Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg - Y Bumed Senedd

Children, Young People and Education Committee - Fifth Senedd

12/11/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Hefin David MS
Jack Sargeant MS Yn dirprwyo ar ran Dawn Bowden
Substitute for Dawn Bowden
Laura Anne Jones MS
Lynne Neagle MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Sian Gwenllian MS
Suzy Davies MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Arwyn Thomas Regional School Effectiveness & Improvement Service for North Wales (GwE)
Regional School Effectiveness & Improvement Service for North Wales (GwE)
David Jones Cymwysterau Cymru
Qualification Wales
Elaine Carlile CBAC
WJEC
Guy Lacey Coleg Gwent
Coleg Gwent
Ian Morgan CBAC
WJEC
Ian Roberts Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru
Welsh Local Government Association
Jo Richards Cymwysterau Cymru
Qualifications Wales
Kay Martin Colegau Cymru
Colleges Wales
Louise Casella Y Brifysgol Agored yng Nghymru
Open University in Wales
Meinir Ebbsworth Cymdeithas Cyfarwyddwyr Addysg
Association of Directors of Education
Mike Tate Cymdeithas Cyfarwyddwyr Addysg
Association of Directors of Education
Philip Blaker Cymwysterau Cymru
Qualifications Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lisa Salkeld Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Llinos Madeley Clerc
Clerk
Masudah Ali Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Rhiannon Lewis Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Siân Hughes Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Tanwen Summers Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:15.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:15. 

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Good morning and welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee—a meeting that's being held virtually. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I've determined that the public are excluded from the committee's meeting in order to protect public health. Notice of this decision was included in the agenda for this meeting, published on Monday. As usual, the meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, with all participants joining via video-conference, and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from that procedural adaptation relating to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements of committees remain in place. As usual, the meeting is bilingual, and simultaneous translation is available. If we become aware that there's an issue with the translation, I'll ask you to pause for a moment while our meeting technicians reset the system. I've received apologies for absence from Dawn Bowden MS, and I'm very pleased to welcome Jack Sargeant MS, who is substituting for Dawn. Can I ask Members if there are any declarations of interest, please? No. Okay. Well, can I just, then, also remind everyone that if I drop out for any reason, it's been agreed that Suzy Davies MS will temporarily chair, while I try to rejoin?

2. Sesiwn dystiolaeth ar effaith Covid-19 ar addysgu a dysgu o bell, ac ar arholiadau ac asesiadau gyda Chymwysterau Cymru a CBAC
2. Evidence session on the impact of Covid-19 on remote teaching and learning, and exams and assessments with Qualifications Wales and WJEC

Item 2 this morning is an evidence session on the impact of COVID-19 on remote teaching and learning and exams and assessments, with Qualifications Wales and WJEC. I'm very pleased to welcome David Jones, chair of Qualifications Wales; Philip Blaker, chief executive of Qualifications Wales; Jo Richards, who is regulations director at Qualifications Wales; Ian Morgan, the chief executive of the WJEC; and Elaine Carlile, who's director of qualifications, assessment and responsible officer at the WJEC. Welcome to all of you. Thank you for joining us this morning. We've got lots to cover so we'll go straight into questions, and the first questions are from Jack Sargeant.

Thank you, Chair, and good morning, everyone. Yes, we have got a lot to cover today, so two questions from me to both Qualifications Wales and WJEC. Firstly, what are your views on the Minister's announcements on the way forward for qualifications in 2021? Secondly, to what extent do you believe that what she has announced is deliverable in a way that is fair to learners and maintains the integrity of the qualifications system?

Bore da, bawb. Diolch yn fawr am y cyfle i ddod yma y bore yma.

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to join you this morning.

Good morning, everyone. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here this morning. Perhaps, from a QW point of view, I'll just start a response to this question. Thank you, Jack. First of all, as we said when we were at the committee in the summer, we recognise the huge difficulties that everyone is facing at the moment, and have done since last March. We absolutely need to focus on learners and the huge loss of teaching and learning time during that period.

