Wales

Estyn schools report: Minister promises 'clear way forward'

  • 28 January 2014
  • From the section Wales

First Minister Carwyn Jones has told AMs ministers are offering education in Wales a "clear way forward" after a lack of leadership and accountability.

School inspectors have said the quality of teaching needs to improve if overall school standards are to rise.

Estyn's annual report raises concerns about the "variable" quality of teaching and standards generally, especially in secondary schools.

Conservatives called it an "indictment" of Labour's "failure" on education.

The Welsh government said it was continuing to work on key areas such as teaching, literacy and numeracy.

"Fewer than half of secondary schools are good or better [compared to the previous year] and the proportion that is unsatisfactory has increased from one in seven to one in four," the Estyn report said.

"One in seven is excellent. Over two-thirds of secondary schools will be monitored in 'follow-up' visits."

Ann Keane, the chief inspector of schools, told BBC Wales that other countries were improving at a faster pace and standards in Wales were not yet showing "an upward trend".

"There is a correlation between high standards and two factors; strong leadership and high standards in the core subject departments," she said.

"We need to pay more attention on how to help teachers move forwards.

"There is a curriculum review going on now and we're going to have new GCSEs in numeracy and language.

"Teachers need to be involved in preparation for these changes."

The report said standards in primary schools were similar to last year.

"Seven in 10 primary schools inspected in 2012-2013 are good and around one in four is adequate. Although only one is unsatisfactory, very few are excellent," it said.

"Around a half of the primary schools inspected will be monitored in 'follow-up' visits."

Pressed on the report by all three opposition party leaders in the Senedd, Mr Jones conceded "it's true to say it's not the sort of report that we would all want to see".

Mr Jones told AMs there were elements of the Estyn report that "we can take some heart from", including the literacy and numeracy framework.

"What I think has not been there, as it should have been, is accountability," he said.

"That accountability has been strengthened and, for example, the school improvement plans will help that."

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood asked him to explain "what has gone wrong with education in this country".

Mr Jones said the Welsh government was now offering education a "clear way forward", conceding that there had been a "blurring of the lines of accountability, in terms of leadership in schools [and] in terms of leadership in local education authorities".

Ms Wood told the first minister he appeared "not to take any responsibility for the failings in education to date" and accused him of failing to provide schools with "adequate national leadership".

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said Estyn's verdict on schools in Wales was a "damning indictment of 14 years of Labour failure in education".

"The number of excellent schools remain in a small minority and two thirds of secondary schools and half of primary schools are in need of follow-up inspections," he said.

Mr Davies urged the first minster to apologise for "Labour's lack of delivery in education, that is amplified by this report today from Estyn".

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said that after four years of "disappointing Estyn reports" pupils in Wales had still not seen the improvements that Welsh ministers "continually promise but don't deliver".

She said ministers had argued that getting local education authorities to work together as regional consortia was key to driving up standards.

"Yet, if you read the Estyn report today, they say that in more than half of local authorities that have been inspected that regional consortia are failing to deliver an improvement in standards."

Earlier, the Welsh government said it was determined to "put the right policies and initiatives in place to create an education system that truly delivers for our young people".

A spokesperson said: "We've been honest and up-front about the challenges facing our education system and it's clear from this report that we must continue to work together to improve key areas such as teaching, assessment and literacy and numeracy.

"Building an excellent education system, which is the ambition of everyone in the sector, will take time but we are not complacent and we are making progress.

"We know there is a lot of good practice across Wales and, as last year's GCSE results showed, we are closing the gap with England when it comes to performance."

Owen Hathway, Wales policy officer at NUT Cymru, said there were concerns that there was not enough time or resources to give experienced teachers further training.

"That obviously has a long-term impact on the ability of the profession to keep pace with the changes brought in by the Welsh government but also in developing their professional skills as an ongoing practice," he said.

"There isn't enough time allocated to allow teachers to go on courses to have training for policies and initiatives that are brought in to get to grips with those in addition to existing workloads.

"Of course we do know that peer-to-peer support within schools and across schools is one of the vital drivers in performance, and unfortunately I think schools feel as if there's a sense of a DIY-approach to training.

"Unless they find the money and time themselves to do it, it doesn't get done."

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