Welsh government warned over education six years ago

The Welsh government said "positive progress" on standards was being made

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Concerns raised earlier this month about a lack of long-term vision for education in Wales were first highlighted over six years ago.

A confidential document from 2007, seen by BBC Wales, details weaknesses in strategy and teacher training.

The findings were similar to a critical report by the worldwide Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released this month.

But the Welsh government said "positive progress" on standards was being made.

Education in Wales has come under fire over its performances in the Pisa international education tests, run by the OECD.

Following disappointing results in 2009 the Welsh government embarked on a series of changes to raise standards and performance.

Analysis

Following disappointing results in the PISA international education league tables in December last year, education minister Huw Lewis told BBC Wales that the Welsh government had "taken its eye off the ball" in the earlier years of devolution when it came to education standards and performance. Those concerns have been echoed by the First Minister, Carwyn Jones.

It's that lack of focus on the outcomes of their policies which is included in Professor Daugherty's report in 2007.

Many of his concerns were addressed by changes introduces by Leighton Andrews as education minister in February 2011, four years after the government received the original report.

What will be of concern is that some other issues still haven't been addressed over six years later.

Several reforms followed including the introduction of the national literacy and numeracy framework for five to 14-year-olds in September 2012, which a year later became a statutory part of the national curriculum.

Statutory reading and numeracy tests for pupils in years two to nine were introduced last May.

The most recent Pisa tests ranked Wales bottom in the UK. Those 2012 Pisa tests in science, maths, and reading were taken by 500,000 15-year-olds in 68 countries.

However, before all of this, the 2007 report called for a more "coherent" policy programme, highlighting several weaknesses in Welsh education, including:

  • the lack of "a consistent set of messages" about the governing principles of the curriculum
  • no full evaluation of the effectiveness of education strategies in terms of pupils' results
  • aspirational language of policies not accompanied by clear targets for improvement
  • outdated teacher training not designed to meet the needs of a "rapidly changing school system"

It was commissioned by the then education minister Jane Davidson and carried out by Prof Richard Daugherty, then of Cardiff University.

It was given to the Welsh government in November of that year, but was not published and has never been seen by anyone outside the Cardiff Bay administration.

The report was given to BBC Wales by someone who worked with the Welsh government at the time.

Prof Daugherty recommended a review of the education system in Wales by the OECD but it was five years before the Welsh government invited the OECD to undertake that process.

Its report was published earlier this month.

The OECD praised a "positive" learning environment in classrooms, but the body said the Welsh government suffered from a "lack of long-term clarity in policy making with weak implementation approaches".

On teacher training, it said: "The conditions to nurture an excellent profession are not adequate as staff recruitment, professional development and career progression policies are underdeveloped."

The OECD also said the calculations behind the school banding system of measuring achievement should be made more transparent.

A Welsh government spokesperson said it welcomed the recent OECD report, adding: "We know there have been issues around standards and performance in our schools in recent years and that's why we put in place a rigorous reform agenda.

"We are beginning to see the results and are making positive progress especially around exam performance. That's good news for learners in Wales."

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