I've worked for 35 years as a teacher and a manager in further education and higher education, so I've got a bit of a feel for what it must be like in schools and colleges at the moment. I think it's an almost impossible task for everyone, and this needs to be recognised. But despite my background and experience, I'm not here as a college head or representing schools and colleges, but as the chair of Wales's independent, national qualifications regulator, and QW, Qualifications Wales, has a very clearly defined statutory role and responsibility. I think it's important to understand that we are not a policy maker, we are not politicians, but we are accountable to the people of Wales through the Senedd. Our focus throughout is always on fairness and standards and looking after the interests of learners—past, present and future. Clearly, our current focus is on 2021, which responds to Jack's question, for general qualifications but also, really importantly, we don't forget the vocational qualifications either. I think the issue is that qualifications and assessments are never perfect, even at normal times, and there are no easy options for any of us at present. Indeed, if we're really honest about it, if I look at Qualifications Wales, most, or many, I should say, of our staff and board members are themselves parents, or have family members and friends affected by this, not just from a health point of view, but also from a qualifications point of view. So, it's really difficult.

And as a board at Qualifications Wales, we've got a really experienced board of experts—12 board members—and we recognise that need for flexibility and adaptability during this period. And this was reflected in our response to the Minister's request for advice last month. We fully recognise the pressures and anxiety for young people, their parents and teachers, and issues of the impact on their well-being, and, I go back to that point, the loss of teaching and learning time, and that was reflected in our advice that, obviously, is on the public record.

Specifically responding to your question, in the Minister's announcement on Tuesday, she appears to be agreeing with most but clearly not all of the advice that we provided. We're now awaiting her formal direction, which is the way things work between the Government and the regulator, and then we will consider it and we will respond accordingly, in line with our statutory responsibilities. We remain committed to working with and listening to everyone across the education system in Wales and to implementing the best solutions for 2021, recognising our statutory role and responsibilities. Philip, is there anything else you would want to add in response to Jack Sargeant's question?

09:20

Yes, if I can pick up, David, on Jack's point about deliverability. The proposals that we put forward, we had a high degree of confidence that they were deliverable, because they were building on known assessment techniques. It was about adapting current assessments to be able to deliver them quite quickly. We were also very conscious of the fact that teaching and learning time was and is the Minister's priority. So, we were looking at putting things into a very structured environment so that teachers and learners would know exactly what they were going to be facing.

We are concerned about the deliverability of these new proposals. There is a lot of novel finishing that needs to be done quite quickly. And, clearly, the Minister has asked for this design and delivery advisory group to be set up to help her with the policy decisions that would need to be made, and, obviously, that will lead into the thinking that we need to have in terms of assessment and the decisions that we need to make as the regulator with regard to assessment.

Just to give you a little bit of a flavour, what we're concerned about at the moment, I think, is that, without that structure in place, there is continued uncertainty. We think that that uncertainty has some impact on the well-being of learners and teachers. If we think about the potential for actually there being too much assessment—instead of it being structured assessment, if schools start doing lots and lots of assessment, that may actually mean that there is a greater well-being issue for learners. 

I think also we're primarily concerned with fairness and making sure that there's consistency across schools. So, to do that, there is a lot of work to do to work out exactly how that might operate. I think we're concerned about teacher-led outcomes, so the idea that the outcome is eventually determined by the teacher, because that could drive towards inconsistency. We don't want to prejudice the work that needs to be done rapidly over the next six weeks to try and find some solutions to the way forward. So, we will provide advice, as the design and delivery advisory group works, on the things that we think will work, the things that we think are deliverable.

