POLITICIANS trying to drag up standards in education in Wales need a longer-term perspective, according to a lengthy report published today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Those in power at the Senedd could also change the current controversial banding system “with the idea that every school should be able to develop into an excellent school”, said the report, which was commissioned by the Welsh Government in December 2012.
Moves to improve Welsh education began three years ago, explained the report, after a disappointing international ranking in the PISA table in 2009 sparked a national debate on the quality and future of education in Wales.
More recent PISA data from 2012 showed that almost one in five GCSE students in Wales did not reach “the baseline of proficiency” in reading and science, and for maths this was almost 30 per cent.
“These levels are among the lowest in OECD countries,” said the report, which recommends politicians define “a long-term education strategy” which is “adequately designed and resourced”.
Problems include a high number of low performers, and underdeveloped methods of recruitment, development and career progression for teachers.
“The pace of reform has been high and lacks a long-term vision,” said the report. “A number of concrete policy options would strengthen Wales’ education system over the long term.”
The report was critical of a lack of recognition of the important role the large numbers of support staff play in improving teaching and learning.
“Support staff do not have clear longer-term career opportunities and many don’t have good working conditions,” it said, calling for the education department to move forward with plans to introduce minimum qualifications for support staff working in specific roles.
It was also critical of Wales’ school banding system as clashing with the inspectorate Estyn’s own categories, and a perceived lack of fairness, ultimately having “a demotivating effect on the profession”. “Some schools are likely to need more than one year to make sustainable improvements in the performance of their students,” it said.
Responding to the report, Education Minister Huw Lewis described the call for a small number of clear, long-term objectives as “sound”.
“We know the challenges we face in Wales, the report provides no surprises in that regard,” he said.
Dr Philip Dixon, director of the union ATL Cymru, said the report provides further ammunition for those who claim the banding system is “past its sell-by date”.
The minister will attend the OECD’s education policy committee in Paris to discuss the report’s findings at the end of the week.