New Publication: Additional Learning Needs (ALN) in Wales

07 December 2016

Article by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

On Tuesday 13 December 2016, the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies, is due to make a statement in Plenary on the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill. The Bill is expected to be laid in the Assembly the day before (Monday 12 December). The following article (10 November 2016), which summarises our publication ‘Additional Learning Needs (ALN) in Wales’, is being re-posted in advance of this.

blog-engThe anticipated Bill will replace the current Special Educational Needs (SEN) framework with a reformed system based on Additional Learning Needs (ALN).

This Research Briefing (PDF, 893KB) provides background information to inform preparations for the Bill and the Assembly’s scrutiny of an issue which has been at the forefront of stakeholders’, policymakers’, and of course families’, minds for many years.

The paper gives an overview of the existing SEN framework, explains current provisions and processes, and charts the journey of review and reform that has taken place throughout much of the Assembly’s lifetime, most recently the consultation on a draft Bill in 2015. Data on the numbers of learners with SEN/ALN and their academic achievement is also included, along with statistics on funding.

There are currently 105,000 – that’s 1 in every 5 – pupils in Wales who are identified as having SEN/ALN. £362 million is budgeted each year for provision to support them and meet their needs. However, the Welsh Government recognises that the system is ‘not fit for purpose’ and reform is long overdue.

The Welsh Government consulted on a draft Bill in 2015 and published a summary of the 263 responses it received. This showed that stakeholders had concerns about the legislative proposals in their draft form and will be expecting an improved Bill this time around. Many of the issues raised, such as duties on local authorities and health boards to collaborate, provision at early years and post-16, and arrangements for disagreement avoidance and dispute resolution, echoed those highlighted during the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill in late 2015.

The Research Briefing has been timed to complement Assembly Members’ scrutiny of the forthcoming Bill and general consideration of this important issue, which affects families throughout Wales.

New Publication: Additional Learning Needs (ALN) in Wales (PDF, 893KB)

Draft Budget Debate

05 December 2016

Article by Martin Jennings and David Millett, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

The Welsh Government’s Draft Budget 2017-18 will be debated in plenary on 6 December 2016.

The Finance Committee led scrutiny within the Assembly and has published the following report on the budget.

Since the Draft Budget was laid the UK Autumn Statement announced an additional £442m of capital funding spread over 2016-17 to 2020-21 and an extra £35.8m revenue between 2016-17 and 2019-20 revenue budget.  Updated Office of Budget Responsibility forecasts have increased their estimates of inflation and decreased economic growth forecasts for 2017.

These infographics show headline figures from the draft budget 2017-18.

This infographic shows headline figures from the draft budget 2017-18draft-budget-2017-18-changes-01

A summary of the Landfill Disposals Tax (Wales) Bill

05 December 2016

Article by Sean Evans, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh


Image from Flickr by Adam Levine. Licensed under Creative Commons.

The Landfill Disposals Tax (Wales) Bill and supporting Explanatory Memorandum (PDF, 935KB) were laid before the National Assembly for Wales on 28 November 2016. The Bill was accompanied by a written statement when laid and introduced in Plenary by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, Mark Drakeford on 29 November 2016:

This Bill will establish a new tax on disposals of waste to landfill, which will replace the existing landfill tax, which is levied on an England-and-Wales basis, from April 2018. The tax aims to ensure the revenue from landfill tax will continue to be collected for investment in public services in Wales. But this is not simply about tax collection, because this Bill is aligned with our waste policy. The landfill disposals tax will play an important role in helping us achieve our goal of a zero-waste Wales. It will continue to ensure the environmental cost of landfilling waste is identified and visible and, in doing so, will encourage greater prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery of waste.

The Bill is the third in a series of bills related to the devolution of the tax powers in the Wales Act 2014. The Bill was preceded by the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Act 2016 which established the legal framework necessary for the future collection and management of devolved taxes in Wales and the Land Transaction Tax and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes (Wales) Bill, which will replace Stamp Duty Land Tax from April 2018.

Further information on the background to the Bill, an overview of its parts, a summary of costs and impacts and a Welsh glossary can be found in the Research Service Bill Summary. (PDF, 884KB)

PISA: What is it and why is it important?

30 November 2016

Article by Sian Hughes, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

On 6 December the results of PISA 2015 will be published for the 72 participating counties. Kirsty Williams, the Cabinet Secretary for Education will be making a statement in Plenary on Wales’ outcomes.

It is generally accepted that Wales has performed comparatively poorly in previous cycles of PISA and the results have been the catalyst to extensive changes to the education system in Wales. This blog gives some information on the PISA process, how Wales has performed in previous years, its impact on policy and criticisms of the scheme.

About PISA

The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial survey that aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students.  PISA 2015 was the sixth study to be conducted. Wales first took part in 2006 making these the fourth set of data for Wales.

PISA tests three ‘domains’, reading, maths and science. Each survey has a particular focus, in 2015 this was science. The questions require pupils to demonstrate knowledge, apply learning and solve problems through analysis and logical thinking. PISA avoids emphasis on the assessment of factual recall and information retrieval, and focuses more on knowledge application.  PISA does not test how well a student has mastered a school’s specific curriculum. As the OECD’s chief education analyst, Andreas Schleicher says ‘the knowledge economy no longer pays you for what you know… it pays you for what you can do with what you know.’