There are lots of issues that still need to be resolved, and those are things like the rights to appeal. We think it would be important that the appeal is heard by the body that makes the ultimate decision. Now, in these circumstances, it looks as though that ultimate decision would be made by the schools because of teacher-led outcomes. That would mean schools having to hear appeals—that would need to be worked through in terms of what does that mean in reality. We're not sure how private candidates would be accommodated within these arrangements, so those children that are education in settings other than schools. We're concerned about equalities, and if we go back to that point of fairness and consistency, we've done work and we've published statistical reports looking at centre variability and we saw that, even within the overall inflated outcomes from 2020, there was a huge degree of variability between schools. So, whatever these assessment mechanisms are, they need to be able to address, or at least tame, those big inconsistencies between schools. And duty about equalities, we saw that attainment gaps changed quite significantly in 2020, so it'd be interesting to see how the design and delivery group thinks about equalities and if they have ideas about how some of those issues might be addressed.

I think, lastly, if we're expecting WJEC to award certificates at the end of this, we want to work with everybody to find out what is the right balance for that. Because WJEC will ultimately have to issue those certificates with their name on them, and we need to make sure that they can stand by those certificates. So, there are lots of issues that need to be resolved very quickly, and that gives us concerns about the deliverability. But it doesn't alter our commitment to working with everybody to try and find a solution.

09:25

Thank you, Philip. Ian, do you want to come in on this?

Yes, thank you, Chair. So, from a WJEC perspective, I think it's important that a decision is made and then we recognise some of the challenges now in terms of working on a solution that is deliverable within the time frame that we're talking about. As I'm sure Members are aware, the development of qualifications and qualification assessments is quite a time-consuming process, and in order to deliver something that is deliverable, fair and balanced within a short time frame will require significant effort, and a significant effort not just from a WJEC point of view but from the wider education community point of view. Everybody will need to work together. Everybody will need to sign up to whatever the process is that's defined and put in place so that we all become accountable for it.

I think one of the key things for me is, having been through summer 2020, and Members will be aware of our position in and around that, what we don't want is any fallout from the decisions that are made now happening in summer 2021. We've got to deal with the politics, we've got to deal with the issues and we've got to be upfront in terms of what's deliverable and what's not.

I think, genuinely, as an organisation, we are steeped in process, we are steeped in standards, we are steeped in assessment methodologies and how to apply those in an effective and balanced way. I think where we find ourselves now does cause us some challenges in terms of how we adapt what we do, and the way that we do it, in order to meet the needs of the wider sector. You know, as I said in the last session, we're absolutely across the impact on learners—I mentioned them. I'm the parent of a year 11 child, I know exactly what's going on from a parent and a learner perspective, I know what's going on from a school perspective, and I recognise the challenges in and around it, and I can look at it from both aspects—from a professional point of view, from an organisational point of view, but I also look at it from a parental point of view. And I think we need to be clear, in whatever we do, that this meets the needs of all learners. And I think the jump to just going to a teacher-assessed group will suit some learners; it certainly doesn't suit all learners. So, whatever we put in place needs to be balanced.

I think the work of the design and delivery group is key to this, and the pace at which that group needs to work I can't underestimate. We are probably a tad behind already in terms of where we will need to be to deliver on some of these things, so we need to be on the front foot, as a collective, with joint ownership in terms of what we do, and give that clarity to teachers and learners in terms of what it is that needs to be achieved in the coming weeks and in the coming months. At the end of the day, just to pick up on Philip's final point there: certification rests with the WJEC, and my name goes on the bottom of those certificates, and therefore I have to be comfortable, as well as the organisation being comfortable, that what has been put in place is tried, tested and is fair and balanced to give a fair outcome for learners.

Our role in this will be operating within the regulatory framework. So, back to David's point and Philip's point, there will be Government policy that will go to the regulator, the regulator will then need to direct WJEC in terms of what its role is in and around it. So, again, we need to understand the demarcation of roles and responsibilities. Our organisation will commit to doing whatever it is we need to do, because we want to be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. But there are some key issues that need to be bottomed out in order for us to sign up to that in a clear and effective way.

Okay, thank you. Laura, I think some of the risks et cetera and challenges have been outlined, so if you want to go on to ask about the independent review.

Sure, and I just wanted to comment and say that, I mean, from your contributions this morning, it's certainly not as simple as the announcement initially sounds. You've already, as the Chair has so comprehensively said, outlined your concerns about it—the deliverability, the uncertainty, the fairness and consistency, and we thank you for that. That was really interesting and useful. What are your views on the claim in the independent review that the principle of maintaining confidence and credibility of the qualification systems took primacy in the 2020 exam series?

