Students let down by Welsh Government

After months of anxious anticipation, last month the moment arrived when young people from across Wales found out whether their hard work had paid off as they collected their GCSE and A Level results.

Local newspapers were full of success stories and undoubtedly many did perform well, receiving the grades needed to springboard them to the next chapter of their educational career and I would like to congratulate all students who performed well.

With regards to the A Level results, our students and teachers can take great encouragement from the results. In Denbighshire approximately 98.5% of students were successful in achieving the Level 3 threshold, an improvement on the previous year, and there has also been an increase in the number of students gaining A* - C grades this year.

Meanwhile, In Conwy’s schools, 72.9% achieved A* to C grades, down from 74.2% last year, and the overall pass rate (A* to E grades) is 96.6%, down from 97.7% last year.

I was pleased to see that the attainment gap for the highest grades has clearly narrowed, although it is concerning that girls continue to outperform boys at other grades.

Also the decline by nearly a fifth in the take-up of computer and science subjects at A level is a real worry given our economy’s skills shortage in these areas.

There is still a lot of work to do if our students are to compete against the UK’s very best in the labour market and higher education.

This also applies at GCSE level. As Shadow Education Secretary, I am extremely concerned by the troubling decline in attainment this year, especially for grades A*- C.

The A* to C pass rate in Wales for 2017 is the lowest since 2006 having fallen by 3.8%.

Denbighshire had 62.8% of students achieving A* to C which is exactly in line with the Wales average, and the pass rate grades A*-G was 97.1%.

Meanwhile, Conwy’s overall pass rate (A* to G) was 98.1%, however its A* to C percentage was below the average at 59.8%.

While I am pleased that North Wales has performed better than other areas of Wales, we can’t ignore the troubling decline on last year’s results.

This year’s results clearly indicate that too many learners have not been able to reach their full potential.

The drop in attainment of grades A*- C and plummet in uptake of modern foreign languages are particularly disturbing, and do not bode well for Wales’ future economic prospects.

The Welsh Labour Government and its Education Secretary are blaming schools for entering too many pupils to sit exams a year early.

They have also pointed to the first year of GCSE English and Welsh exams that are unique to Wales for the drop in performance, but new exams are no excuse.

In recent years we've seen international league tables rank Wales as the worst schools system in the UK, and the Chief Inspector has raised serious concerns about leadership and teaching standards.

It's clear that students have been let down by the Welsh Government, which has failed to deliver the improvements they’ve promised time and time again.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education must look again at the pace and direction reform, and question whether it is the right path to follow - the evidence to date is far from compelling.