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Written Statement - Raising Schools Standards

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

I wish to update Members on the actions we are undertaking to secure a step change in educational performance across Wales, building on the agenda that I set out on the 2 February, which was reiterated in the Labour’s manifesto for the Assembly elections.

We have the evidence of PISA, Estyn’s Annual Report and the report on the Structure of Education Services in Wales.  The evidence points squarely to the need to improve standards, raise performance and to do this with speed. Since February, we have also received the report on the Structure of Education Services in Wales, following the work of the independent task and finish group chaired by Viv Thomas. I responded to that report in a debate in the Chamber today.

  1. We have established the Schools Standards Unit in my Department with a firm focus on improving outcomes. This includes education through the medium of English, through the medium of Welsh and bilingually. The Unit commenced its work at the beginning of May under the leadership of Brett Pugh, Director of Education in Newport, who has joined us on secondment.
  2. My Department has been organised into two groups with a clear focus – Schools and Young People and Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning. It is a leaner department with a sharper focus.
  3. The Foundation Phase, which is fully rolled out from this September, and which introduces children to learning through doing, will not be allowed to lead to a reduction in literacy. We are moving to undertaking a baseline assessment of each child’s development needs when they first enter the Foundation Phase.  This too will take place from this September.   This is important as it will be used to inform their future learning needs and get the best from the learning experience.
  4. We are developing a national reading test that will be provided in both English and Welsh.  It will be administered in all schools annually through key stages 2 and 3 to record and inform learning.  I am pleased that as an interim step, the Association of Directors of Education Wales has agreed to implement the same reading tests on a voluntary basis from September 2011.
  5. By the 2012-13 academic year, through our work with ADEW, we will have developed similar plans for numeracy.
  6. In the 2011/12 school year, we will work with all schools to provide moderation of end of Key Stage 2 standards in English and Welsh - with a specific focus on securing an agreed and consistent approach in primary and secondary schools to the assessment of reading, writing and oracy. We plan to follow this with moderation of science and mathematics at the end of Key Stage 2 in 2012/13, which will complete the moderation of the core subjects. This work will be undertaken in partnership with local authorities and we will support authorities, where necessary, to review and improve their approach to securing consistent and robust assessment in all schools.
  7. I announced in February that we would integrate PISA assessments into school assessment at 15. We have made significant progress since February.  We are putting arrangements in place with local authorities and secondary schools to support the use of the tests in the classroom, for literacy, mathematics and science.  The Association of Directors of Education Wales has made the point that the Welsh Government’s programme to promote “thinking skills” delivered in partnership with local authorities, promotes many of the reasoning skills that are tested in PISA.  Therefore, in 2011-12 the programme will focus on secondary schools and target mathematics, science and literacy.  Secondary schools will have access to and use the PISA tests to assess the progress being made in these areas on a regular basis.
  8. We have changed the funding arrangements for newly qualified teachers’ induction so that their development will focus on core priorities of literacy, numeracy, behaviour management and Additional Learning Needs (ALN).
  9. In April we launched a consultation on revised professional standards for school leaders and teachers.
  10. I announced on 2nd February that we would introduce a national system for the categorisation of schools which will be operated by all local authorities and consortia. I was able to confirm then that ADEW had agreed that all consortia would operate this model. This was firmly reinforced in Labour’s manifesto. The School Standards Unit has already made progress in designing the first draft of a new school banding system working in partnership with the sector. This new national system for the banding of schools will be central to the deployment of support and challenge. It will use data to apply a consistent approach, to identify strengths and weaknesses, identify best practice, implement intervention and provide ‘real time’ monitoring alongside the inspection cycle.
  11. Estyn’s new Common Inspection Framework is being implemented. Following my recent meeting with the Chief Inspector of Estyn. I can give more details. Additionally, the Report on the Structure of Delivery of Education in Wales argued set even tougher targets - that we should have no schools judged by Estyn as unsatisfactory by 2012, and no schools unsatisfactory or adequate by the end of September 2015.  Sadly, there is some way to go.  To the summer half term of this academic year, Estyn has inspected 197 primary schools and 31 secondary schools, and has found that 97 schools – over 40% - require some sort of follow up, about the same for primary and secondary.
