Friday, 20 June 2014

Lessons English


Earlier this week Estyn published a report (here) on English language skills among 7-14 year olds in Wales, based on a sample of 13 primary schools and 7 secondary schools in different parts of Wales. Unsurprisingly the report showed that standards vary across Wales, that there are some excellent schools and some which need to do better, but that overall standards are improving and that most pupils achieve good standards:

"The quality of teaching and assessment of English is good or better in a majority of primary and secondary schools."

The report also concluded that in general although standards in English are improving in Welsh schools, there is still a gap in attainment between schools in Wales and schools in different regions of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

To get to the statistics which back up that conclusion, you have to leave the Estyn report and drill down into a statistical bulletin issued by Statistics for Wales in January 2014. These show that at Key Stage 3 83% of pupils in Wales were achieving a level 5 or better in English in 2013, compared with 84% in the West Midlands and 88% in the North West of England (88% being the best).

In other words, there is a gap, but it is hardly a yawning gap, and we need to remember that these very high level statistics mask differences in achievement between different local authorities, different schools and of course the pupils themselves.

In the case of Wales, the England and Wales comparison also masks a very interesting difference between English and Welsh medium schools, although here Estyn notes:

In Welsh-medium schools, pupils’ performance in English in key stage 2 [i.e. pupils aged between 7 and 11, Ed.] has also improved over the past five years and is around two percentage points higher than pupils’ performance in English-medium schools.

In key stage 3 [pupils aged between 11 and 14, Ed.] in Welsh-medium secondary schools, pupils’ performance in English has been consistently higher than in English-medium schools by around five percentage points.


In other words, performance among pupils at Welsh-medium schools at Key Stage 3 was every bit as good as the best performing region of England.

This was a point which was picked up by Golwg360, and it puts paid to the myth that children in Welsh-medium schools are less good at English. In fact, the reverse is true.

When it comes to finding out what is happening in Wales, most people rely not on Golwg360 but on the infinitely better resourced BBC, and BBC Wales gave the story very different treatment under the headline

Estyn: Welsh pupils behind rest of UK in English lessons

The BBC's report makes no mention of the difference between performance in English and Welsh medium schools; in fact it does not mention Welsh-medium education at all. Children in Welsh schools are worse at English than their counterparts on the other side of Offa's Dyke is the clear message.

Another clear message, according to the BBC, is that too much time is being spent on airy-fairy creative writing, rather than the important business of filling in forms. Here it quotes the author of the report, Wendy Young, although Estyn's report does not actually say this at all:

"We found teachers are focusing too much on story-writing, on fiction, when it's important to make sure pupils have skills in writing which will equip them for not only college but work and everyday life," she told BBC Wales.

"They need to have those practical writing skills so they can fill in a job application or mortgage application."

What the report actually says is that children need to be able to cope with a wide range of different types of English used in different contexts:

"There are six non-fiction genres, including recount, instruction, non-chronological reports, explanation, persuasion and discussion. Most primary and secondary schools include this range of genre in their planning but in a minority of schools there is a lack of balance between the genres. 

Each writing genre has different grammatical features and style characteristics, which pupils need to explore in order to be successful writers."

We don't know who wrote the BBC's hatchet job, but whoever it was, we can bet that their English lessons did not focus on filling in mortgage application forms.

To put this into context, Cneifiwr scraped a grade 6 'O' Level in English (a bare pass), and didn't do English at 'A' Level.







22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Estyn were very naughty not to put the Key stage results into the context of eligibility for free school meals...the usual measure of socio-economic deprivation. If Cneifiwr is interested he needs to look at:

http://wales.gov.uk/docs/statistics/2014/140122-academic-achievement-free-school-meals-en.pdf

Cneifiwr can then see the difference between WM and EM schools when it comes to the percentage of pupils eligible for FSMs in 2013; WM =12.3% and EM =21.7%.

When you look at the percentage of pupils not elgible for FSMs you see that 90.5% attain at the expected level (4+). On the other hand for pupils eligible for FSMs only 74.3% attain at the expected level.

In short, when you cpmpare EM performance with WM performance you are not comparing like with like.

It is possible to group together schools with the same FSM percentage and compare WM with EM. At FSM bench marks up to 20% FSMs, EM schools outperform WM at level4+ and after that (20+ and above) WM schools outperform EM.
At the higher level, level5+, EM schools outperform WM schools at all benchmarks up to 30% FSMs but there are very few pupils in WM schools over this percentage (only 6% of all WM pupils).

