Don't forget the £600 per pupil that the Assembly steels from Education funding as allocated by Barnett.”

    When are we going to leave this old chestnut? The difference in spending per pupil, in school budgets, is down to the local authority allocations from the money received from the Assembly. This has been pointed out by the Assembly and acknowledged by the local authorities. So stop blaming the Assembly.

    The local Authorities pass on a smaller proportion of the education budget than the LAs in England. The simple reason for this is that they provide, for free, more central services. In England those same services are paid for out of the school’s budget.

    You are not comparing like for like. A much more accurate comparison would be the total educational spend per pupil by the local Authorities.
    If you don’t realise this, then you really shouldn’t be commenting on school budgets. Your personal involvement obviously hasn’t informed you enough about the bigger picture.

    If your ideological position is that schools should make the decisions on which services they buy, so be it. But I should warn you that my personal knowledge of the way the system works would cause me to cast doubt on the ability of Heads and governors to properly consider the strategic requirements of the education of children.

  • Comment number 22.

    @ #15, mr beige wrote:

    "sorry Arihfach, if my analogy was bad yours is awful. I take great care of my kids as I do consider them "valuable" and do all I can to educate them to the best of my ability"

    Then I guess my analogies were spot on. I assume you don't just let the school get on with it and ignore your childrens' education. So, are your children disadvantaged by the Welsh education system? Will they be on the scrap-heap at the age of 16, or will they be ready to either continue in education or start working?

  • Comment number 23.

    20. TellingmewhatIknowalready wrote:

    “13.the "voucher" system was an attempt to give parents a direct subsidy to allow them to "control" where their children were taught,and by implication a direct say in the employment of heads etc,and also the school ethos,like discipline/uniforms etc etc.”

    No it wasn’t. It was an attempt to give well off parents a discount voucher to cash in at the private school of their choice. It had no other purpose or benefit.

  • Comment number 24.

    Sorry Arihfach are you deliberately ignoring my points?, Does every parent then not only pay once to get their kids educated via taxes but twice either privately or through other efforts as our "bog" standard education appears to heading towards the toilet. I assume your kids go to private schools so therefore you can sleep soundly as the standards the bulk of us have to put up with, you can avoid. You are right I am proactive in my kids education , but I will not put down those working all the hours god sends to keep a roof over their families heads if they cannot "involve" themselves the way our schools seem to demand these days. Does that then mean everyone else can go hang or I can get a tax refund for a second class service?

  • Comment number 25.

    There's one or two points that I would like to pick up on. One recommendation of this report is the urgent rationalisation of school places so that no school has more than 10% of free spaces. I'm not clear about this since the present thinking is that 20% free spaces does not mean that a school is undersubscribed since there is a natural fluctuation in pupil numbers from year to year.

    However the objective is clear, close and amalgamate schools in order to lower per pupil costs and free up funding.

    There has already been some discussion as to the part played by the two medium system in place in Wales.

    Firstly to correct a wrong impression; the number of Welsh Medium schools is decreasing and the number of pupils in those schools is increasing only slightly.

    The true situation is that some 31% of Welsh schools are Welsh medium while they teach only 21% of Welsh pupils. If there is to be a rationalisation of school places the number of Welsh Medium schools will be dramatically reduced. Is this politically feasible? I think not. The dual medium system, unless it is dismantled, will prevent rationalisation of school places

  • Comment number 26.

    #25

    From WAG: Schools in Wales, General Statistics 2009
    Welsh Medium
    Primary Schools:
    1989-90 No 417 Pupils 45,387
    1998-99 No 445 Pupils 50,118
    2007-08 No 464 Pupils 54,895

    Secondary Schools:
    1989-90 No 42 Pupils 26,058
    1998-99 No 52 Pupils 36,289
    2008-09 No 55 Pupils 41,916

    During the period the total number of schools has fallen significantly due to rationalisation, yet the number of WM schools has risen. It's more difficult to find the figures on percentage of pupils in WM schools but your figures do not seem to tally with those on Stats Wales. I don't have time to study them at length.

  • Comment number 27.

    Ah I see, I was looking at more recent statistics; Statswales Primary schools by Welsh Medium type:
    2008/2009 Schools 438 Pupils50,244
    2009/2010 schools 428 pupils 50,527

    Secondary by WM type; (2009/2010 not available)

    2007/2008 schools 54 pupils 40756
    2008/2009 schools 55 pupils 41916

    I have included only schools designated Welsh Medium not dual stream or transition or English with significant Welsh.

