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Annual Report to Schools – Academic Year 2010-2011
Introduction by Chris Tweedale, Director of Schools and Young People
The 2010-11 academic year was a challenging year for schools in Wales. There were a great number of successes at an individual, school and local authority level. Above all it will probably be remembered for the year in which the evidence, set out in the OECD’s PISA report and the continuing trends of our GCSE and A level results have shown that academic standards and associated skills, are not rising as fast in Wales as elsewhere.
This is a challenge to all of us who work in and with schools across Wales – one that will require sustained and renewed efforts from teachers, support staff and governors, as well as those colleagues who work in our local authorities / consortia and of course those of us who work in and for the Welsh Government.
The leadership headteachers give is vital to the improvements we are making to our education system in Wales. There is no question that performance has improved in recent years. However, we all acknowledge the challenges that we face: poor literacy, lack of ambition and low expectations in some quarters, and too much variability between and within our schools. We acknowledge that we need to do better if we are to match the world’s best. Nevertheless, I am continually inspired by the dedication and expertise I find in staff across schools in Wales: we hold children’s futures in our hands, and hold that responsibility and privilege to heart.
In February the Minister for Education and Skills set out a programme of school reform which is challenging and ambitious. Over the last year, the Welsh Government together with its partners has been working to transform and shape the education system for the future.
Our focus for improving the education system in Wales is based around three inter-related priorities:
- improved literacy levels
- improved numeracy levels
- reducing the impact of poverty on educational attainment.
We are working across Wales to ensure that our schools, local authorities and the Department for Education and Skills are strong organisations that can meet these challenges to improve outcomes, raise standards and to make best use of the resources available. Where necessary we are bringing organisations together to enhance learning, for example with school federations, schools and Further Education Institutions working more closely together and collaboration between local authorities.
The Welsh Government’s policies are focused on raising standards. The quality and consistency of teaching is crucial to improving pupil outcomes. We are focused on enhancing the quality of teaching and learning across Wales through the reforms set out in this report. An important element of these reforms is the introduction of banding of schools about which you have recently received information.
Our focus for special schools is on the development of an assessment framework that supports consistent measurement of progress for all pupils in the Special Education sector. We are not considering the inclusion of special schools in the national banding system at the moment until this work is complete.
We are sharpening accountability across schools in Wales; doing what the best schools and authorities have always done in Wales, making effective use of data to focus resources, challenge and support, improving the mechanisms for sharing good practice and setting this standard for all:
- The new National Reading and Numeracy tests will complement the National Literacy and Numeracy Framework. The Estyn report on numeracy highlights areas that demand our attention. Visit the Estyn website for more information.
- Our challenge continues to be to raise the game in terms of developing the skills of our learners in applying and using knowledge in a variety of contexts.
- We need to consider how we support all of our learners but also reflect on the Estyn report on supporting our more able and talented learners in our primary schools. Visit the Estyn website for more information.
- An all-Wales Foundation Phase Baseline Assessment Profile is being introduced from this September. Inevitably this change will impact on schools but nevertheless help us develop learning in the most symbiotic, matched and appropriate way for the learner. It will be important that we evaluate the effectiveness of this baseline assessment process and make any appropriate changes.
- From the autumn term we expect professional learning communities in all schools to focus on literacy, numeracy, and on reducing the impact of poverty on educational attainment.
In the foreword to this report last year, I invited you to give us feedback on how the annual report can be further improved and how we can improve our communications more generally with colleagues who work across our school communities in Wales. I was delighted that so many of you responded by sending us your comments. I make the offer again and assure you that we will both reply to your feedback and take your views into account as we go through the coming academic year.
Director of Schools and Young People