Education for Children aged 8-13

2011 Mehefin 29 4:06 PM
Gan Peter Black
Cyhoeddwyd yn wreiddiol gan Peter Black a Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol Gorllewin De Cymru

Peter Black: I move amendment 2 in my name.

In reply to Simon Thomas, although the amendment that we have tabled is fairly detailed, I do not accept that it is imposing a particular solution on schools; it is a clear strategy for how we should be going forward in terms of dealing with the transition issues that have been highlighted by this motion. This was also debated in some detail in the short debate last night, which was an enlightening, fascinating and useful debate. I accept from listening to the Minister's comments last night that there are issues that have already been dealt with in terms of that transition. He talked about introducing a requirement that governing bodies of secondary schools and their feeder primary schools should draw up and maintain transition plans. That is one step forward that would be very welcome and could form part of the proposals that we have in our amendment.

Figures released yesterday show the dramatic problem that is faced by the school system in addressing the fall-off between the foundation phase and the 14-19 learning pathways. Thebulletin giving key findings on the differences between attainment levels in England and Wales for 2010 highlighted two contrasting figures: at key stage 2, pupils in Wales performed better than their counterparts in England in all subjects, however, by key stage 3, results for pupils in Wales were lower than all regions in England for English and mathematics, and the results for science put Wales joint lowest with London, which reflects a decline from the position in 2009 when London was the lowest by 3 percentage points. Clearly, that is of concern, but I accept that the way in which the various stages are assessed is different in England and Wales and we have to take that into account. However, we can certainly all recognise that there is a clear falling off of performance between leaving primary school and going to secondary school, and that the level of performance is patchy across Wales; there is no consistency.

I was intrigued by the Minister's response to the short debate yesterday; he specifically asked whether this was to do with issues of transition or with particular aspects, such as where pupils came from or issues to do with the pupils themselves. Certainly, all such issues need to be addressed, but some of the research has indicated that where you have good leadership, you have better performing schools. The issue here has to be one of leadership at a local level, as well as at a Wales level. There needs to be effective leadership at the local council, the comprehensive school and in the feeder schools to ensure that where there are issues of transition, where pupils' performance falls off between the primary level and the secondary level, measures are put in place to deal with that and action is focused on ways of tackling that particular problem. We cannot underestimate the impact of moving from a smaller primary school to a much larger comprehensive school, a school that may be more rigorous and more difficult to settle into, and have much more competing demandsin terms of the non-academic side on a pupil's time, which would then have to be addressed.

The amendments that we have tabled to deal with this address three particular issues. The first is about formalising partnerships between primary and secondary schools with the aim of blurring the boundaries between the two. I would expect that to include programmes of overlap, with secondary school teachers visiting primary schools in the catchment area occasionally and a greater emphasis on induction between the two.

The second is about hiring more transition teachers-teachers whose professional status is not based on teaching exam classes, who can focus on teaching those in the early years of secondary schools and who can perhaps visit primary schools in the catchment area. However, that will require a new approach to training and professional status for those teachers, pegging individual achievement to something other than exam results. I note from the Minister's statement that was published last night that he is starting to address the way in which teachers are trained and, more importantly, the way in which they consolidate that training when they go to work in schools.

Finally, we are calling for a transition phased programme to better balance academic and pastoral teaching, including examining the possibility of the earlier years of secondary school being taught with fewer teachers teaching more subjects, with classes staying in one classroom most of the time. Again, this issue was raised during the short debate last night. I do not think that anything can be prescribed that will fit every individual circumstance, but we must have greater focus on these transition issues if we are to deal with this gap. I hope that this debate will be part of the solution to deliver better outcomes for pupils.

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