Schools are selected to be nationally representative. Stratifiers include school size and type (whether independent, maintained, special, middle, secondary, single sex or mixed etc) and by region, whether urban or rural, language and attainment. The identity of schools is not disclosed.

How Wales performed in previous years

The first set of results in 2006 [PDF 62.7KB] showed that Wales was below average in maths and reading.  In 2009, Wales’ results [PDF63KB] were lower in all domains compared with 2006.  Wales’ score in 2012 [PDF 170KB] had fallen further in Mathematics and Science since 2009. The score had risen in reading, but was still lower than the 2006 result.  Wales’ ranking had fallen in all three domains since 2009.  The table below shows Wales’ mean scores.


In 2012, Wales had lower scores in each of the domains than its UK counterparts. The table below shows Wales and UK mean scores.


Source: Extracted from Tables B1, C1 and D1, National Foundation for Educational Research, Achievement of 15-year-olds in Wales: PISA 2012 National Report

The Welsh Government response to PISA

While the 2006 results were considered disappointing, they were not seen as the ‘main catalyst to improve standards’ [PDF 655KB].  However, that changed with the publication of the 2009 results.  Described by Leighton Andrews, then Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning as ‘extremely disappointing’ he said that PISA was a ‘wake-up call to a complacent system’ [PDF 79KB].

These results coupled with evidence from Estyn that schools were not performing as well as they should led the Welsh Government to begin large-scale school improvement reform. A range of policies were introduced with the aim of improving the school system. These began with Leighton Andrews’ 20 point action plan [PDF 79KB], ultimately leading to the current ‘tripartite reform’ of the curriculum, initial teacher training and teacher development which his successor, Huw Lewis said were ‘triggered by the shock to the system’ the PISA results delivered.

An ambitious target?

After the 2009 results, the Welsh Government set an aim that Wales would be in the top 20 PISA nations by the 2015 cycle.   At that time, of the 67 countries taking part, Wales was ranked 38th for reading, 40th for maths and 30th for science.

The 2012 results placed Wales 41st in reading, 43rd in maths and 36th in science (of 68 nations).

In October 2014, the Welsh Government’s long-term vision for education, Qualified for Life [PDF  2.3 MB] amended the PISA target to an ‘ambition’ to achieve scores of 500 in each of reading, mathematics and science in the PISA tests 2021, rather than a position in the rankings relative to other countries.   Huw Lewis, then Minister for Education and Skills said that the 500 score would make sense to teachers and young people, whereas the top 20 score was not of use to the wider system.

PISA 2015 results

In December 2013, Huw Lewis, then Minister, said that the PISA 2012 results were ‘not good enough’, but also that ‘we are too early into our school improvement journey to expect to see a step change in performance  in this last round of PISA assessment.’

In January 2016, he told the Fourth Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee that he was ‘confident’ there would be ‘an uplift’.  Although he qualified this saying that we would have to to regard the results in December as a ‘point along a journey’.

In August this year, the new Cabinet Secretary, Kirsty Williams, suggested that she did not expect an improvement between the 2012 and 2015 results. She said that there was a need to be realistic about how quickly the education reforms can embed within a system and when there will be an effect of the reforms in PISA results.

Criticisms of PISA

Kirsty Williams has confirmed that she will continue to support Wales’ involvement in PISA although she said there was still a ‘job of work to do’ to convince everyone in the sector that PISA matters and benefits Welsh pupils.

While PISA is seen by many as an influential element in policy making, there are those who are less convinced of its benefits.  In an open letter to the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher (May 2014), a number of world-wide academics expressed concerns about PISA. These included the dangers of over-testing, the short-term emphasis on measurable results versus longer-term issues like citizenship and caring, and an emphasis on education as a means of job prospects rather than the wider goals of education.

The OECD responded that PISA opens up perspectives to a wider range of policy options that arise from international comparisons and that it assesses a range of learning outcomes and their contexts.

Huw Lewis said ‘whilst always remembering that PISA does not encompass everything about a good education but it certainly does tell us things that are very, very important’.

Some argue that the format of PISA tests and students’ familiarity with the types of question will affect the test results. In February 2014, the Welsh Government announced that PISA-based tests for schools would be made available in Wales. Individual schools, or clusters of schools, were able to take part in individual school-based PISA-type assessments, to benchmark themselves against the highest performing nations in the world. This was a voluntary option. 89 secondary schools took part in the 2015 PISA-Based Tests.  Changes to the curriculum, GCSEs and the Welsh Baccalaureate will assess learners on the same types of skills that the PISA assessments test.

Whatever the results show on 6 December it is clear that Wales will continue to feel the impact of PISA for some time.

New Publication: The Planning Series: 14 – Developments of National Significance

29 November 2016

Article by Eleanor Warren-Thomas and Elfyn Henderson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

This briefing (PDF, 498KB) provides a quick guide to Developments of National Significance (DNS) in Wales. It describes what DNS are, why the DNS regime was introduced, and the process of consenting for them. It also explains how communities are involved in the DNS process, whether a DNS decision can be challenged, and provides a list of useful sources of further information.

This is an image of the cover of the publication: The Planning Series: 14 - Developments of National Significance