IWA Podcast: Wales ‘could do better’ on Pisa

Jess Blair is joined by Mary Van den Heuvel, Robin Hughes and David Jones to discuss the latest Pisa results for Wales, and their implications.

Wales is still bottom of the class in terms of its performance on the Pisa assessments compared with the other regions of the UK. These latest results, released today, show Wales’ performance slip in science and reading, while maths improved slightly. In comparison England retained its top position on the UK leaderboard, scoring an average of 512 points compared with Wales’ 485.

Welsh Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has said that Wales ‘can do better’ but has cautioned against knee jerk reactions to the results and insists Wales is on the correct path to better performance.

Joining Jess Blair to discuss these results in the latest IWA podcast was Robin Hughes, Mary Van den Heuvel and David Jones.

Jess Blair is the IWA's Policy and Projects Manager. Mary Van den Heuvel is Policy Adviser for ATL Cymru. David Jones is a Digital Consultant. Robin Hughes is an Education Consultant and School Governor.

5 thoughts on “IWA Podcast: Wales ‘could do better’ on Pisa

  1. I suggest that either the Welsh Assembly spends more money providing properly qualified Welsh Teachers to teach the Welsh language in Non Welsh Speaking Areas such as Monmouthshire,Or stops making it compulsory to be taught , thereby letting non Welsh speakers concentrate on other subjects at which they are more competent.

  2. Remember that you read it here first:-

    29th November.

    “In Wales our best performing schools, those with fewer than 10% of pupils eligible for free school meals and particularly those schools in University towns, are not producing a depth of high performing pupils. Most countries do very well at getting the most out of their brightest pupils, those pupils that have highly educated and relatively well off parents. In Wales a very high proportion of our potentially high achieving pupils are in Welsh medium schools and those schools perform relatively poorly in relation to what should be expected of them.”

    And what does John Jerrim, the lead on PISA analysis for Wales say:-

    ” Wales has a
    comparatively small proportion of pupils with high-level reading skills”
    “There is a particularly pronounced gap in reading skills between the highest
    achieving pupils in Wales and the highest achieving pupils in other countries”
    “Wales has a similar proportion of low achieving pupils in mathematics as the
    average across members of the OECD. However, Wales seems to face a
    particular challenge in developing enough young people with high-level
    mathematics skills.”
    “Pupils who took the Welsh language version of the PISA science test achieved
    lower scores than pupils who completed the test in English.”

    ” Those who took the test in Welsh tended to achieve lower average scores.
    There is a difference of 22 points in science which is statistically significant at the five
    per cent level. There is also a difference of 25 points in reading (480 versus 455)
    although the limited sample size means that this difference does not reach statistical
    significance at the five per cent level (p =0.09). In contrast, average scores are very
    similar in mathematics (478 versus 475).”

    All in all, at every key stage and whenever proper analysis is applied (analysis which takes SES into account) the Welsh medium sector is a significant factor in holding Welsh education back.

    I can say however that, no matter the evidence, the Labour/Plaid government will plough on regardless towards making every school in Wales Welsh medium.

  3. At the time of voting for,or against the creation of an Assembly one of the ‘pitches’ for was that there would be higher standards in public services,and in particular a)Education,b)NHS if we had our own government. Well it nearly 20 years and the outcomes in education,according to PSI are very worrying,even to people whose children have flown and grand children now well ‘over the border’ It was interesting that the ‘experts’ speaking on the pod cast seemed totally sympatico with current regime and its programmes,and as public money looks being reduced in coming years where are the financial resources going to come from to transform our education system. When people talk of the Labour Party being a radical one,then nothing could be more opposite in this region of UK as its stuck in a statist/top down system,with 22 local authorities and no doubt thousands of public officials involved and yet performances as measured are not getting any better,or even in reverse. Why are there NO radical proposals and putting a Liberal Democrat (the only 1) in charge is a political ‘masterstroke’ by FM but what electoral AUTHORITY does she personally have to take up this role?.If we cannot educate our children to survive in what is an English speaking world and rapidly advancing technology what prospect is there for the vast majority. It seems we have created a ‘closed world’ mentality and for the FM to complain about Brynteg Comprehensive was ‘disgraceful’ as in 1980’s it was one of the best schools in UK,and both my children and many others have gone out and competed in world. As I remember education was then under the old Welsh Office,with Mrs. T in number 10 and perhaps ATWAP will get into power and revert to UK national education policies!!

  4. As a graduate of Pryfisgol Caerdydd and friend of Mr. Jones I think it would be a good idea to pay attention to his thoughtful input. I think the education system in general, not just in Wales, should look more at how successful technology businesses work and get the most out of their people and how they disrupt the status quo in every industry, and disrupt it quickly.

    There is a philosophy in the tech. space of innovation through ‘agility’. This is based on the idea that you succeed by understanding and accepting failure QUICKLY. You don’t create a 2 year project that takes 18 months before you see the first release of the product. You release useful things in a ‘minimum viable product’ within a few months and build on this platform evolving it over time.

    You will often hear the phrase “fail fast”. You will see programs and projects developed as storyboards with a number of small tasks that can be pursued and, if necessary fail. These tasks are grouped logically deliver tangible progress with a short timeline (2-4 weeks) to determine success or failure. After each period ends you review how the previous period of work went. If it was successful you make any identified changes to improve efficiency and execute the next group of tasks on the story board. If you fail you rewind the short distance you have come since the previous work period and reassess your storyboard. Modify your task list based on the information obtained during the failure, grab a new set of tasks and move forwards.

    This offers a few things,

    Change that happens quickly, but not necessarily disruptively.
    A model to accelerate the adoption of new ideas and curriculums.
    An alignment with the industries and philosophies that graduating pupils will one day have to work with.
    An environment, if done right, that can promote innovation and creativity from staff in the class room, in school administration, and if used as teaching models, the pupils themselves. This will result in better learning and knowledge growth.

    Time for educators to think out of the box and think about the course they are plotting with their charges today. Nobody uses a sextant to navigate by these days, they use GPS and google maps!

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