Leaders must do better

26th January 2007 at 00:00
Chief inspector of schools criticises the poor-quality delivery of flagship initiatives

Wales's top inspector has given a damning verdict on the early delivery of some of the Assembly government's flagship initiatives.

But the quality of teaching cannot be called into question as standards are proven to be at their best since 1999.

Chief inspector Susan Lewis launched her annual report with a must-do-better message for the rolling out of the foundation phase and 14-19 learning pathways.

She also said underachievement among some of Wales's teenage pupils had to improve after only 40 per cent of 16-year-olds in 2006 gained a good GCSE or equivalent in English or Welsh, maths and science.

However, her concerns over support and delivery were directed at the top rather than at classroom level. She hit out at leaders from schools, colleges and training providers for impeding the progress of key initiatives by resisting team-working.

In her report for 2005-6, she said there were not enough staff to support the development of the play-led foundation phase for three to seven-year-olds. She also said training and guidance materials were still not available yet, causing uncertainty.

Elsewhere, she said a lack of trust between schools and colleges meant young people were not being armed with the right skills for employment.

Dr Philip Dixon, Welsh director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said: "If these ventures fail, they will have written off a generation. Good ideas of the Assembly government must now be followed up with finance and support."

The government responded to the report by breaking down Estyn's own achievement figures for schools and teachers since 19992000.

All areas had improved, but the greatest leaps in quality of teaching and pupil achievement are in primary schools. In 2005-6, 14 schools in Wales clinched the highest possible inspection grades across the board in the seven areas assessed by Estyn - the highest since 1999.

But, in a gloomy indictment of the future success of the vocationally-led 14-19 pathways, Ms Lewis said that not enough had been done by 14-19 networks, limiting student choice. She put it down to a "lack of vision" by leaders who were showing their "lack of will" towards joint working. She also raised concerns over the number of Welsh baccalaureate students who started the diploma course in 2005 but failed to complete it.

Among those who actually took the advanced diploma, there was a 76 per cent pass rate. Ms Lewis acknowledged that key skills, a central part of the Welsh bac, had improved in the past year.

Rhys Williams, communications officer at the National Union of Teachers Cymru, said schools and colleges were still adjusting to great change.

"These changes must go hand in hand with continuous professional development, training and support for teachers, who are doing a great job,"

he said.

More report news, page 4

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