Teaching makes a difference

Leighton Andrews AM, Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning, Reardon Smith Theatre, Cardiff, 2 February 2011

Leighton Andrews AM is the Welsh Government's Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning

A commitment to education and self-improvement has been an important part of the culture of Modern Wales from at least the late nineteenth-century. Educational movements flourished here, with a strong commitment to giving young people from whatever background the tools to take on the challenges of modern society. The Plebs League spawned by the Rhondda’s Noah Ablett, the movements which sent Aneurin Bevan to the Central Labour College, the Workers Education Association (WEA), all stand as testimony to that culture.

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century Welsh people fought for the right to create their own educational institutions, whether it was the university colleges supported by the pennies of the poor to the South Wales and Monmouthshire School of Mines, and the new Welsh medium schools after the second world war.

Education, and the right of all to access it and reach their potential, has been at the heart of our modern Welsh culture. That needs asserting. We stand on the shoulders of giants. We owe it to them to ensure that our education system in Wales lives up to the aspirations that they had.

Today, I want to look briefly back at education in the first decade of devolution, and take stock. I will focus on schools. This summer will mark the tenth anniversary of the paving document, The Learning Country. This was a holistic view of “cradle to the grave” education policies. An ambitious agenda was set for the next 10 years. Over the last decade, the Welsh Government has established a variety of important initiatives:

  • Flying Start, where the feedback from professionals is that Flying Start children are better prepared for school, better behaved and more confident at interacting with other children;
  • The Foundation Phase – widely praised across the sector and supported by all parties;
  • The Welsh Baccalaureate – now in 200 plus centres across Wales;
  • The 14-19 Learning Pathways – with a doubling of vocational courses on offer; and
  • We have led the way in grant support for university students – and continue to do so.

And importantly, we have continued to operate within an environment that has a strong two language focus.

We have made progress in many areas. Examination results over the years at GCSE level and A level have shown an encouraging rise in standards. Far fewer young people leave school without a qualification. The number of adults with level 2 or level 3 qualifications is increasing. We have achieved more modern apprenticeships.

Some areas have been more intractable. The quality of school buildings is improving but not at the pace we would like. Attendance rates are better than 1999 but are not high enough. The numbers of young people not in education, employment or training remain stubbornly above what we would wish.

In Wales over the decade of devolution we have implemented many of the changes the profession wanted to see. We have worked with the profession. We don’t have league tables. We abolished Standard Assessment Tests (SATs). We introduced the Foundation Phase. We created a skill-based curriculum. We have avoided many of the antagonistic competitive features of the English system. We do not have academies. We will not have Michael Gove’s so-called free schools. We have maintained faith in the comprehensive model of education.

As I said to Michael Gove last year, one of the advantages of devolution is that it allows England to be a laboratory for experiments.

But if we believe in the comprehensive model in Wales, then we have to make sure that it delivers for all our children.

The evidence of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is that it is not. Performance has fallen back.

Why is PISA important? It is well established and internationally respected. As the Chief Inspector of Training and Education in Wales, Ann Keane, has said to me ‘PISA tests the skills that should be at the core of any curriculum. The failure in Wales even to maintain what was a disappointing position in the results of the 2006 assessment raises many questions about our education system’. PISA tests the extent to which students near the end of their compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills needed for adult life and are able to apply them. Students are assessed on their competence to address real life challenges involving reading, maths and science. These are amongst the essential ‘employability’ skills that the Wales Employment and Skills Board has identified when it says:

‘The years when young people are in full-time education are especially important ones – in developing numeracy, literacy and IT skills as rapidly as possible, in developing appropriate personal skills and attitudes throughout the years of school…, and in developing an ever-increasing appreciation of what working situations demand. What is not gained in these years when learning experiences are structured and intensive and when young people’s learning capacity is high, may be hard won subsequently.’ (Wales Employment and Skills Board volume 3, May 2010, p10)

The Wales Employment and Skills Board notes that employers remain frustrated at levels of literacy and numeracy and observes that even possession of GCSE English or Mathematics may not deliver sufficient levels of literacy or numeracy.

