Siân Farquharson, post-16 challenge adviser and Seren programme coordinator at Education Achievement Service for South East Wales (EAS), explores ongoing reforms to education in Wales and new initiatives to improve provision for more able learners across Wales.
Education in Wales is being reformed. From curriculum to assessment and teacher training, regions and schools are at the heart of this “self-improving” transformation. 
The report Qualified for Life sets out a clear vision of education for all learners in Wales. It focuses on the need for high standards and a pedagogy that inspires young people to succeed, and where potential is developed.
“Education changes lives, it provides opportunity, it enables individuals to shape their futures, it builds stronger, more tolerant and cohesive societies, it is the foundation of a strong economy. In short, education matters.”
– Qualified for Life:
An education improvement plan for 3 to 19-year-olds in Wales
Alongside this, the independent review of curriculum and assessment arrangements in Wales, Successful Futures, highlights the importance of education equipping learners for their future lives.

Provision for more able learners a national priority

Initial teacher education in Wales is also undergoing change. This year, a new set of professional standards will emerge. Responding to wider changes in education, teachers of tomorrow will be required to be expert in teaching learners to “learn how to learn”.
The Estyn annual report 15/16 highlights the performance of more able learners as an area of concern for Wales; in around a third of primaries, more able pupils do not make enough progress because the work they are set is insufficiently challenging. In secondaries, the proportion of learners achieving five A*-A GCSEs or equivalent declined for the second consecutive year in 2016.   
Mechanisms for managing these changes have been established: Wales is divided into four consortia local authority regions (EAS, ERW, GwE and Central South Consortium Joint Education Service) which are focused on raising educational standards. Estyn highlights the need for these consortia to better analyse the progress of groups of pupils, including the more able.  

Supporting schools to improve provision and outcomes

EAS has established a regional strategy to support schools to better support more able learners. Working in consultation with LA partners and schools, there is a clear structure of activities to be delivered by the Regional More Able Strategy Group, the cluster group forum and the Learning Network Schools delivering direct to all schools across the South East Wales region.  
EAS is working in partnership with NACE and others to further develop this strategy. In line with the national agenda for the self-improving system, EAS will allocate resources directly into schools to enable them to work with NACE and each other to improve experiences and outcomes for more able learners. The principles of the Seren programme, which supports more able learners at KS5 to raise aspirations and increase Oxbridge and Sutton Trust 30 university applications, will also be shared across other phases and groups of learners. 
NACE is also currently working with ERW on this agenda.

This blog post is based on an article first published in the summer 2017 edition of the NACE Insight newsletter, available for all NACE member schools. To view all past editions of Insight, log in to the members’ area of the website.

Friday, July 21, 2017