Minister optimistic about results in challenged schools


Wales’ education minister says he expects to see improved exam results in some of the country’s most challenged schools this summer.

The commitment was made to Assembly members during a progress report on a new £20 million improvement strategy called Schools Challenge Cymru. 

Education minister Huw Lewis said each of the 40 secondary schools involved in the challenge initiative were “making progress” and even went as far as to say that those showing the most improvement “are going to make people sit up and take notice”.

The schools chosen all faced a range of challenges but are being supported with a package of support that is tailored to meet their needs. This  includes access to specific expertise.

Speaking in the Senedd assembly building, the minister said there will be “undeniable progress” in this summer’s examination results in a number of the Challenge Cymru schools, but warned Assembly members that the schools were all starting from a different base.

“Each and every one of the 40 schools are now up and running in the programme,” said Mr Lewis. 

“So while we’re not quite yet at the half-way stage much has been achieved.

“I am confident that each school is now firmly on their improvement journey.”

His comments come after words of encouragement from the educationalist leading the initiative. 

Professor Mel Ainscow, who has run similar programmes in England, said the initiative was beginning to bite and moves to empower teachers were starting to bear fruit.

 “I think the commitment at every level is really good frankly – and that’s quite an achievement,” he said. 

“But it’s all about momentum and we must be careful we don’t get distracted by any major change in policy. We must carry on.”

One of the top priorities of the Welsh government is currently to drive up standards in the classroom after Wales’ poor performance in the international PISA rankings, which rates the nation’s key skills as the worst in the UK.

Mr Lewis said Challenge Cymru was “rooted in the belief that all children can achieve” and he had met with all 40 headteachers and chairs of governors involved in the initiative.

He said the summer term was “a critical time” for Challenge Cymru schools and the programme was “focusing relentlessly” on improving the quality of teaching, learning and leadership.

A special event will be held in July to bring together the headteachers already engaged in the programme with representatives from their cluster primary schools.



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