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Education

Government to act on early exam entry

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SCHOOLS across Wales have been accused of ‘gaming’ the examination and qualification system at GCSE level and failing pupils in the process.

The issue has arisen following a report from Qualifications Wales, the regulator of non-degree qualifications and the qualification system in Wales, which has alerted the Welsh Government to the high risk that overall GCSE results will decline in Wales due to the widespread practice of entering children a year early into GCSE examinations in order to ‘bank’ results, with able pupils denied the chance to improve their grade at a later examination.

Almost two thirds of Year 10 pupils were entered for the English GCSE in the last exam cycle.

The same practice in England led to the UK Government intervening and making adjustments to school league tables, so that only the first attempt at examinations counted towards schools’ performance.

And Kirsty Williams, the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Welsh Government, has said she may now intervene to prevent or curtail Welsh schools from putting Welsh pupils forward to sit GCSEs a year early.

In an interview on BBC Wales’ Sunday Politics, Kirsty Williams said: “What I’m concerned about is that children that, perhaps had the potential to get an A* and A or a B at the end of a two year course end up having to settle for a C because they do it early and they’re not re-entered again.

“I want children to fulfil their potential in school. I want early entry to be only for the children who will benefit from it.

“When I see such large numbers as are being reported as being entered, that’s something I am concerned about.”

Qualifications Wales said the problem is particularly acute this year due to a more rigorous curriculum and examination programme.

The body is scheduled to complete a review and report to the Welsh Government in September this year on the issue.

Welsh Government advice is that decisions about early entry into GCSE’s must be made ‘in the interests of the individual child’. In May, however, the Welsh Government’s Director of Education, Steven Davies, claimed in evidence to an Assembly Committee that schools have conducted early entry ‘to test the system’.

Mr Davies continued: ‘There are also those out there who are gaming.’

Mrs Williams’ stance on the subject has been welcomed by Adam Price AM.

Adam Price has been making representations regarding early exam entry to the Welsh Government since the start of the year having been contacted by a local maths tutor who had seen a dramatic rise in demand for private tutoring.

The Plaid Cymru AM also met with the Education Secretary in May to express concern that pupils may not be reaching their full potential.

Mr Price says he welcomes the willingness of the Education Secretary to intervene but said options for early entry should not be closed off to everyone.

Adam Price said: “I first made representations to the Education Secretary back in January having been contacted by a local maths tutor who had seen a dramatic rise in demand for private tutoring. His concern was that pupils were being entered for early examination but did not have time to actually finish the course before sitting the exams.

“Whilst it seems attractive for pupils to ‘bank’ a good grade early and take some pressure off a year later, many pupils will miss out on a better grade if they were to be given the opportunity to complete the course over the longer and traditional two year timescale.

“Early entry for exams is not a new phenomenon – this has always been a feature of GCSEs at the discretion of teachers and it should not be closed off entirely. But there does seem to be widespread change this year with almost two-thirds of all pupils in Wales being entered a year early.

“I welcome the Minister’s comments that she is prepared to intervene depending on the findings of her review, but the pressure on schools and teachers must be considered as part of this investigation.

“We all want what is best for our school pupils. The education system should support pupils who need the full two years of study, and allow teachers to make decisions on how pupils can best reach their individual potential.”

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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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