Again, Ann Keane makes a similar point ‘The head of a Welsh engineering firm said recently that engineers who come to work for him can’t write simple reports. The ability to present something logically in writing or orally, to read and understand, to synthesize different kinds of information, to analyse and interpret and then communicate – these are the skills that PISA tests and a good education should deliver them. These are ‘employability’ skills.’

I said on the day that the PISA results were announced, that we did not fare as well as we would have liked in the 2006 PISA assessments and we all hoped that our policies would have yielded improvements by the 2009 assessments.

Sadly, we know now that is not the case. The 2009 figures painted an even more disappointing picture of our educational performance and progress.

In both reading and mathematics Wales’ mean score was significantly lower than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) average and our UK counterparts. In science we performed at around the OECD average but significantly below the performance of other UK administrations. In all three domains the mean score for Wales and our international ‘ranking’ was lower than in 2006.

The tables shown summarise the mean scores in each of the three PISA domains with a comparison to our 2006 results.

Reading


2006

2009

Change[1]

Mean Score

481

476

-5

Mathematics

2006

2009

Change

Mean Score

484

472

-12

Science

2006

2009

Change

Mean Score

505

496

-9

PISA is a highly respected and robust measure of the relative performance of educational systems and the Welsh school system underperforms for all

ability levels. These results cannot be argued away or excused. We need to face up to the harsh truth: the education system in Wales is not delivering the outcomes that our young people need and deserve.

These results cannot be excused on the basis of low socio-economic status or the bilingual nature of our nation and education system. They cannot be excused by relative funding levels – Finland has similar per capita spend to Wales on education and yet performs consistently very highly in PISA assessments; Luxembourg spends far more than Wales but their PISA scores are no better than ours in reading and lower in science; New Zealand spends less per capita than we do but significantly outperforms us.

We must all take a level of responsibility for the problem and for resolving it. We need to refocus on higher standards, set our ambitions and expectations high and look for improvement in every aspect of our system.

The young people of Wales have the same potential as young people across the world. Our system must deliver.

Much of what we need to do will take time and it will be hard. It will require honesty, leadership and a new approach to accountability. Our young people deserve better. I look to the whole sector to support the actions necessary to bring about sustained, positive change.

PISA, I am afraid, is a wake-up call to a complacent system. There are no alibis and no excuses. It is evidence of systemic failure. But, as I always say, never waste a crisis.

PISA is not our only evidence. We have to face the fact that we are not delivering in performance terms in public examinations overall compared to other parts of the UK. Not enough top grades at GCSE or A Level. The recent Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) figures suggest we are not preparing young people well enough for university entry. Estyn’s most recent report made it clear that standards were not as good as they should be in over 30% of maintained schools, and standards in very few schools and providers are consistently outstanding.

Before I turn to outline some of what we plan to do, perhaps it is worth asking what do we know about the best performing school systems. Last year, I invited Sir Michael Barber, former head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, to come to hold a seminar with my senior officials. Michael identified a number of key factors from experience of the best systems around the world, focusing on standards, human capital and structure and organisation:

  • Standards
    • Globally-benchmarked standards;
    • Good transparent data and accountability;
    • Every child always on the agenda in order to challenge inequality.
  • Human Capital
    • Recruit great people and train them well;
    • Continuous improvement of pedagogical skills and knowledge;
    • Great leadership at school level.
  • Structure and organization
    • Effective, enabling central department and agencies;
    • Capacity to manage change and engage communities at every level;
    • Operational responsibility and budgets significantly devolved to school level.

Research on what works internationally has been pulled together in the book Lessons Learned by Fenton Whelan. His themes link to Michael Barber’s assessment, in terms of driving up performance within the classroom, including:

  • Focusing on quality not quantity of teachers;
  • Attracting good people into teaching;
  • Effective leadership of all schools;
  • Setting high standards and monitoring;
  • Structures to empower, hold to account and drive collaboration;
  • Investing in teachers’ professional knowledge and skills;
  • Continuously challenging inequity in performance.

Whelan also identifies policy errors which cost money and do not lead to significant improvement – what Michael Fullan might call distractors. So, for example, class size might matter up to about age 7 but not so much beyond that. There is little convincing evidence that linking teachers’ pay to performance works.

