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The doctor's order to lift learning

Last week's literacy conference was a clear signal that Estyn, under the relatively new leadership of Dr Bill Maxwell, is determined to become more involved in the sharing of good educational practice across Wales in a bid to raise achievement levels.

Comments made by Dr Maxwell and his colleagues in the public eye also suggest an increasing independence of thought by the inspectorate and a desire to be heard. This was the second of five all-Wales events organised by Estyn to tackle the biggest issues in education.

Dr Maxwell said Estyn should be making more use of its unique access to schools. He praised the success of catch-up literacy programmes in Wales, but said that poor global rankings in the 2006 programme for international student assessment (Pisa) was evidence enough that able and talented students were not being stretched enough.

Welsh 15-year-olds were tested in reading, maths and science for Pisa. "One of the most significant factors in our overall modest performance is the relatively small proportion of high achievers we get," said Dr Maxwell.

He also cited Korea and Poland, which have improved their overall Pisa scores by focusing on high achievers. Seven months into the job, it seems Dr Maxwell is intent on making his mark in Welsh education and is willing to speak his mind.

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