    The reduction in WM schools is in the primary sector at present and has only just begun but if the intention is to rationalise school places the oversupply of WM schools in rural Wales coupled to the fall in pupil numbers is going to drastically reduce the number of WM schools but not pupil numbers.

    The secondary sector cannot remain immune since the average size of WM secondaries is 743 pupils and the average size of EM secondaries is 974.

    At one time I saw a research paper for Gwynedd which showed that one in five teachers in the county was a headteacher. This is a huge cost.
    Recent figures for Gwynedd show that only one secondary school in the county has less than 10% empty spaces, that's Friars Bangor (8%). Tryfan Bangor 100 yards away has 31% spare capacity and 429 pupils whilst Sir Hugh Owen nine miles away has 457 spare places (33% mt).

    As for primary schools, 50% spare capacity is common, 60% and 70% in some cases.

    I go back to the report; quite clearly it is hugely expensive to run schools with so many MT places but at the same time Cardiff is expanding the number of WM primary schools for a very small number of children but attempting to close EM schools which by no means have the spare capacity of WM schools all over Wales.

  • Comment number 28.

    @ #24, mr beige wrote:

    "Sorry Arihfach are you deliberately ignoring my points?, Does every parent then not only pay once to get their kids educated via taxes but twice either privately or through other efforts as our "bog" standard education appears to heading towards the toilet. I assume your kids go to private schools so therefore you can sleep soundly as the standards the bulk of us have to put up with, you can avoid. You are right I am proactive in my kids education , but I will not put down those working all the hours god sends to keep a roof over their families heads if they cannot "involve" themselves the way our schools seem to demand these days. Does that then mean everyone else can go hang or I can get a tax refund for a second class service?"

    You're the one who seems to be ignoring my points, mr beige. I believe that the school system works for those people who use it appropriately. When I went to school, my parents encouraged me to do well. They made sure I attended. They checked that I did my homework, and helped me if they could/it was required. They encouraged me to take up extra curricular activities. They attended parents' evenings. They made sure I planned and did revision. They encouraged me to read books. They took me to museums and other interesting places to expand my mind. etc. etc.

    Now, I do the same with my children, as I am sure you do with yours, and I dare say that the education system is not failing us. My question - which you have studiously avoided - is if we should expect a school system to cope with a large number of children who's parents don't take a proactive role in their children's education. Should schools try to cure all society's problems, or should they provide a good service for those who use it well?

    Your analogy was weak because you compared education to a service where the purchaser is a non-contributor, and I don't think education is like that. That's why I offered alternative analogies where the purchaser plays an active part in the success or otherwise of their purchase.

    So, does every parent need to pay twice? Only if you consider being an active participant in your child's education an expense. I don't. Do you?

    My children don't go to private schools.

    Now, since I answered your questions, will you answer mine? Do you consider that the Welsh education system is failing your children, or will they (at 16 years of age) be capable of going into employment or on to further education?

  • Comment number 29.

    #27

    "..Cardiff is expanding the number of WM primary schools for a very small number of children.."

    Initially a new WM school will have a small number of pupils consisting of the first year's cohort, building up over a course of years to the school's full complement. That is the only way that such a school could be formed.

  • Comment number 30.

    "Initially a new WM school will have a small number of pupils consisting of the first year's cohort, building up over a course of years to the school's full complement. That is the only way that such a school could be formed"

    Quite so, Bryn but Cardiff is not logical in what it does and how it finances WM "starter" schools. The newest "School" is one class of (i'm told) just 8 pupils. It lives in an English medium school, Gabalfa, and has no headteacher on site but "borrows" one from Melin Grufudd. Nevertheless it receives £21,000 in Welsh Medium supplement and £32,000 small school supplement on top of other delegated budget.

    It may well grow, as you say, but how long will it receive these special payments before it ceases to be a small school of less than 150 pupils.

    It isn't clear that all WM starter schools actually grow at all; The new WM school on Oakfield site has gone from 18 to 15 to 19 pupils in the three years that it has been open and still it costs nearly £10,000 per pupil per year. Holy trinity has a similar pattern.

    But to return to the proposed action of increasing school sizes by reducing MT spaces.... how is this to happen when the MT spaces are predominantly in WM schools and the Assembly has pledged to provide Welsh Medium schooling on demand?

    Can you see the difficulty?

  • Comment number 31.

