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Education

Tests go online

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Approach tailor-made for Wales: Kirsty Williams

NATIONAL reading and numeracy tests in Welsh schools are set to replace paper with innovative online assessments that adapt to a pupil’s abilities, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced.

Currently the tests, taken by all pupils in Years 2-9, are carried out on paper. They aim to find out about pupils’ reading and numeracy skills in order to identify what each child needs to focus upon to progress.

The paper tests will be replaced with new personalised assessments to be taken online that have been specifically designed for use in Wales. The new assessments will automatically adjust the level of the questions to match the individual taking the test, providing an appropriate level of challenge for each learner.

The change to online tests will reduce marking time and administration.

Benefits include:

  • Assessments tailored to individual pupils
  • More detailed information on a child’s performance
  • A reduction in feedback times to teachers and learners

Schools will be able to test classes, small groups or individuals according to their facilities and at a time that works for them and their learners

The new tests will be phased in over three years, starting from the 2018/19 academic year.

Kirsty Williams said: “These tests are about raising standards by showing the next steps that children need to take in their learning. The move to online personalised assessments for reading and numeracy will benefit pupils, parents and teachers.

“Pupils will be taking assessments that will adapt to their needs and skills. They will have the benefits of automatic marking and schools will have feedback faster than before, giving them a better picture of how they can help all their learners to move on.

“This approach is tailor made for Wales. It shows how we are investing in our schools to continue our national mission of education reform to drive up standards and make sure every pupil in Wales, whatever their background, has the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”

The NUT has welcomed the proposals to change the way the literacy and numeracy tests are conducted in Wales.

NUT Cymru says that the new proposals have the potential to improve the way the tests are undertaken but note there still remains compelling evidence that this form of testing is counterproductive to the style of education being developed in Wales.

NUT Wales Secretary, David Evans, said: “NUT Cymru are still of the view that standardised testing is a flawed concept that does not fit into the ethos of the existing education system in Wales, and certainly not alongside the principles of the curriculum as presented by Professor Donaldson. We would have liked to have seen the Cabinet Secretary announce these tests were to be scrapped. However, it is fair to say that the changes that are being put forward could have a positive impact on the way the tests are currently implemented.

“Two of the big concerns we have raised with the Welsh Government in the past are the workload burden these tests have created for teachers and the way they have hindered the confidence of large numbers of pupils. In theory, making the tests an online process and ensuring they are adaptive which allow pupils to work at their individual abilities, can help address some of those issues. Naturally we will have to monitor the implementation of the new approach and I am sure the Cabinet Secretary and her department will take on board the feedback from the profession that follows.”

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Education

Lenin on sale again

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Speaking on Revolutionary Art: Rob Phillips

THE UNIVERSITY OF WALES TRINITY SAINT DAVID was pleased to welcome Rob Phillips from The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth to open an exhibition that will kick start a month long commemoration of the centenary of the Russian Revolution.

The programme of events is called ‘Lenin’s On Sale Again: 100 Years of the Russian Revolution’, and will be held at the university’s Lampeter campus from the start of the new term in September and throughout October. It will include a series of exhibitions, workshops and lectures that examine the effects of the Russian Revolution. The commemoration is the one of a series of cultural events taking place across Wales that mark the centenary.

The university’s Lampeter library is hosting two exhibitions which will be open to the public until 27th October. ‘The Revolutionary Art of Dmitry Moor’ will feature the work of the revolutionary artist who produced Soviet propaganda posters from 1918 until the Second World War. The university has also collaborated with The National Library of Wales and the Cymru1914 project to produce ‘News from Russia 1917,’ an exhibition of front pages from Swansea’s ‘Cambria Daily Leader’ showing how news from Russia was reported in west Wales and how it sat alongside war reporting and contemporary local events.

Dr Alex Scott, Lecturer in Modern History, said: “The Russian Revolution is one of the most important events in modern history. The revolution profoundly shaped the remainder of the twentieth century, establishing the geopolitical tensions between ‘East and West’ which resulted in the Cold War. But its importance far transcends politics and diplomacy. The aim of Lenin’s On Sale Again is to explore the widespread influence that the Russian Revolution had across the globe, and in a variety of fields. The programme of events will discuss different responses to the revolution from West Wales to China and beyond, while also examining its impact on art, cinema and literature – as well as academic disciplines such as Classics. The overarching goal is to demonstrate that the revolution was not just ten days that shook the world in 1917; but rather that it created far-reaching ramifications which can still be felt today – sometimes in quite unexpected ways.”