Whelan identifies some areas which we have already begun to tackle – student background and difference at home can have an impact on performance unless there is good early education to challenge inequality. Things we are beginning to address through Flying Start and the Foundation Phase.

He also stresses that almost all children are capable of performing at a high standard, irrespective of their context. As Estyn has told us, ‘some schools succeed despite challenging circumstances. These successful schools tend to do well by doing the same things that all successful schools do. What is different in the schools that do well in disadvantaged areas is that they have highly effective leadership and consistently good teaching’ – and they have high expectations, zero tolerance of bad behaviour, focus on out-of-school activities, reinforce expectations with parents, and focus on children’s social and emotional skills, confidence and self-esteem.

Ultimately, this is about what goes on in the class-room. As McKinsey has said, no education system can perform beyond the level of the teachers within it. Teaching makes a difference.

Michael Barber identified clear problems within the Welsh system:

  • Lagging in GCSE performance compared to relevant English regions
  • Too many young people who are Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET);
  • Huge variation especially within schools;
  • Social class has more impact than it should;
  • Boys’ performance significantly lags girls’.

Michael Barber also stressed that we should set clear goals. He cited the example of Michael Fullan’s Ontario, where there are three clear goals:

  • Improving literacy and numeracy;
  • Increasing graduation rates;
  • Building public confidence in the school system.

I subsequently set out three clear goals for the School Effectiveness Framework:

  • Literacy;
  • Numeracy;
  • And tackling the link between poverty and poor attainment.

A simple focus. A clear focus. So what has gone wrong?

I said when the PISA results were published that I believed that there had been system wide failures. Overall, I think there has been a failure of leadership – throughout the system. But I think the challenges we face cover a number of areas – ideological; cultural; political; departmental; structural; inspection; improvement; standards; measurement; teaching quality; and accountability.

Let me start with the ideological. The doctrine of learner choice which has underpinned much of educational thinking over the last twenty years has been bought, to my mind, at the cost of quality and rigour.

This time last year I warned about the dangers of relying solely on choice in education. I want to repeat those words about learner choice. The American Psychologist Barry Schwartz published a book in 2004 called The Paradox of Choice. It was subtitled Why More is Less. His thoughts on this started, he said, when he went to a branch of Gap to buy a new pair of jeans. He was offered regular, easy fit, and relaxed fit, in a variety of colours and sizes.

The jeans I chose turned out just fine, but it occurred to me that buying a pair of pants should not be a daylong project….before these options were available, a buyer like myself had to settle for an imperfect fit, but at least purchasing jeans was a five-minute affair. Now it was a complex decision in which I was forced to invest time, energy, and no small amount of self-doubt, anxiety and dread.’

Schwartz draws a larger conclusion ‘when people have no choice, life is almost unbearable. As the number of choices increases, as it has in our consumer culture, the autonomy, control and liberation this variety brings are powerful and positive. But as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.’

And he says ‘the fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better.’

In this vein, the University of Bristol’s sociology department in a study last year found that Wales was the nation most confused by choice.

Interestingly, Fenton Whelan in his book had sharp words on the problems of market-based reforms:

‘School systems which employ market models tend to suffer a range of problems: they fail to leverage choice and competition as real drivers of improvement, they are unable to quickly or preventively tackle underperformance, they divide the system into units which are too small to innovate, they inhibit the spread of best practices, and they often increase academic, ethnic and social stratification in the system. More fundamentally, the power of choice and competition as drivers of improvement has generally been overstated.’

So we have the paradox of choice. I do not want choice to dilute quality. So if we are to be honest with ourselves, we have to recognise that we must limit choice if we are to ensure strategic subjects are taught and key skills learned.

The paradox of choice, then, leads us to ‘the language of priorities’ which as Aneurin Bevan told us, is ‘the religion of socialism’. You will be hearing a lot more about the language of priorities in the future.