    Thank goodness there are people like you willing to look critically at this particularly secretive topic Sedwot!

  • Comment number 32.

    #31...

    what's so secretive about it?

  • Comment number 33.

    #30

    Please provide some definitive sources for your figures, hearsay isn't sufficient. I understand that over 20% of Cardiff's pupils are now educated in WM schools, and the demand is increasing.

    http://cardiffian.jomec.co.uk/article/welsh-medium-education-greater-demand-ever

    One suspects that your knowledge of the subject might indicate that you have a vested interest in the matter, such as opposition to the closure of a particular EM school, or reorganisation in Cardiff? Perhaps you don't see the growth in Welsh language education as welcome?

    I can't see that LEAs in Wales can do other than attempt to meet the demand. Some have been tardy in doing so. Wales is a bilingual country, and Welsh is its native Language, despite attempts down the centuries to wipe it out. Increasingly it seems that more and more parents are seeing the value of their children being bilingual. I think that's a positive development.

  • Comment number 34.

    The single recommendation about reduction of school places is going to mean losing 42,000 school places on present school numbers. New school rationalisation plans by LEAs are to be submitted by next year.

    This isn't a minor undertaking.

    As for secretive, clearly the information is there but up until recently detailed Core Indicator analysis was withheld from parents. (I know because I was refused access) Subsequently I have challenged the refusal to release data through FOI and have been given Core Indicator analysis for specified schools.

    School numbers and Medium numbers are all available either from Statswales or on request from LEAs. School funding formulae and section 52 declarations should be on websites but often aren't. Nevertheless the LEAs have a statutory responsibility to publish.

    What is missing is not information but the political will to discuss the implications of the two medium education system in Wales.

  • Comment number 35.

    Thank you, SEDWAT @ #34 for correcting comeoffit @ #31.

  • Comment number 36.

    Bryn;

    "Please provide some definitive sources for your figures, hearsay isn't sufficient. I understand that over 20% of Cardiff's pupils are now educated in WM schools, and the demand is increasing."

    Which figures in particular? The only one which is "hearsay" is the 8 pupils in the starter school in Gabalfa. I got that by 'phoning connect to Cardiff. This particular "school" (Glyn Ceubal I think it's called) doesn't appear in the section 52 declaration and its pupils and funding are allocated to Melin Gruffudd. If you mean the reference to the WM school Oakfield or Holy trinity then those figures come from statswales school finance folder.

    The up to date figures for Welsh Medium supplement are from the section 52 declaration as are the figures for Small school supplement.

    You say that 20% of Cardiff pupils are now in WM schools; have you the figures or is that hearsay? Anyway I'll check on the 2010/2011 declaration.

  • Comment number 37.

    #36

    I note that you avoided answering my questions...

    'One suspects that your knowledge of the subject might indicate that you have a vested interest in the matter, such as opposition to the closure of a particular EM school, or reorganisation in Cardiff? Perhaps you don't see the growth in Welsh language education as welcome?'

  • Comment number 38.

    OK Bryn, I take it that your 20% figure was hearsay. I used statswales figures to calculate the Secondary school percentage and the Section 52 for the primary figures. They count pupils in a slightly different way...Statswales uses full time equivalents, Cardiff LEA uses all pupils, so that they can have a school population of, say, 353.75 pupils (they take into account short days and part week attendance for reception children).

    The figure for Secondary schools is WM 11% of all Cardiff secondary pupils.
    The figure for Primary is 11.6% of all Cardiff primary pupils.

    Are the numbers growing? They are and they are predicted to grow further. Am I against this? No. Am I against the way Cardiff are funding WM small schools. I am.

    Do I think too much effort and attention is spent on Welsh Medium Education provision and too little on bringing up standards in EM schools which have the overwhelming bulk of disadvantaged children, Ethnic Minority children and poor facilities. Bloody right I do!!

  • Comment number 39.

    Arihfach 28 - OK as direct an answer as possible:
    "Do I feel the Welsh Education system is failing my children"?
    As standards are shown to be failing internationally then yes.
    "Will my children be capable of going into higher education"?
    Yes, because regardless of the failings of others I will do my best to avoid my children suffering because of it.
    "Should we expect a school system to cope with a large amount of school children whose parents do not take a proactive role in their education"?
    Yes, if their parents are failing them then they should not also be abandoned by society as they will be it in 10-15 years time. They also cannot do much about it so maybe we should not turn our backs on them from an educational point of view.
    "Should schools try to cure all society's problems"?
    No - they should concentrate on one, providing the best education possible for future generations.If they cannot do that and nations with less spend per pupil are achieving better results then I would like someone to clearly and simply explain why we should expect to put up with such failing standards.