In short Cneifiwr, Golwg 360 know nothing.

Anonymous said...

I've just done a little comparison column for you Cneifiwr so that you can see how WM schools compared with EM schools in 2013. The figures are for percentage pass at A*-C (Level2) English with schools grouped for free school meals eligible percentage:

FSMs EM WM
0-6% 82.6 71.5
6-9% 78.1 74.2
9-12% 75.8 71
12-15% 70.1 69.7
15-18.4% 65.2 60.2
18.4-21% 58.8
21-24% 53.3
24-27% 52.5
27-30% 52.1
30-33% 47.8
33-36% 53.6
36-39% 48.2
40-47% 41

Anonymous said...

The obsessively anti-Welsh Jaques Priotic aka Jon Jones strikes again.

Anonymous said...

So, if that column comes out right, you can get a truer picture. Welsh medium schools are either in the Fro where few pupils are eligible for free school meals (few areas of deprivation) or they are selected by middle class and mostly well educated parents in the rest of Wales. What ESTYN did was to take both mediums together and compare total outcomes. If they had taken into account the major factor which depresses academic outcomes (FSM%) then they would have had to say that WM schools underperform comparable EM schools in English and, to an even greater extent, maths. In science WM has a slight underperformance.

ESTYN didn't lie but they did mislead. I have written to them of course but the silence is deafening. In truth both Estyn and the WAG know that the WM schools underperform but to acknowledge this is to risk WM expansionist ambitions.

Cneifiwr said...

May I suggest that you get a blog of your own Anon @8.59? You can argue that black is white until the cows come home.

As to what you call it, the choice is yours, but I think the name "Gogwatch" may already have been taken.

Anyone who is familiar with Welsh medium schools knows the suggestion that they are middle class enclaves is laughable.

The truth is that parents are voting with their feet - demand for WM is rising year on year.

m1books said...

Oh Cneifiwr - statistics, statistics, statistics. They can be twisted round little fingers to indicate all sorts %free school meals, %looked after children, %additional learning needs. And yes parents do vote with their feet (and cars) where there is CHOICE. In welsh speaking heartlands this is limited. The local EM secondary school (with a strong bilingual ethos) has a significant increase in applications for year 7 in September. This is despite it's primary feeder catchment schools (and out of area) being WM. But perhaps this is another year cohort blip? Housing market movements? Cricket on the sports curriculum? Interpretations of choice also.

Anonymous said...

As long as people are misled they will follow the herd...why wouldn't they? The problem that you have cneifiwr is that you only want good news about WM schools. There is worse news if you like; pupils in WM primary schools always do better in English than in Welsh and Welsh first language is the poorest performing core subject at KS2. Who does worst in WM schools? Pupils from English speaking homes.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed of late that when your view is challenged you tend to insult them by suggesting they need to take more tablets or as above invite them to start their own blog.

I am a middle aged man with grown up kids and there is no doubt that sending kids to the Welsh education school was something of a status symbol by people who aspired to the middle class - when you look at it logically education through the medium of Welsh is of for some subjects but to do so for subjects like maths and science it is lunacy and must hold children back.

controversial I know but true none the less.goolde abou

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @15.00 What is wrong with teaching maths, science or any subject through the medium of Welsh?

Is it because you feel that Welsh is a primitive language not capable of handling maths or science?

There are quite a lot of myths peddled about Welsh medium education, and that is one of them.

Learning maths through the medium of Welsh is no different to schools in France teaching children maths through the medium of French - including to expat English children.

Did God decree that English is the language of mathematics? Perhaps that's where German scientists and mathematicians have been going wrong all these years!

The decimal counting system used in Welsh schools is actually easier for children to use than English numbers, and you can teach a non-Welsh speaker to count up to 100 in a few minutes.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @15.00 What is wrong with teaching maths, science or any subject through the medium of Welsh?

Is it because you feel that Welsh is a primitive language not capable of handling maths or science?

There are quite a lot of myths peddled about Welsh medium education, and that is one of them.

Learning maths through the medium of Welsh is no different to schools in France teaching children maths through the medium of French - including to expat English children.

Did God decree that English is the language of mathematics? Perhaps that's where German scientists and mathematicians have been going wrong all these years!

The decimal counting system used in Welsh schools is actually easier for children to use than English numbers, and you can teach a non-Welsh speaker to count up to 100 in a few minutes.

Anonymous said...

For goodness sake Cneifiwr...the problem with teaching maths through Welsh relates to the lack of success in teaching Welsh to pupils from English speaking homes.