  12. The twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth actions I outlined on 2 February directly related to the governing bodies of schools and the impact of the Education (Wales) Measure 2011.  The National Assembly for Wales passed the Measure on 29 March and it has now become law.  Changes under the Measure strengthen the governance of the school education system.  It strengthens accountability. Under the Measure, we now have the powers to allow local authorities to federate boards of governors of schools.  Federation should stimulate joint working, sharing of resources, unified leadership across several schools, as well as stronger governance.  We are currently funding a small number of federation pilots – in Gwynedd, Carmarthenshire, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Blaenau Gwent.  The Measure also introduced a means to regulate compulsory training for governors.  Governors need to be knowledgeable to do their job and discharge their responsibilities effectively.  Parents must expect no less. All new governors should receive induction training when they start.  They have an important role in driving up standards within their schools and need to understand the legislative framework and the parameters of their roles and responsibilities.  People who chair governing bodies also need training.  They need training to be effective as the head teacher’s critical friend – so that they can challenge and support.  The third area of training that governors should undertake is how to understand and use school performance data.  They should be able to ask searching and challenging questions and use facts impartially. I wrote to the Chairs of Governing Bodies at the end of March to make it clear that I want to raise standards and performance across the board, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy.   I also set out that Estyn inspectors would receive guidance requiring them to evaluate how well governors are informed about the performance of the schools and how well governors hold the school to account for the standards and quality it achieves. Labour’s manifesto reinforced the requirement from my February speech that all schools will need to provide an annual public profile containing performance information in a common format, and a school development plan will need to be endorsed by governors setting out how the school will reach improved standards of performance.
  13. We are launching a consultation on new performance management arrangements for teachers and headteachers which will more closely link our school improvement priorities to those of individual teachers and heads. We will be working with stakeholders to produce guidance which ensures that these changes work in a coherent way to support implementation of these changes.  This will enable them to be implemented next academic year.
  14. I said in February that CPD would in future be supported according to national priorities set out in the School Effectiveness Framework and the Skills Framework. From September 2011, funding for Induction and the first year of Early Professional Development (EPD) will be linked to the national priorities of literacy, numeracy and reducing the impact of poverty on attainment and to the developmental priorities identified by the workforce review – Additional Learning Needs (ALN), behaviour management and reflective practice.
  15. We are also working on building a bank of resources and high quality teaching strategies which will be developed during the forthcoming academic year and which will be flagged up to schools as they become available on the Welsh Government’s website. From September 2012 onwards, NQTs and EPD teachers will be expected to make use of this resource as part of their professional development.
  16. We plan to put the Skills Framework onto a statutory basis by establishing a new National Literacy and Numeracy Framework for 5-14 year olds on a statutory basis. We will move swiftly to consult the profession on this and following the consultation we will establish a steering group consisting of headteachers, local authority partners and DfES officials to implement the Framework.
  17. We will produce Statutory Guidance for School Improvement, which sets out the best practice currently available in Wales and elsewhere. There is good practice in Wales.  There is some world-class practice happening in schools.  Estyn has deemed that there is sector leading practice in 9% of primary schools and in 26% of secondary schools.
  18. I expect local authorities to participate in consortia arrangements, including shared consortium services. Those that do not will lose School Effectiveness Funding.  In line with the recommendation set out in the Report on the Structure of the Delivery Education Services, I propose to review local authority progress in consortia working in 2012.  If I consider that insufficient progress has been made in driving through the improvement agenda, I may seek alternative means to ensure that learners are well-served.
  19. Attendance and behaviour are crucial issues and I have made it clear that we will have a zero tolerance approach to truancy. In March I launched the all Wales Attendance Framework for the Education Welfare Service (EWS).  The framework aims to enable the EWS and schools to deliver services that are consistent, accessible and of a high standard.  I also asked Professor Ken Reid to update the National Behaviour and Attendance Report and met with him on Monday to discuss this.  I was encouraged that his views are very much in line with plans my Department are already developing as part of the new Behaviour and Attendance Action Plan.  That Plan sets out focused actions under three headings – training and development; standards and accountability; and a holistic approach to individual support and additional learning needs.  It will shortly be available on the Welsh Government’s website.

I will keep members informed.