  • Comment number 40.

    #38

    The 'vested interest' part of the question was again avoided. I think we're only getting part of the story.

  • Comment number 41.

    "Should we expect a school system to cope with a large amount of school children whose parents do not take a proactive role in their education"?

    I have to agree with Mr. Beige. What a cop out it is for educators to just point at the home environment and shrug "Well what do you expect?"

    I, too, expect teachers to TEACH. I know many work against the odds but you cannot decide that because a parent is illiterate or inumerate then their offspring must be abandoned to a life of under achievement and poverty. In Wales Pisa showed that we fail at both ends of the scale, bright kids don't excel the way they should do and pupils from poor backgrounds are let down. It's a system that is comfortable with mediocrity.

    Do you know the most damning statistic in Welsh education? its the achievement gap between pupils on free school meals and those not on FSMs.Some 34% on the Core subject indicator scale. Worse, if you look at the level of achievement for all pupils in schools with less than 10% on Free school meals and those in schools with 30% on free school meals the attainment gap is 37%!! and that is higher than it was in 2005.

    Whatever you may think about the English system, the gap is much lower between those on FSMs and not (28%).

    To come back to the theme of this blog, standardisation of provision, Neath Port Talbot has made huge strides in raising education standards of underprivileged children. If they can do it how difficult is it to copy their model and delivery?

  • Comment number 42.

    "The 'vested interest' part of the question was again avoided. I think we're only getting part of the story."

    You are pretty amazing Bryn. You invent a statistic, question everything I post and chase answers to questions that are irrelevant. I don't live in cardiff. I don't have a child in school in Cardiff. My child goes to a Welsh medium school just like my three children prior to her. I went to the same schools my children went to. What do you want? Birth certificates? Passport?

    If youv'e got a point to make your'e free to make it. If youv'e got truthful information to convey, go for it. At the moment you are going round in circles but saying nothing.

  • Comment number 43.

    @ #41, SEDWOT wrote:

    "I, too, expect teachers to TEACH."

    Excuse me, SEDWOT, but I don't think you (or mr beige) do. Teachers who TEACH in Wales get excellent results when the children whom they teach as supported by parents who care.

    I think you are expecting teachers to somehow compensate for poor attendance, poor attention to homework, low ambition and so on. Schools shouldn't do that!

    Schools shouldn't have to worry about making sure children eat breakfast and a healthy lunch. They shouldn't have to cope with children who can't speak English or Welsh, or who can't be bothered to attend or do their homework.

    These problems should all be addressed, certainly, but I think it's a cop-out on the part of government and society in general to expect schools to have to fix these problems. Schools are for teaching: let them teach. Let the government sort out low aspirations bought about by poor employment prospects. Let social services sort out poor attendance. Let society as a whole sort out families who don't care about their children - years ago a child who was allowed to stay home from school regularly have been seen as poorly treated and friends and neighbours would have said something.

  • Comment number 44.

    You were coy, when you could have stated where you're coming from.

    I did find this article which details annual expenditure per pupil in each school in Cardiff for 2008/09:

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/cardiffonline/cardiff-news/2010/02/12/call-for-school-funding-rethink-91466-25818368/

    There is a great variance between the schools, EM, WM and church schools. There's no real pattern there as far as I can see, with one or two exceptions.

  • Comment number 45.

    Bryn, I'll help you out with this. AMs are not all the sharpest tools in the box (or MPs before you get on your horse.) Take this statement;

    "If these figures are couched loosely in terms of spend per pupil, in Cardiff it means Llanrumney High School gets £5,013 per pupil – the highest per pupil figure – while St Teilo’s Church in Wales High School gets £3,816, the lowest."

    The first thing to note is that St Teilo's is a Church in Wales school. It is not fully funded by the LEA. They receive funding for the pupils education but not full funding for their buildings and maintenance. It is not a comparison of like with like.

    School funding is very complex and you cannot appreciate this without seeing the headings under which funding is allocated.