If you want to see the result look at thie disclosure log answer:-

http://wales.gov.uk/about/foi/responses/dl2014/aprjun/education/atisn8441/?lang=en

By the end of primary school kids from English speaking homes are significantly behind. The reason lies in the poor Welsh figures...it's not just a subject its the MEDIUM through which all other subjects are explained.

Cue further abuse from the increasingly aggressive cneifiwr!

Anonymous said...

Of course god did not create English as the language of mathematics.

But he did decree that 99% of the folks who live in the UK speak English which of course makes teaching anything in English better.

You cant deny that English is the international language of finance, transport, business etc etc and letting kids miss out is a shame. Its ok if the height of their ambition is to be employed by Mr James at CCC but to get on these days they must have an excellent grasp of English (and probably Mandarin)

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @18.42 You get a better grasp of English if you can speak more than one language - it's called meta-language (look it up).

Speaking more than one language opens up all sorts of new horizons as well.

The children missing out are those whose parents insist on English only education - and they call that choice!

Anonymous said...

I would argue that speaking Welsh opens up new horizons other than the horizons of West and North Wales.

Im not a luddite but I know that I would rather my kids spoke English and another mainstream European language rather than Welsh which is, lets face it, fairly useless outside (some) parts of Wales.

Anonymous said...

I see in Comment Number 1, that Mr Jacques Protic has had his pennyworth once again.

Well the truth Mr Protic - is that you tried to put your negative anti-Welsh message across to real people and real voters in Aethwy Ward during the Anglesey County Council Elections last May.

Your pamphlet mentioned 'lack of vision','flawed policies', 'unacceptable practices' and 'missed opportunities', and that you were the candidate who had the 'necessary qualities, knowledge and experience to bring about the long overdue change' required on Ynys Mon.

Well - the electorate listened, and chose two Plaid Cymru candidates and an Independent.

Jacques Protic finished bottom of the poll. 12th out of 12. Last!

He received a paltry 177 votes - 2.95%. In other words 97.05% of the good people of Aethwy completely and utterly rejected his misguided message.

A wiser man, I believe, would by now, have seen the folly and the error of his ways. This nasty,negative, anti-Welsh campaign does not work!

Un o drigolion Aethwy

Anonymous said...

So, if I understand you correctly cneifiwr, we can expect to find that the school children of Ynys Mon, Gwynedd and Ceredigion, the most successful bilingual areas of Wales and the UK will also be shown to have the highest percentage of pupils taking GCSE in other foreign languages. Is that correct?

Richard Powell said...

I thought Welsh used a vigesimal system for counting? (Hugain, deugain, trigain &c - not forgetting irregularities such as "un ar bymtheg", "hanner cant ac un" and so on.)
I suspect any youngster who studied, say, Maths, Physics and Chemistry at A-level through the medium of Welsh would find themselves seriously disadvantaged at university level - if only because of the almost complete lack of Welsh language materials and tuition at that stage. They would in practice be compelled to switch to English.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @20.58 - or should I call you Jacques Protic - the teaching of foreign languages in schools in Wales, and England for that matter, has been badly neglected.

I am sure you will be pleased to read about Plaid Cymru's plans for a radical new approach:

http://www.english.leannewood.plaidcymru.org/news/2012/08/10/revolutionise-language-teaching-in-schools-plaid-leader/

Cneifiwr said...

Richard - schools began to use a decimal counting system in the 1960s. 99 is 'naw deg naw', for example, and this has been widely adopted.

It is very simple and means that once you can count to 10, you can also count to 99 with no new words.

Courses in mathematics, physics, etc are available at degree level, although not as full degree subjects. These are provided through Coleg Cenedlaethol Cymru.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that, since you avoided answering my query at 2058 you know that Y fro Cymraeg has the smallest percentage of pupils taking GCSE in modern foreign languages (again taking FSM% into account). Overall 22% of pupils in Wales take a MFL at GCSE and 49% take a MFL in England. Oh, and my name isn't Jacques Protic.

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@6.49 And your solution is?

Anonymous said...

My solution to not being Jacques Protic is to continue in the not being Jacques protic state that I have enjoyed from birth.

My solution to the very low uptake of modern foreign languages amongst Welsh/English bilingual pupils is simple..it's up to them really, if they aren't interested and would rather study resistant materials no problem. What is a problem is ignorant people who continually spout nonsense about how learning Welsh leads on to speaking other languages. There is no evidence IN WALES that this happens but there is plenty of evidence that it doesn't.