Rob Phillips, Welsh Political Archive at The National Library of Wales said: “We’re delighted to have been able to contribute to this exhibition; exhibitions like this are yet another way of opening up our collections to as wide an audience as possible. Copies of the Cambria Daily Leader show how the dramatic events in Russia, which had an enormous effect in Wales, were first reported here. The sense of confusion and concern over the implications of the news is clear and with good reason; the records of individuals and organisations held at the National Library show how that news affected political discourse for decades.”

The programme of events has been organised by Andy Bevan, Lecturer in International Development, and Dr Alex Scott, Lecturer in Modern History. Further details are available on the university’s website.

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Education

Wales leads the way at WorldSkills UK

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Julie James AM: Wales the top region for entries

THE BEST of Wales’ vocational skills and talent will be taking to a national stage next month after Wales secured the highest number of entrants of all UK regions to the WorldSkills UK finals.

The WorldSkills UK finals will take place at Birmingham’s NEC between 16 and 18 November as part of the NEC’s annual Skills Show, the largest skills and careers event in the UK.

The competition is used to benchmark excellence across a range of vocational skills areas. It is also used as part of the selection process for WorldSkills, a global competition held every two years where the UK regions compete as one team. These finals are part of the selection process for WorldSkills 2019, which is being held in Kazan.

A total of 462 competitors are taking part in the WorldSkills UK finals, which consists of up to 60 national competitions where entrants battle it out for Gold, Silver and Bronze award recognition. Of that figure, 74 competitors are Welsh, which is 16% of the UK total and by far the highest regional representation.

In addition to the 74 Welsh finalists taking part in the national competitions, a further nineteen entrants will be representing Wales at the Skills Show in other competitions, bringing Wales’ overall number of entrants to this year’s Skills Show to 93.

The additional competitors are the ‘Kazan cohort’; nine talented students who have already met the qualifying criteria for Kazan 2019 so will now be competing to for a place on WorldSkills’ Team UK. Ten entrants are also taking part in the ‘Inclusive Skills’ competitions, which have been specifically designed for those with disabilities.

Welcoming the news, Skills and Science Minster Julie James said: “That Wales has been recognised as the top region for entries in the whole of the UK is a reflection of our skills excellence and the huge collaborative effort from partners that we have here in Wales.

“Through Skills Competitions we are creating a highly skilled nation that will support our economy, safeguard our industries and improve the prospects of Wales.

“I wish everyone taking part in next month’s competitions the very best of luck and would like to thank those who have supported them on their journey for all their hard work and dedication to help make this happen.”

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Education

University hosts second David Trotter memorial lecture

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Philip Durkin: Delivering a lecture at Aberystwyth University

​THE DEPUTY Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary will deliver the second David Trotter Memorial Lecture at Aberystwyth University ​next Friday ​(Oct ​20​).

Dr Philip Durkin will lecture on ‘Minding the gap: what we can learn from gaps in the surviving records for Middle English and Anglo-Norman’.

Hosted by the Department of Modern Languages, the lecture takes place at the Seddon Room in the Old College and starts at 6pm, with a drinks reception from 5.15pm. All are welcome to attend.

Amongst his many areas of expertise, Dr Durkin lists etymology, history of the English language – especially lexis, loanwords in English, language contact, medieval multilingualism, historical lexicography, and approaches to lexicography.

His 2014 volume Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English, published by Oxford University Press, traces the history of loanwords in English from the earliest times to the present day.

Professor Wini Davies, Head of the Department of Modern Languages, said: “We are delighted to be able to welcome Dr Philip Durkin to give the second David Trotter Memorial Lecture and to hear him speak on a subject that was very important to David himself. David was an eminent lexicographer and chief editor of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary (AND), based at Aberystwyth, until his death in 2015.

“The AND, which recently received another tranche of funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council under the leadership of Dr Geert De Wilde and Dr Heather Pagan, makes an important contribution to the history of English as well as the history of French and has provided much data for the Oxford English Dictionary. It is therefore entirely fitting that the lecture by Dr Durkin will discuss links between these two varieties.”

Professor David Trotter was a leading international authority on French language and lexicography and head of the Department of Modern Languages at Aberystwyth University.

A former president of the Société de Linguistique Romane (2013-15) and a corresponding member of the Paris-based Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Professor Trotter was a recipient of the Prix Honoré Chavée and a fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.

He was a graduate of Queen’s College Oxford and was appointed chair of French at Aberystwyth in 1993.

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