Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The good and the bad news...

I am so used to bearing bad news through this blog that it makes a welcome change to be able to be able to report some good news for a change -- particularly with regards to jobs and the Welsh economy. According to the latest quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, Welsh employers are finally looking to start hiring again after almost two years of negative intentions:

Employment Outlook for Wales
Click to enlarge

Not only that -- and this makes a big change -- Welsh employers are more confident about hiring than any other region in the UK bar the South West:

Regional comparison of Employment Outlooks in the UK
Click to enlarge

With the employers in the North West also buoyant about hiring let us hope that this trend also benefits Anglesey and North Wales.

However, predictably, any good news is bound to be leavened with bad news. And yesterday's announcement of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) Test results -- which compares 10,000 15-year-old students worldwide in reading, maths and science -- were seriously bad news for Wales. The results for Wales were the lowest in the United Kingdom and clearly shows that a considerable gap has opened up between the attainment of Welsh students and those from other regions in the UK, particularly in Scotland and Northern Ireland:

PISA Test Results - all ranks out of 67 countries
It is difficult to reconcile these results with the annual procession of ever better GCSE and A-level passes. For a small country on the periphery of the United Kingdom, education is the most important weapon in our armoury to continue creating better, well paying jobs in the future -- however these PISA results show that there are grave problems with the current Welsh education system. This is a subject to which I intend to return.

24 comments:

kp said...

Entirely as expected.

The job of the education system here in North Wales is to educate kids so that they can work in North Wales.

A very poor education leads, quite naturally, on to a very poor, low paying job.

Objective achieved, these kids will never be able to leave North Wales. And we can claim the language is flourishing!

TGC said...

That is very troubling.

It was a shock to me yesterday to discover that my kids hadn't been taught by their school - at age nearly 6 - about centimetres. That's very worrying, because even accepting the 'learning through play' system now in operation, and which I broadly support, kids should have a good grasp of basic maths skills by that age.

Compare this lack of being taught everyday maths with what they understand at home - rolling an old jar to understand the concept of pi and how to measure length using circles. You have to conclude that there is some form of crisis in our schools, especially in 'technical' subjects.

In my view, and I say this as a native, first-language Welsh speaker of Anglesey, there is way too much emphasis on local cultural traditions (most dating from the 19th century) and sticking kids on stages. Nothing wrong at all with those in moderation, so long as our schools remember that we live in multi-lingual Europe and are competing against some very clever people on a global basis.

The Urdd eisteddfod and all the time spent on preparing for things like it is never going to place our kids in a competitive position, so we should act and teach accordingly. There is sadly a case to examine whether the local education system has been hijacked by middle-class nationalists who see their position as defending the Welsh language, no matter what. That is only a small part of the total role of a teacher.

Anonymous said...

We need to restore grammar schools and private schools on the island to give parents a choice on how and where they wish to educate their children.

Good parenting means having the opportunity to make the right choices!

Anonymous said...

We don't have a choice in Anglesey, it's either put up or shut up. I was educcated in the Welsh medium, every lesson was in Welsh, fine and dandy, years later I returned and I saw my old teacher, I told her that my biggest regret was not having been educated in English, because I felt hindered, she ignored my comment as I was being ungracious, but it was true, I had to relearn everything...Years later, I wanted to consider returning home, but it meant that my children would have been forced to learn Welsh, we declined and stayed here, jobs are better, and my future is rosier, my children have all done well, and I am grateful, for having DECLINED to return.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say, that is why we can't attract good medical staff, good businessmen and good politicians.

Most parents regard the schooling of their children very seriously.

It's time the silent majority started to speak up.

Prometheuswrites said...

Education Matters

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-11911375

"Universities in Wales told to 'adapt or die'"

"Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, Leighton Andrews said universities would have to fall in line with the assembly government's new strategy if they wanted to charge high fees".

"We want stronger universities in Wales which means pooling resources, academic departments working side by side. We need to see more co-operation and it will mean fewer individual institutions".

"Mr Andrews told an audience in Carmarthen the higher education sector's failure to respond to reconfigure and collaborate as the government intended was costing it money.

Quoting the King James Bible, he reminded institutions: 'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap'"

This may be a shot across the bows of Bangor University, following its rumoured problems with its NEWI partnership.

Bangor has only just withdrawn from the Federation of Welsh Univerities and now issues its own Bangor University qualifications.

The recent policies at Bangor University has been an emphasis on perceived 'commercial' degrees with new departments in Law & Medicine and expansions of the Psychology and Business Studies Departments at the expense of the departments of Classics, Philosophy, Linguistics, Modern Languages, Mathematics and Physics, which have either vanished or are being downgraded or merged into shadows of former glory.

This is an important issue for Ynys Mon as many staff live on the island and Menai Bridge hosts its internationally renowned Marine Sciences Department.

However academic collaboration between departments is akin to herding cats, research funding streams being what they are.

Prometheuswrites said...