The second area of weakness is cultural. We have been too cosy. One of the advantages of being in a small country is that we can communicate relatively swiftly and easily. One of the disadvantages is that because everyone knows everyone else, there has been a reluctance to rock the boat. As long as everyone gets their say, everyone is, if not happy, at least content. The culture of inclusion should not mean the ducking of difficult decisions, or telling it like it is. Fortunately, a reluctance to tell it like it is has never been one of my problems. We have assumed that things were going well, so we have designed systems intended to move us from the good to the great. In fact, we have to move our system from the not-so-good to the good. We are complacent – complacency kills aspiration. We have not articulated stretching targets, nor have we provided parents with the confidence and expectation that things can and should be better. PISA tells us that we have not stretched our most able pupils. We are failing some of our most talented. We have let people get away with things. Let me be clear – a coasting school is failing its pupils and parents, it’s failing its teachers.

As Professor David Reynolds has said, ‘Our problem is not that we do not know how to educate our children in Wales. We do. We have some world class schools, many world class teachers and even a couple of world class local authorities. Our problem is that not everyone is as good as our best, because we do not emulate our best. Solving this problem may need wider cultural change in our country more than in our educational system.’

Well I agree with that.

The third area of weakness is political, and in particular, the search for alibis. Instead of learning from best practice there is a continual search for alibis. There has been collusion and groupthink. People say class sizes should be smaller – although the research suggests that this matters only in the early years. People say it’s a matter of funding. Though as Michael Davidson of the OECD pointed out when the PISA results were published, we are amongst the highest spenders in the OECD. Mr Davidson said, and I agree with him,

We know there isn’t a particularly strong relationship between levels of expenditure and performance.

“What’s more important and is very evident from the data is how that money is spent.”

This search for alibis and excuses is a continuous distraction. We know what works, and we should apply it.

The next set of challenges are departmental and relate to Department for Children Education Lifelong Learning and Skills (DCELLS). We have had a lot of initiatives. We have had a lot of change. We have a department which saw several quangos merged with it in 2006. I do not know if those mergers were ever culturally integrated. I do know that a single departmental culture has yet to emerge. My impression as a Minister is of a department that has been culturally and geographically fragmented without a clear focus. There has been a lack of alignment of performance measurement, including qualifications in particular. Implementation of policy has been weak. Policies to support and deliver the curriculum need to be properly embedded. The decision to introduce the Skills Framework on a non-statutory basis is a good example of this weakness. Historically civil servants have been strong on policy design, but less good at policy implementation and embedding. However, under Dr Emyr Roberts’ leadership, a clear focus and sense of direction is developing. I have made it clear, and I repeat it today, that I expect the focus of the department to be one which seeks to raise standards of performance for all, so that all can reach their potential. Performance will be our driver. All other matters – curriculum, qualifications, professional development, governor support, capital programmes, will be subservient to that.

Then there are the structural challenges. I have said repeatedly I would not have invented 22 local education authorities. I now believe that the fragmentation of education authorities in the mid-1990s was one of the contributing factors for the downturn in educational performance a decade later, as effective challenge and support was lost in many parts of the system and time, energy and resource was dissipated. As Estyn has reported, strategic management is good or better in only a half of local authorities.

Then there is inspection. I believe that the reforms Estyn’s executed in the Common Inspection Framework are fundamental. But for schools and local authorities they will be challenging. Early evidence from the Common Inspection Framework’s first term is of significantly higher numbers of schools requiring extra help. I do not believe that our inspection framework was fit for purpose until very recently. The 2004-2010 cycle had too much focus on National Curriculum subjects. It was out-sourced. It made judgements against over 700 tick-box grades. There was no follow-up for mediocre or weaker schools. There was a complacency about judgements particularly in the primary sector.

The next area is school improvement. The School Effectiveness Framework has been an important driver for change but it needs sharpening and streamlining. We have built collective capacity through Professional Learning Communities across Wales. The Professional Learning Communities can offer grounded practical examples of what works to teachers and headteachers as to how they source best practice. The implementation of best practice is essential. Those who refuse to implement it will be told ‘adopt or justify’.

We need to move from theory to practice. By the end of this school year, the School Effectiveness Framework will have been fully implemented and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) will be in operation across Wales. We will be far more prescriptive about what those PLCs can focus on. They will not be allowed to be laissez-faire in their operation. They will have a clear focus on literacy and numeracy and tackling disadvantage.

