From education to employment

Improving Standards in Wales but Concern Remains over Work Based Learning Quality

The Annual Report on education and training in Wales for 2004 – 2005 by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector has highlighted continuing concerns over the quality of work based training provision.

The report found that many areas of education had benefited from higher levels of success and achievement than ever, pointing to some successes in improving and developing standards. However, the Chief Inspector’s report has expressed growing unease over the quality and quantity of work based learning provision, and has stressed the importance of improving this area of education and training.

Reasons to be Cheerful

There were several areas that were causes for celebration in the report, especially when directly compared with the previous year’s inspection results. For example, in primary schools, 76% of the lessons under consideration achieved the top two grades, which compares extremely favourably with the findings of five years ago, with only 46% achieving the top two grades in inspection.

In addition, secondary schools have apparently developed in the interim. Some 32 secondary schools previously inspected in 1998-9 showed considerable improvement in grades in 2004-5, with the amount of what was determined to be good work rising from 47% to 63%. Youth services were also deemed to have improved, with 61% of youth support services inspected judged to have good standards. Standards achieved by adult learners were also high, deemed to be good or better in 84% of classes, with most learners gaining new skills.

The Chief Inspector Susan Lewis said: “I am pleased to report that standards are improving in many areas of education and training across Wales. This is due to the hard work of learners and those who work with them including trainers, teachers, governors, managers and other staff. In very many respects, learners have achieved higher standards this year. We changed our inspection arrangements this year so that there is now a common approach to inspecting the education and training of learners of all ages. This new framework for inspection is helping us to comment in a similar way across all sectors of education and training on the strengths seen and improvements needed.”

Work ““ Based Learning Needs Improvement

The negatives were not shied away from by the report. The first of these areas stems from the Further Education college network in Wales. In some colleges of further education it was found that too many of the learners do not complete their courses and gain qualifications, which of course leads to a lower level of skills for the workforce in the longer term.

It was also found that work-based learning continues to be a cause of great concern, with standards of some courses being lower than in other learning areas. The Chief Inspector stated: “Standards in work-based courses in health, public services and care, and construction, planning and the built environment are lower than in other learning areas.

“This is a particularly serious issue,” she continued, “given that many parts of Wales already have difficulties in providing services for the health and care of young people, elderly people and vulnerable members of their communities. It is also a concern when so much of the employment base in Wales is in public services. Not enough learners complete their full qualification framework.”

With the skills agenda directives from the Government on Whitehall guiding policies towards greater employer engagement and towards greater skills for work training, it seems that the area that is most in need of development in Wales is the area that has yet to move forward.

Jethro Marsh

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