Friday 20 June 2014
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.
Posted by Cneifiwr at 07:13