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Written Statement - School Performance

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Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills

I wish to update Members on progress made on the 20 point action plan I announced on 2 February 2011, in order to secure a step-change in performance.  


1. As I said in a written statement on 23 November 2011, I have agreed the model of the content for the Masters in Educational Practice. Last week we invited Higher Education Institutions to tender to accredit, deliver and award the programme, which will start in September 2012. We will be consulting this year on the statutory requirement for all qualifying teachers to be trained in literacy and numeracy.

2. We will shortly consult on changes to strengthen the existing induction arrangements for newly qualified teachers to make induction judgements more consistent and rigorous across Wales.  We will provide Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) with high quality mentoring support, linked to the new Masters programme, to support them to meet the new Practising Teacher Standards. We are currently consulting on the registration of the wider workforce which will run until 30 March 2012, which is part of the review of the GTCW.  

3. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) will in future be focused on system-wide needs, including literacy and numeracy, linked to the three priorities of the School Effectiveness Framework, and to the application of the skills framework. CPD opportunities will include the opportunity for all NQTs to gain the Master’s Qualification that will be introduced in September. Modules for the Masters are being developed that include a focus on the most effective practice in literacy and numeracy, on behaviour management and Additional Learning Needs, as well as child development and evidence based reflective practice.  

4. We introduced new professional standards for head teachers and teachers, which have literacy and numeracy requirements embedded.


5. In respect of  behaviour in the classroom, we have already announced some extensions to teachers’ powers last autumn in respect of the use of force by school staff, as well as the school’s ability to discipline pupils and impose sanctions. The next phase will concentrate outcomes and improving behaviour to raise standards. NQTs will undertake development modules in behaviour management as part of the Masters in educational practice. As a first step I have made available over £500,000 to train teachers in well-evaluated behavioural management techniques. Some 1300 individuals were trained last year. Attendance data has been included in the banding system for secondary schools. By the end of February, my officials will have met all authorities to discuss their performance on attendance and behaviour issues.

6. The Foundation Phase, which was fully rolled out last September, and which introduces children to learning through doing, will not be allowed to lead to a reduction in literacy. The baseline assessment provides us with the floor and will be supported year on year with continuous assessment. Following the first round of CDAP assessments, I announced a rapid review to ensure that the assessments provide the floor information in an effective way.  

7. As part of our National Literacy Programme, we are introducing a national reading test which will be consistent across Wales and will be designed to ensure that far fewer pupils are falling behind their designated reading age. The Programme will also include a focus on 5-14 year-olds, and catch-up reading programmes as well as stretching those pupils of the highest abilities. Local authorities have confirmed that they will carry out reading tests on a voluntary basis in summer 2012. The National Reading Test will be implemented on a statutory basis for first sitting in May 2013. All pupils in Year 2 to Year 9 will be required to sit the reading test. A contractor has been appointed to take forward development of bespoke tests in both English and Welsh.

8. Similar plans for numeracy are being developed and we are working to refine our requirements for bespoke numeracy tests for learners in Wales, to be implemented alongside reading tests from 2013. We have also established National Literacy and Numeracy Advisory panels to support the work that is ongoing to develop National Literacy and Numeracy Frameworks, that will set out clearly year on year expectations for pupil’s progress in all aspects of literacy and numeracy.


9. In May 2011 we established the School Standards Unit under the leadership of Dr Brett Pugh. It has set in place a rigorous process for monitoring the degree of support and challenge provided by consortia to raise standards in their schools. To support this work it produced a fit for pilot secondary school banding system in September. The final banding was then issued in December with data for 2011 included. The Unit has engaged with directors of education and heads of school improvement in two stocktake rounds in each of the four consortia. From these meetings a set of actions for raising standards in underperforming schools was agreed and the consortia have produced improvement plans with each of their band 4 and 5 schools. £480,000 has been released to the consortia to support the implementation of these plans.

10. Throughout this process the School Standards Unit has engaged with all stakeholders. Leaflets and on-line documentation have been produced to explain the banding process to professional audiences and to parents. The Unit has visited schools with known good practice and is drawing up methods to support consistent dissemination and implementation of good practice across schools. It is currently working to develop further with the four consortia support processes for underperforming schools. It is also working on models for the banding of primary schools.

11. I will not approve any new initiatives unless they add value to our demand for higher performance and within my Department for Education and Skills, revised arrangements were introduced in September 2011 to ensure detailed scrutiny of policies and initiatives.

12. I will be looking to integrate PISA assessments into school assessment at age 15. PISA questions require learners to have well-developed skills, especially literacy, numeracy and problem solving, and the confidence to take on the challenge of questions that are outside their ‘comfort zone’. We have developed a programme of activity based on supporting teachers to use PISA and PISA style questions, to check if pupils understand how to access information and apply skills and knowledge. Our approach is fundamentally about improving our young people’s life skills.

13. Parents need data and school governors must examine the data of their school. Regulations made on 1 September 2011 set out the requirement for school governors’ annual report to parents to include “the most recent comparative report of performance in end of key stage teacher assessments and for schools with pupils following key stage 4 study programmes and the most recent Summary of Secondary School Performance (SSSP)”. No school will pass their Estyn inspection unless this is done.

14. In the Education Measure, we legislated to introduce statutory training for governors and for clerks.  

15. I expect all local authorities to ensure that Key Stage 2 teacher assessments are robust and consistent with the nationally defined standards, especially in respect of literacy. Work is underway to ensure that the approach is underpinned by a rigorous research base and builds on international best practice.

16. Where a school is found by Estyn to be failing, and I regard the situation as irredeemable, I will close it. Through the School Standards and Organisation Bill White Paper we have consulted on  proposals to strengthen arrangements for tackling school underperformance and school improvement.  The consultation ended on 5 January and we will publish a summary of the responses shortly and will bring forward the School Standards and Organisation Bill in due course. We will be producing Statutory Guidance for school improvement and this will also be included in the Bill.  

17. New Performance Management Regulations, for head teachers and teachers, came into effect on 1 January 2012. We are currently working with key stakeholders to develop revised performance management guidance which will be published later in the Spring Term. Schools will be required to adopt the revised arrangements by 31 December 2012 and this will provide them with sufficient time in which to prepare.

18. The materials produced for the Master’s programme will be made available to all teachers across Wales through a new Learning Wales website. In addition we are developing a raft of high quality resources to support teachers at all career stages to enable them to draw on the latest evidence about effective teaching and learning to enhance their practice.  


19. In the Education Measure, we legislated to allow local authorities to
Federate boards of governors of schools. I expect to see more federations of 
schools, operating under single headteachers. We have funded a small 
number of federation pilots – some of which have not yet completed. 
Guidance will follow based on the experience of the pilots.  

20. All local authorities have now signed up to the consortium arrangements

This is a systematic programme for school improvement , designed to raise standards to the best in class, support teachers and head teachers , inform parents, provide more efficient and effective school improvement services and ensure that our young people are properly equipped with the skills they need, especially literacy and numeracy, throughout their education.