09:30

Perhaps I can offer an answer to this one. I think the committee would agree with me that both of those things are important, and shouldn't be underplayed, so having confidence in qualifications and credibility of the system are both important aspects of what we should be doing. I'm not quite sure what's intended by the review in saying about primacy. So, I'm not sure if there is an implied criticism there. What we would say is that, certainly, Qualifications Wales, we're bound by legislation, and in that legislation, we have two principal aims, and those are to ensure that qualifications are effective in meeting the reasonable needs of learners, and to promote public confidence in qualifications and the qualifications system. So, clearly, we have to think about those things, and they're an important part. The legislation guides us to that and makes us think about those things.

But it's quite a narrow perspective to think that that's all we thought about. We had to consider—. The criteria against which we considered solutions for the summer were the things that are important in the assessment world. So, the manageability of solutions for schools and learners and for WJEC; the validity of outcomes; the reliability of outcomes; the extent to which they could manage any bias that might be within the system; and comparability with other jurisdictions, and that's something, again, that we're guided to through our legislation, in matter 6 that we have to look at. So, it wasn't a narrow perspective of just looking at confidence in the system and credibility of the system, but it's really important.

I think we've got to also remember that, through summer 2020, we were working through lots and lots and lots of unknowns. In fact, there were very, very few knowns, and if we cast ourselves back to the beginning of July, which is the first time that we saw the centre assessment grades, so the raw input that was coming from schools, actually, if you applied those criteria of credibility and confidence, if they'd been closer to broadly similar, which is what we were aiming for in terms of results, because we strongly felt that broadly similar results would give confidence and credibility, then standardisation might not have been needed at all, or standardisation would have changed far fewer grades. So, we have to think about those things of confidence and credibility, but it's not a narrow perspective, it's just important.

I think it's not my turn now, as we discussed earlier. Sorry, I—

Sorry, yes, you're right. You're right. I'm moving on now to Hefin David, who is here, but we can't see him.

Okay, I can just about make out what's been said, but not everything, so if I'm asking a question that's been addressed, then I apologise. But I'd like to just look into the suggestion in the internal review that the level of unevenness in learner experiences into 2021 would make 2021 exams unfair for learners. Do you support that, agree with that, and how do you qualitatively respond to that?

Chair, If I could start, please. We acknowledge that teachers and students are facing significant challenges and that it's an incredibly stressful time for them, but we need to remember that there are limits to how changes to qualifications can help to address those challenges. Qualifications are a measure of knowledge, skills and understanding, and changing the way in which qualifications are assessed cannot, in itself, address the underlying issue of lost learning.

What is critical is fairness, and results, therefore, need to be consistent and fair, and as noted, following the announcement in the Chamber by the Minister for Education, by one of your colleagues, actually, for learners, and for those using qualifications, a grade C in Caernarfon needs to mean the same as a grade C around the rest of Wales. One of the reasons for that is that qualifications are used principally for selection purposes, further study and employment. So, we acknowledge, as shown in our advice, that, actually, an exam series is very difficult, given the circumstances that schools and colleges are operating under, and that was why the advice that we put forward was allowing some flexibility around how assessment could be delivered for 2020-21. I don't know, Philip, if you want to add anything to that.

09:35

Nothing to add from me, Chair.

Yes, please. I think we need to set it in the context as well—and I think we reported this in our last briefing session—that adaptations were already made during the summer, significant adaptations to qualifications structures and the assessment methodologies, to try to reflect those kinds of impending changes in access to teaching and learning. So, we've recognised that already in terms of some of the work that we've done.

I think, to pick up on Jo's point, it is really important to stress that we cannot cater for lost teaching and learning time in assessment. It is about knowledge and understanding, and skills for moving forward. Whilst certification is an important aspect of that, what we want is learners with the knowledge and skills to move forward to be able to deliver in both the work context and in the further and higher education context. So, it's really important that we're able to address that and put something in place that is balanced.

