In general, schools and colleges have responded positively to changes in GCSE English, Welsh and mathematics, but provision for the Welsh Baccalaureate is more variable. Many schools have increased the amount of time devoted to teaching these courses, which has led to a narrower choice of subjects for pupils in key stage 4.
Estyn’s wide-ranging report, ‘The new GCSE specifications in English language, Welsh language, mathematics, mathematics-numeracy and the Welsh Baccalaureate in schools and colleges’ considers the quality of teaching and assessment, planning, staff development and leadership in introducing these new qualifications. Inspectors visited a broad range of schools and colleges, including a small number of pioneer schools. Case studies of interesting practice outline successful strategies from schools and colleges across Wales.
Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says,
These new qualifications are unique to Wales and have been designed to improve pupils’ knowledge, skills and particularly their ability to think critically and solve problems. They also place a greater emphasis on the quality of pupils’ writing, reasoning and use of mathematics in a wide range of contexts. Schools and colleges should respond to these important changes and help pupils of all ability to attain their full potential.
The report highlights Cardiff High School’s approach to teaching the new mathematics qualification. As a result of placing a strong emphasis on reasoning in maths lessons, pupils have become more confident in their skills, leading to outstanding exam results. Another case study highlights Ysgol Gyfun Gwŷr in Swansea which challenges pupils to reach the very highest levels of attainment in the Welsh Baccalaureate. By challenging its more able pupils, the school has improved standards and achievement. A further 12 case studies outline interesting and effective practice in the Welsh Baccalaureate, English, Welsh and mathematics.
The report recommends that schools and colleges should:
- Provide stimulating tasks that develop the resilience of learners
- Ensure that learners improve their writing in English and Welsh
- Have high expectations that all learners contribute orally especially in Welsh
- Improve pupils’ problem-solving skills in mathematics and mathematics-numeracy
- Develop pupils’ higher-level reading skills in English, Welsh and mathematics and the Welsh Baccalaureate