We will also be ensuring that data is used properly and spread widely. Data empowers people. People need information on how their schools are performing. They also need to understand how their school is performing against the best in class. That doesn’t mean a return to league tables. It does mean ‘family of schools’ data being available so that all schools can learn from the best in class and high standards can be set by heads and by governors. It means robust self-evaluation and rigorous bench-marking. It means being honest about the performance of your school. It means learning from the best. It means embedding best practice. Parents and young people have a right to expect the best. They may not know what the best is. Without data they certainly won’t. And it is those in the most deprived communities who have the most to lose. I do not accept the socio-economic determinism of those who say that because we have major challenges of deprivation we cannot make progress. On the table in my office is a piece of Welsh slate engraved with the words of the great Welsh cultural critic, Raymond Williams, which reads ‘To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing’. We will set high standards and seek to reach them, not accept excuses and alibis for poor performance.

Then there is measurement. We have kidded ourselves about measurement for too long. While statistics have suggested that we do better than England at Key Stage 2 but then suffer a dip at Key Stage 3, I’m afraid I’m not convinced we are comparing like with like. I hear too many stories from secondary headteachers about the quality of entry from cluster primary schools and the inconsistent quality of teacher assessment. Estyn makes the same point and has reported on this. Then, later in the system, the reports from Further Education Principals about the quality of basic skills of their entrants from schools are shocking. Simply shocking. Meanwhile work-based learning providers tell me too many stories about their entrants arriving without evidence of the qualifications they are meant to have undertaken. Abandoning SATS was not meant to be a signal for anything goes. As Ann Keane has said to me ‘I am concerned about the lack of robustness in the assessment of learning at the end of key stages, at transition points between primary and secondary schools and between secondary schools and post-16 education and training.’ She confirms that ‘In Year 7 at the beginning of Key Stage 3 or in post-16 provision when all students are screened to identify basic skills needs, for instance, gaps in skills are identified that believe the level of attainment at the end of the previous stage. Around 80% of pupils at the end of primary education attain the expected level but, typically on entry to secondary school, 40% or more of the same cohorts are identified as having some basic skills needs’. Nor are we stretching the brightest to their utmost.

What matters most, of course, is what happens in the classroom. Teaching quality matters. We need to harness the existing leadership. Teaching makes a difference. Leadership of schools makes a difference. The setting of high aspirations for all. The focus on every individual. The delivery of performance. All young people able to read and write at the standard for their age. I expect all teachers to be teachers of literacy. PISA has demonstrated that our classrooms are not delivering for our young people. Too few are able to apply the skills they are learning. We need to look again at initial teacher training and at continuous professional development. But we will be more prescriptive.

We are ending the over-supply of teachers. We have been reducing numbers for seven years. We have already reduced the number being trained from 2,470 a year to 1,805 a year (27%). The proportion of post-graduate teacher training places has grown to 78% of the total this year. The high number of training places on offer has failed to reinforce teaching status by making entry challenging and opens up the opportunity for schools to recruit cheaper Newly Qualified Teachers rather than experienced professionals. Induction of teachers is variable in quality and probably insufficiently rigorous. Only 8 trainees have failed induction since 2003.

Finally, there is accountability. The removal of league tables was intended to stop a distorting competition. It was not a signal that we do not have a view on the performance of the school system. We do. Young people have a right to

expect high standards. To what extent are governors really engaged across Wales in driving up performance? To what extent are they essentially dependent on the headteacher for their information? How many headteachers are sharing the family of schools data with their governors? How is that being built in to school development plans? To what extent are local authorities empowering governors to understand and use data? Is the current system for headteacher review adequate? Is there effective alignment between governors’ appraisal and real improvements in performance? Do we need to align head teacher performance management with the local authority improvement role? We need to take the best practice from the local authorities which have a forensic approach to performance. Local authorities must lead governors.

This is an important, systemic set of questions. And I will now turn to what we intend to do about them.

Things need to change. And change fast. In their recent report on ‘how the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better’, McKinsey noted that the impetus to start school system reforms resulted from one of three things: ‘The outcome of a political or economic crisis, the impact of a high- profile, critical report on the system’s performance, or the energy and input of a new political or strategic leader.’ Well, at least two of those three factors apply to Wales. Never waste a crisis.