Good news, Bad news and Breaking news:

Ex-auditor Jeremy Colman's £750k pay-off 'secret'

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-11943993

Allegations of wrongdoing surface yet again at the Welsh Audit Office. This time it draws the WAO's own auditors, KTS Owens Thomas, in the tangled web; thus raising yet again the question "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes"? ("Who will guard the guards themselves?").

The answer it seems from the quote given below is some of the more tenacious idividuals who post on this blog; - "Perhaps even more damaging has been the impact of a sustained campaign by certain individuals to expose the organisation to unevidenced, anonymous allegations".

I'm led to understand that that difficulties in obtaining responses to questions extends to PWC the External National Auditors who have failed to answer requests for information from one of our elected AM; and thus makes a nonsense of such statements as the following:

"I have made it abundantly clear to all staff that if they have concerns then there are proper routes for them to raise them, and that I am always willing to listen, and if necessary, take appropriate action."

The question exercising several commentators is 'how far does this web of mal-practice and duplicity extend in Wales'?

hmm ... my word verification is 'skintio'

Anonymous said...

Druid,
Can you answer something for me on the PISA results:

Has Wales gone down in the results for Maths, Science etc (in points). Or has it just not grown as fast compared to the other nations of the world (in points, not position?).

Doesn't seem to be anybody discussing that!

Paul Williams said...

Anon 15:18 - Wales has gone down in terms of points:

Subject 2006 2009 Change
Reading 481 476 -5
Maths 484 472 -12
Science 505 496 -9

Anonymous said...

http://www.anglesey.gov.uk/doc.asp?cat=3488

Anonymous said...

The Welsh Audit Office protects each other first..

Anonymous said...

Everythine we read is awful, costly and dire, it makes me want to give up, I'm old, my chidren have no future in ANGLESEY.

kp said...

Your children most certainly do have a future. Go out and make one for them!

Anglesey gets what it deserves ... as does the rest of North Wales.

Prometheuswrites said...

Anon 15.38:

Genesis project 2 - good, credit given where credit due - lets hope theres some concrete skills training involved in the project.

However: http://www.anglesey.gov.uk/doc.asp?cat=5311

Anonymous said...

Thanks Druid,
I think I was clinching at straws! Horrendous results then!

PromoW said...

Re: my last comment:

I didn't realise that the link I posted is also part of the Genesis 2 project.

The Red Flag said...

There seems to have been a gradual shift in the basics over the years. When I started primary in 1962 I was 4 years old - back then that was the starting age. I could recite the alphabet in upper and lower case, do very basic maths (1+1 =2) etc, could work out change for sweets in the old pounds, shillings and pence, could write basic words and read basic words. Again all of that was normal for a 4 year old. It was expected that parents would spend time with their children teaching this sort of stuff before they started school, which in turn they started younger. Move forward to the early 1980's. I had twin daughters and again as my parents doid for me I did for them. From the time they were about two their mother and I taught them the alphabet and got them to recite it in sequence and taught them to recognose simple words, do simple maths etc etc etc. Once they started school as soon as they came home they had a sandwich and milk, got changed and did their homework before they were allowed to go and play, watch TV or whatever. We checked their homework to make sure it was done properly. One is now a doctor and the other a succesful buisness woman in Germany.

Now they end up in school by and large unable to do any of that because somehow their parents just don't bother and seem to think educating their children is entirely the state's problem not theirs.

I am turning into a grumpy old man

kp said...

You may well be a grumpy old man.

Sorry to say, I feel like one too. And I share you exact same experiences!

rashid1891 said...

t is difficult to reconcile these results with the annual procession of ever better GCSE and A-level passes. For a small country on the periphery of the United Kingdom, education is the most important weapon in our armoury to continue creating better

Anonymous said...

Almost certainly the Immersion teaching of Welsh in Ynys Mon Primary schools is doing pupils from Welsh and English backgrounds a disservice. we live in a big world and we can't afford the luxury of so much time and effort going into minority language and culture. Certainly English Medium schools should be easily available on Anglesey for those who want them.

Anonymous said...

Druid. You should look closely at the sampling in the PISA survey. We are a small country and sampling error has a profound affect.

The Irish republic has already looked at their results and put their bad performance down to 8 poorly performing schools being included in the sample.
Large increase in Immigrant children
and Pupils so fed up with testing that they couldn't be bothered with the PISA tests.
Looking at Wales PISA sample I see that the WM school's representation is only 16% of the total yet they form 26% of Welsh schools.
This could make a big difference since WM schools are high achieving middle class schools (85.4% of WM pupils are in schools with less than 15% FSM's)
Whereas 59% of EM pupils are in schools with MORE than 15%FSM's)

The difference in achievement levels is dramatic.

Puck said...

Anon 12.08:

WTF is a FSM?

To many TLA's (Three Letter Acronyms)without explanation.

Anonymous said...

Sorry,

Free School Meals.

Used as an index of deprivation in schools.

You can see the results here;

http://wales.gov.uk/topics/statistics/headlines/schools2010/100318/?lang=en

Puck said...

Anon 14.05:

Thank you for explaining. Now I understand your point. :)