A Week in Education

24th November 2006 at 00:00
It is anti-bullying week, and Welsh schools failing to come up with good strategies took a battering from Plaid Cymru. Janet Ryder, Plaid's shadow education spokesperson, said attempts across Wales to beat the bullies had been "patchy" at the very least.

But elsewhere it was lack of confidence in plans for 14-19 education in Wales that really came under fire. Heads and teachers at a seminar run by teachers' union the NASUWT Cymru raised serious concerns about the delivery of the 14-19 learning pathways and future of the Welsh bac.

And that was before today's TES Cymru survey exposes the extent of ignorance of the diploma among Welsh businesses.

According to the NASUWT, increased workload, insufficient funding and changes being forced on schools without consultation topped a list of complaints.

It appears that the School Work Advisory Panel (SWAP) agrees. In its second annual report, launched this week, it also raises serious concerns over progress in the 14-19 sector. All this comes with the rather untimely announcement that key decisions on schools, hospitals and social services will be made by unelected public service boards.

Opposition parties were keen to cry "Yes Minister" after the plans, made in response to Sir Jeremy Beecham's report, were unveiled.

Sir Jeremy had recommended making the Welsh pound go further in the public sector, but the new plans were condemned as adding just another "tier of bureaucracy".

Across the border, Oakwood technology college in Rotherham, was subjected to a bashing after it was revealed that it planned to replace a traditional Christmas dinner with a Muslim halal chicken alternative. The school later backed down after a number of complaints from parents and Denis MacShane, the local MP. Traditional turkey will now be offered alongside halal chicken and a vegetarian option.

It all goes to show there is no such thing as a dull week in education, even with turkeys.


Targets to focus on less able pupils (Financial Times and others) WE SAY...

Alan Johnson, England's Education Secretary, is to consult on a new statistical measure to be used in league tables and target-setting. Details are scarce, but the indicator will seek to assess the progress pupils make between one key stage and the next, as measured, presumably, by test and exam performance.

Mr Johnson said that the current central league table rankings, which focus on pupils' "raw" results, are "too narrow". This is a hint that they give schools incentives to concentrate on middle-ability pupils at the expense of others. Many will take that as a welcome admission. But it seems that the "raw" rankings will continue alongside the new measures in the league tables.

The plans won a few national headlines for Mr Johnson. However, teachers will now be entitled to question whether this is yet another stick with which to beat them.

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