What we've talked about as an organisation is about what further adaptations could we do, or could be in place, in order to cater for those in terms of providing additional optionality, and more clarity in terms of the themes and topics that could be examined or assessed during that process, to give learners and teachers a tad more clarity in terms of what the expectations are. So, rather than looking at the whole thing as a holistic kind of examination where there is no knowledge of what could be in the paper, to add some further advice to the teaching community in terms of some of the themes and topics that we could look at. So it does deal with some clarity in terms of providing further information in terms of the key assessment approaches.

So, yes, there are differences in teaching and learning. It's obvious, and as I say, I can see it from a parental point of view. But I, too, think we have to have something that is clear and consistent in terms of how we assess that at the end point, so we've got something that is fair and balanced across the principality. I don't know whether Elaine might want to add something on that.

Ian, just before you sign off there—can you hear me?

Yes, Hefin, yes.

Can I just say, what you're describing seems to be something that will take a bit of time to resolve, and time doesn't seem to be the thing that we've got? Do you have that concern?

Yes, Elaine might answer that one, Hefin.

Thank you very much. I think what Ian is referring to is that we've already made significant adaptations to qualifications, and in fairness, those of you who are looking to how people are viewing this in other jurisdictions, the work that we have done already has been shown as being something that was preferable for, perhaps, students in England to have, where there are adaptations made in order to address the lost teaching and learning time. Therefore, all we were looking at is how we can help teachers to understand more about the streamlining of assessment.

So, Hefin, to answer your question, we're not looking to reinvent the wheel again. Our adaptations booklets have been out there since September, and we've had some positive feedback from a lot of teachers who appreciated the clarity of how the qualifications would operate next summer. So, we believe there was sufficient knowledge, skills and understanding that was still there for the qualifications to be credible and valid, and that work has been completed.

So, with that in mind, the recommendation for an independent delivery board to oversee the revised approach in 2021—that's going to take a bit of time to resolve as well. Are you supportive of that approach? And what kind of issues do you see with that with regard to these time pressures and the other things that we mentioned?

09:40

Shall I start, Chair?

Yes, I think it's a fair point, Hefin. And I think the role of the independent delivery board does give ownership to the wider and broader sector. I absolutely get the rationale to ensure that we as a collective, as I said in the opening statement, education community work together in terms of coming up with a solution. The challenges will be in terms of understanding what is achievable within the time frame. So what we've got to have is something that is aligned to current practice that already exists—yes with some flexibility, yes with some more involvement from the teaching community in it, and I can align that to the work that we do in terms of non-examined assessment, or coursework. Those processes are already in place to assess individual candidate work within centres with a moderation process that sits over the top of that in order to put in that standardisation approach.

The biggest concern for us will be in terms of how the group works together to determine what the teacher input is to that kind of process. So, whilst we've got something that is non-examined assessment, whilst we've got something that is an externally set, externally marked task or paper to look at, what you've then got is a third element, which is purely in the control of the teacher and the institutions. And it's how, then, you align that from a consistent and standard approach to bring all those three bits of evidence together to determine what that end grade is. In normal circumstances, the determination of the end grade would sit with the awarding body because you would be looking at a whole range of data and information in order to award the grade. In this case, we're looking at something that is defined and designed by the teacher at the end of the cycle, using various ranges of information. So that design and delivery group really needs to get to grips with that to look at what the impact is on the profession and on the learners in coming up with an outcome that is fair and balanced across the whole system.

Yes, Chair, if I might just add a couple of other points. We recognise that there's a huge amount of work that needs to be done by this group in a very short period of time. This is a group that I think is going to try to meet for the first time tomorrow. So, the Minister has set out that she'd like there to be clarity on the way forward as we go into the spring term, which, given the fact that we're only about six weeks away from the end of this term now, doesn't give a huge amount of opportunity to do what we think will be a large amount of work. 