We speak a lot about the rights of children and young people in the National Assembly for Wales. Children and young people have a right to expect high- quality teaching and that their schools are delivering high standards.

Change will require a collective action. As John Kotter, Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School puts it in his book Leading Change, ‘a strong, guiding coalition is always needed’ for change to take place. Professor Michael Fullan talks of the need for ‘collective capacity’ to change. ‘Collective capacity’ he says, ‘is what happens when groups get better – school cultures, district cultures, and government cultures.’ So we look to work with leaders across the education system in Wales to ensure that we change for success.

To start with, we will create some clear targets. We should aim to be in the top 20 of school systems measured in the PISA scores in 2015. In other words, the PISA scores after next. But we will be aiming for improvements in 2012 over the 2009 results. This is not an alternative to improving GCSE results – we need to increase performance, including performance in English, Welsh and Maths, and reduce variation across the system.

Second, we need to recognise the scale of the challenge. Ours is not a good system aiming to become great. Ours is a fair system aiming to become good. And that requires honesty and clarity from all involved.

For systems moving from fair to good there has to be a significant amount of central input to ensure standards are being upheld. School systems moving

from good to great can afford to free up their systems. We are not in that state, so I am going to have more direct input.

We know what works. We also know that we have best practice within Wales. It is time that that best practice was shared and applied across the whole of Wales. I am not seeking a strategic shift. I do not plan to publish a new education strategy. Indeed, I hope to leave office without having published an education strategy. Instead, I want to see world-class best practice applied across Wales.

So here are the actions we are going to take immediately.

