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In a new report published by the Bevan Foundation, Professor David Egan warns that if Wales is to save the devolution project in education, it is essential that families and communities play a much greater role in schools.
‘After PISA: A way forward for education in Wales?’ recommends that education policymakers must stop obsessing over indicators such as the PISA results as a measure of performance, and instead look at a much broader range of evidence including the wellbeing of children and young people.
The report says that poverty – and the impact that this has on achievement – is the major challenge facing Wales’ education system and laments the slow progress which has been made in addressing it. It also calls for a significant increase in the support available to teachers and an end to the school categorisation system.
Prof Egan, an Associate of the Bevan Foundation, recommends that there should be a renewed emphasis on a distinctive, Welsh approach to school improvement, a new approach to ensuring education works in partnership with communities and a relentless focus on improving equity.
He said: “’The start of a new Assembly term is a good time to debate the direction of education policy in Wales. My report argues that we should reconsider our current commitment to what is known as the ‘Global Education Reform Movement’ with its emphasis on high levels of accountability and performance measures such as PISA and return to the values set out in The Learning Country of 2001.
“This would enable us to develop our own made-in-Wales approach to education reform based on high levels of investment in teacher quality and much stronger involvement of our families and communities in education.”
Dr Victoria Winckler, Director of the Bevan Foundation, said: “Educational attainment depends as much on what happens outside the school or college gates as inside them. We need to harness family and community resources to match our investment in educational establishments to really make a difference”.
Prof Egan has outlined the following principles to strengthen partnerships between education providers and the wider community:
- Recognition that parents and families have a critically important part to play in education.
- Realising all the assets that the community possesses to support education.
- An acceptance that relationships and processes are as important as hard outcomes such as test and examination results.
- That education is not the only public service that can contribute to educational outcomes.
- The importance of all education sectors (pre-school, schools, further education, adult and community-based learning, work-based learning and higher education) working together collaboratively within the community.
- The important role of shared and distributed leadership.