A leading coalition of experts have put forward their proposals for how best to improve Wales’ education system.
In its inaugural report to the sector, the Wales Education Commission urged ministers to consider the “practical structures” required to support school improvement and recommended the development of a “guiding framework” to underpin national objectives.
The Commission, which brings together educational thinkers from across the world, said building capacity within Wales’ education system would be “integral” to the successful implementation of the Welsh Government’s ambitious reform agenda.
The report follows the publication of international ‘PISA’ results, which ranked Welsh education the weakest in the UK for the fourth time in succession.
Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has welcomed the Commission’s contribution and said learning from international best practice was central to the Welsh Government’s work.
In its report, the Commission considered ‘Qualified for Life’ – the Welsh Government’s education improvement plan for three to 19-year-olds in Wales up to 2020.
It welcomed Ms Williams’ commitment to the development of a “self-improving system” but sought assurances that schools would be properly supported.
The report said: “The Commission stressed that building capacity within the workforce would be essential if it was expected that teachers would take on a more fundamental role in developing and delivering a genuinely self-improving system.
“Members questioned the rigour and consistency of the ‘scaffolding’ that exists to assist teachers to drive forward change in Wales’ education system.”
The Wales Education Commission was established by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) to help facilitate improvements in teaching and learning.
Members, each with their own record of outstanding success in their field, have been asked to comment on existing education policy and offer suggestions based on their international experience and expertise.
The Commission includes Philip Blaker, Chief Executive of Qualifications Wales; Carol Campbell, Professor of Education OISE at the University of Toronto; Professor Trevor Gale, Dean of the School of Education at the University of Glasgow; Laura Perille, Chief Executive of Boston-based EdVestors; Mick Waters, Professor of Education at Wolverhampton University; David Woods, Professor of Education at Warwick and London universities; and Professor Jim Ryan, Dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Commission, which will meet three times a year and consider education at all stages, is a key strand of UWTSD’s newly-developed Yr Athrofa – Institute of Education.
In its first report, published this week, the Commission suggested that the Welsh Government consider supplementing its improvement objectives with specific success criteria for each priority.
“Once targets have been agreed, a clear communication strategy would ensure that everyone associated with delivery is aware of the proposed direction of travel,” it said.
“It was suggested that an executive summary of the Welsh Government’s improvement plan be sent to every institution in Wales with a message from the Cabinet Secretary.
“It would be expected that more localised plans drawn by the regional consortia, local authorities and schools themselves would align with this overarching national vision.”
The Commission’s first meeting took place at the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff as Ms Williams outlined her vision for Wales’ education system in a major speech to key stakeholders.
Professor Dylan Jones, dean of Yr Athrofa and secretary to the Commission, said learning from partners across the globe would be of huge benefit to Wales.
He said: “The wealth of international expertise we have brought to Wales allows us to reflect critically, in an innovative manner, what are the appropriate developments for our education system.
“I am delighted by the support provided by this distinguished group of individuals, each of whom has gained immense respect for the contribution that they have made to improving education through their own work.
“The group made a number of interesting observations in its inaugural meeting that will, I hope, be of benefit to the Welsh Government as it continues along its ambitious reform journey.
“The Cabinet Secretary for Education has called for ‘critical friends’ to engage with the Welsh Government and help drive forward positive change. The Commission is pleased to answer that call.”
Ms Williams said: “Learning from international evidence and best practice is central to our education reforms. It is an exciting time to be engaged in raising standards and ambitions in Welsh education.
“Therefore, I welcome the Wales Education Commission’s first meeting and report, which has brought together distinguished educationalists to share a number of interesting ideas and proposals. I will continue to welcome their input and ideas from both home and abroad as we continue with our reforms.”