Professor Gareth Rees, Director of the Wales Institute of Social Economic Research Data and Methods (WISERD), has recently commented in the Western Mail on this year’s GCSE exam figures.
The figures, released last week, show that 70.8% of Welsh pupils achieved the Level 2 threshold overall this summer, up from 67.3% last year. The proportion of GCSE-age students in Wales with no recognised qualification fell from 1.8% in 2010-11 to 1.2% in 2011-12.
Professor Rees, an expert in Welsh education, said the figures required closer analysis as the reported Level 2 threshold includes GCSE equivalents, such as vocational qualifications. Having delved deeper into last year’s figures he found that of the 67.3% of pupils achieving the benchmark in Wales, 55.4% did so through GCSEs alone. In England, where 79.5% achieved the Level 2 threshold, just 55.9% hit the mark with five good GCSEs.
Professor Rees said: “You can get the Level 2 threshold not simply through GCSEs but through vocational qualifications as well and what these figures show you is that substantially more people in England are getting Level 2 in BTecs and vocational qualifications.
“The question is, how do you interpret that? Is it because schools in England are playing the game and putting students who they don’t think would get Level 2 through GCSEs through the vocational route – or is it because schools in Wales aren’t offering their students sufficient vocational opportunities?
“I think it is generally accepted that the Welsh education system has not been terribly effective in terms of creating vocational routes. But the picture is not quite as bad, in terms of Welsh schools’ performance, as is often portrayed.”
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