    Jonathon Morgan needs to do a bit of research but I have to say that for most schools the difference is going to be the level of Free school meals, Special needs provision and whether or not there is a match between the schools size and its pupil numbers. The difference between EM and WM schools is a combination of factors which I'll try to explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    St Teilios CIW school is a charity and church property.. It pays no rates Cost 0.0
    Llanrumney high pays rates.........................................................cost £65,000

    St.T has 961 pupils its intake is constant, it is therefore efficient in size to pupil.
    Llan. Has 701 pupils its intake is falling it is inefficient and receives protection for falling rolls of.................................................................................£60,000
    Plus salary protection......................................................................£12,000
    St T is paid neither of these.
    Llan. Has a high number of pupils receiving extra tuition (school action, School action plus) for this it is allocated......................................................£132,474
    St T. has fewer Sen pupils needing extra teaching. It gets...................£69,533
    Llan. has a higher number on FSMs it gets........................................£63,915
    St. T is more affluent. Few on FSMs it gets......................................£24,170
    Llan is covered for all cleaning and maintenance it gets......................£228,000
    St.T is covered for a proportion of maintenance and cleaning...............£171,000

    You begin to see the picture. Llanrumney has high fixed costs and extra money to cover higher FSM and SEN costs but Llanrumney isn't filled to capacity therefore when you divide the fixed costs by pupil numbers it appears that it receives a lot of money per child.

  • Comment number 47.

    The situation is different again for WM schools. On average WM schools have few FSM pupils. Fewer SEN Pupils. Negligible numbers of EAL pupils therefore they receive low payments for these things.
    However, they are disproprtionately small schools so receive £32000 where applicable and all primaries get £21000 Welsh supplement.... even a school with 8 pupils. WM secondaries get everything EM schools get plus £98,000 to buy two extra teachers per year.

  • Comment number 48.

    #45-47

    Thanks for the detailed info.

    It still leaves me wondering why you have such an axe to grind on the subject, given that you, and your offspring attended WM schools. (Btw, I and mine, didn't). This is not a request for elucidation on the matter. Your earlier comments left me with the suspicion that you were a Cardiff parent engaged in a campaign against reorganisation - it's sufficient for me that it's not the case. I didn't want to unfairly mentally pidgeon-hole you as in such a category.

    The LibDems have a different take on it:

    http://cardifflibdems.org.uk/en/article/2010/120386/welsh-and-english-medium-education-is-a-lottery-says-randerson

  • Comment number 49.

    Oh Don't get me started on Jenny Randersons stupid figures. I can only suggest that she and Jonathon Morgan pool brain cells and see if they can make two.

    Look at this trash;

    "On the Isle of Anglesey English Medium Education costs £2,952 per pupil per year compared to £3,937 in Ceredigion"

    If she knew anything at all about Wales then she would know that there are NO English medium state run Primaries in Ynys Mon or Gwynedd. In Ynys mon there is one opted out primary....it can teach whatever medium it chooses and doesn't appear in LEA funding. (it is "Dual Stream"). The "English Medium" primary is therefore the Roman Catholic school in Holyhead. As I have already explained, church schools receive all the costs of pupil education but not all maintenance and capital expenditure therefore it is ludicrous to try and compare pupil costs with Church schools.

    As for the rest of the heap of tripe that Ms Randerson mistakenly calls "Research" I despair. Can you imagine that the country is represented by people who are willing to talk about the subject of school funding when they haven't the faintest idea how it's worked out?

    I'll just repeat what I said before a School's funding per pupil is extremely complex. Full schools are most efficient in Teacher use (A school which has a class of 18 per teacher pays £42,000 divided by 18 while a school with a class of 30 pays £42,000 divided by 30). A school with few FSM pupils gets significantly less than one with a lot of FSM pupils.

    Over all as, I have said, WM schools have significantly fewer FSM pupils. If you like I'll tell you what the figures are for secondary schools WM 11% on average, EM 20% on average. This is the difference between the Middle class WM schools and the EM schools.
    The same holds true for ethnic minorities (Some LEAs pay for extra tuition for EAL pupils) WM secondaries 2.2% on average EM 6.5% on average.
    Similarly SEN; WM 19.6% on average, EM 21.5% on average.
    When it comes to size (therefore best use of resources) however the pendulum swings the other way. WM secondaries 743 pupils on average, EM 974 on average.

    No two schools are alike but if such a thing were found the WM school would ALWAYS receive more than the EM school because of WM supplement or WM pupil number weighting. In some places the difference is small (Swansea, between £3.50 and £8 per year per pupil, not a problem) in other places (Cardiff) the difference can be huge.

 

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