  1. Performance will be our driver. We have reorganised our own department to ensure a clearer focus on educational performance and outcomes, with Chris Tweedale now responsible for every area that affects the classroom. To support the drive to improve performance, we will be creating a Standards Unit to lead performance and provide challenge on a national basis.
  2. In line with my focus on better implementation, fewer initiatives and keeping it simple, no new initiatives will be approved unless they add value to our demand for higher performance. Resources will be re- prioritised accordingly.
  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. The baseline assessment provides us with the floor and will be supported year on year with continuous assessment. We will address variability in teaching practice.
  4. As part of our National Literacy Plan, we will introduce 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 Plan will also include a focus on 7-11 year-olds, and catch-up reading programmes as well as stretching those pupils of the highest abilities.
  5. By the 2012 – 13 academic year, we will have developed similar plans for numeracy.
  6. We will 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. I am pleased that the Association of Directors of Education in Wales (ADEW) has signed up to this.
  7. We will look to integrate PISA assessments into school assessment at 15. We will ask all schools to work with their year 8 and 9 students who will face PISA next time and work with them on their skills.
  8. We will ensure that all teachers and head teachers have appropriate levels of literacy and numeracy as part of their professional accreditation.
  9. I have asked officials to examine whether we can revise initial teacher training so that it becomes a two-year Master’s course, with more classroom practice, so that teachers are familiar with advanced teaching skills. They will examine whether this can become the standard entry qualification for teaching in Wales. There will be a statutory requirement on all qualifying teachers to be trained in literacy and numeracy. All new Initial Teacher Training (ITT) entrants will have been required to pass literacy and numeracy skills tests on entry and exit. One inset day per year will be focused on literacy and numeracy assessment for all teachers.
  10. We will introduce a national system for the grading of schools which will be operated by all local authorities/consortia. I am pleased that the Association of Directors of Education in Wales has confirmed that all consortia will operate this model. All schools will be graded annually. Schools will be expected to reach certain floor targets – an absolute standard below which no school in Wales will fall – and will also be expected to operate progress targets for all pupils so that all students make one year of educational progress each calendar year. All schools will produce an annual public profile containing performance information to a common format. They will also be expected, in a school development plan endorsed by their governors, to set out how they will reach improved standards of educational performance based on aspirational targets we will set for the education system in Wales. Again, the Association of Directors of Education in Wales has signed up to this. We will work with ADEW on strengthening local authority/consortia school intervention powers.
  11. Estyn’s new Common Inspection Framework is beginning to bite. Where schools are found by Estyn to be failing, and I regard the situation as irredeemable, I will close them.
  12. In the Education Measure, we are taking powers to allow local authorities to federate boards of governors of schools. I expect to see more federations of schools, operating under single headteachers.
  13. Also in the Education Measure, we are introducing statutory training for governors and effective clerking.
  14. Use of data is critical to performance. From next year, no school will pass an Estyn inspection unless it can demonstrate that its governing body has discussed the family of schools data and other relevant performance data and has set in place actions to improve its position. I will be writing to all Chairs of Governors to make this clear.
  15. We will change the performance management provisions for headteacher performance management and teacher performance management to enable closer monitoring of their approach to raising standards, engaging local authorities and consortia in this.
  16. We will review teacher induction, alongside our review of the General Teaching Council of Wales (GTCW), following the Framework powers we expect to receive as a result of UK legislation. Development and support for the first three years of teaching will focus on firm foundations for the teaching of literacy and numeracy. All Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) will have to meet Practising Teacher Standards.
  17. Continuing 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. We will expect all schools to demonstrate that they have discussed the Skills Framework and the support materials available during their INSET days. CPD opportunities will include the opportunity to gain the Master’s Qualification.
  18. We will produce Statutory Guidance for school improvement, which sets out the best practice currently available in Wales and elsewhere, which we will expect schools to implement through the Schools Effectiveness Framework. This will include kite-marked teaching strategies designed to make ‘our best our standard’. Professional Learning Communities will focus on literacy, numeracy and tackling disadvantage. We will expect a strong focus on high reliability teaching practices and I want to see a new focus on the content of teaching within the School Effectiveness Framework. Provision of effective practice is not prescriptive, it is about ensuring that we have the best skilled teaching workforce continuously developing capacity.
  19. We will expect local authorities to participate in consortia arrangements, including shared consortium services, or suffer financial penalties, including the withdrawal of Better Schools Funding. The Consortia will identify system leaders, who will support and challenge the Professional Learning Communities, which will have a focus on literacy and numeracy.
  20. If there is poor behaviour in the classroom, children cannot learn. I have already announced some extensions to teachers’ powers last autumn in respect of the use of force by school staff, as well as schools’ ability to discipline pupils and impose sanctions. I feel progress on our Behaving and Attending Action Plan is not going at the pace I want to see. It is now time to re-vitalise and refocus activity in this area. The next phase will concentrate on outcomes and improving behaviour to raise standards. All newly qualified teachers will undertake development modules in behaviour management as part of their induction process. It is not acceptable that Wales has had for years the worst school attendance levels in the UK. If attendance in Wales was at the level of England, our young people would effectively, on average, have an additional eight weeks of learning across their school career. Two-thirds of a term. Again there is excellent practice in Wales, BUT shocking variation between and within schools and local authorities. We will not allow schools to let young people drift away from learning. Attendance data will be rigorously interrogated as a key element of the new annual public profile for schools, going forward, I expect zero tolerance of truancy.

This is a clear programme to address the issues we face. This is a programme to transform system leadership, which addresses issues of personalised learning, professional practice, intelligent accountability and collaboration and best practice. Some of the tasks are for the Government; some for local authorities and consortia, but many are for schools. We will draw on the best advice available to us. I want to thank Professor David Hopkins, Professor Alma Harris, Dr Tim Williams and Professor David Reynolds for their ideas and advice.

There is a formidable agenda ahead of us in respect of schools alone. There will, in future, be no hiding place for poor performance. In my Department,

performance will drive every aspect of what we are doing. There will be a single focus. We will raise standards. We will provide opportunities for all to learn to the best of their ability. Our young people deserve better. And I believe that we can deliver.


[1] Note that it is not statistically valid to compare the results across two PISA assessments in this way however it is reflective of overall performance and will be highlighted by many readers of the results.

While you’re here, we’ve got something to ask you: will you join us?

We’re working every day to bring the right people together and generate the ideas to make Wales a world-leading force.

We’re independent of government and political parties. We provide a much-needed space for open, transparent debate about the ideas that can make Wales better.

To continue to do this, we need people like you to join us.

Join us today and you’ll be supporting vital work that’s making our country better than ever.

Find out more