I think that, as a regulator, we have to set out as well that the Minister has said that she doesn't want this group to override the statutory responsibilities that different bodies have got. And I think principally, what we have to do here is think about our role as the independent regulator. So, you'll be aware, through the legislation, that the Minister can issue directions to Qualifications Wales, but Qualifications Wales then has to consider those separately. So, there is a relationship here between the work of this design and delivery group, which we will be observers at and which we will provide advice to, and then the final decisions on assessment, which will have to be considered by our board because that's part of our statutory responsibility. So, we need to be careful here that this design and delivery advisory group—because it isn't a delivery board, and a board would normally have decision-making powers in a different way, this is an advisory group to the Minister. We just need to be careful about roles and responsibilities. And we'll be writing to Government to make sure that we set that out, because we want whatever decisions are made to be lawful decisions.  

Okay, thank you. We're going to go on now, then, to some questions from Suzy Davies on the advice given to the Minister by Qualifications Wales. 

Yes, thank you. Some of those questions have been answered, Chair, so I wonder if I could just take the opportunity to ask Ian if he could tell us what's happening with November resits and January exams. The last posting on the Welsh Government website suggested that they're going ahead as normal, but is that the situation now?

Yes, Suzy. November has happened. So, those exams have taken place. There are discussions ongoing between us and Qualifications Wales in terms of January, with clarity coming fairly soon, I think. Philip, Jo, is that right?

09:45

Elaine, do you have any ideas about numbers? Sorry, Suzy, I don't know off the top of my head. 

The January series, the entries wouldn't be—. I think it was only yesterday that would have been the final date for any amendments, and we've kept that open as such. We had a variety of entries for different subjects. So, we're in the thousands for GCSE English and maths, but what we're talking about at this point in time is how many students actually took the exam. People don't withdraw at this point, so some may have sat, some may not have. The exams have just finished, so we're looking to see as to how many actually sat their exams in November. 

Okay. So, why is it fair for these students to be sitting exams, but not exams in the summer? Because the loss of learning has applied to everybody.

Perhaps, Suzy, if I can answer that. For the November series, we've been quite clear that we see this primarily as a retake opportunity for learners. And those would be learners who, in effect, formalised learning for them would have stopped, or school would have stopped for them, at the end of March. Now, by that point, they would have completed most of their course. So, if we think about the two primary problems that we're trying to solve now, one is the ability to conduct a timetabled exam, given uncertain health conditions. The other, which is probably the more dominant one now, from a fairness perspective, is the differential loss in learning that different learners might have had. So, everybody lost the summer term to varying degrees, depending on what their school was providing in terms of remote learning. But this term has shown much bigger differences between individual schools and individual learners within schools. 

For the cohort that we were encouraging the November series for, they would have been in a consistent place. So, that differential learning is different, and they would have completed most of, if not all of, the course. So, it was about the ability to conduct a timetabled exam. One of the reasons why we were quite encouraging of it being primarily a resit opportunity is that would have reduced the cohort size as well—the number of learners that were actually doing those exams—and that would have meant that it was easier for schools to be able to actually deliver those in terms of the space requirements and the like. So, we think the November series is fair on that basis. 

Okay. Thank you. I thought that was important to get on the record because we are—

Suzy, before you move on to your other questions, can I just ask, please, about year 10 students who are due to do early GCSEs in the spring? Will they just carry on as normal now, or would you be expecting them to slip back to be doing them in year 11? What will be the position for early entries?

I think, Chair, that's something that we still need to work through. So, there are lots of details coming out of the Minister's decision that we now need to think about and try and work our way through. So, we're primarily concerned at the moment with those year 11 students that will be taking exams for progression purposes, but we will be thinking about those year 10 learners. Of course, we're very conscious of the fact that those year 10 learners are just as affected by all of the impact on teaching and learning time as those in years 11, 12 and 13. So, it's certainly something that we need to come up with a solution for fairly quickly. 

Thank you, yes, because it's something that families are worrying about. Suzy. 

Yes. Thank you. Philip, you mentioned or you drew our attention back to your statutory responsibilities a little bit earlier on, one of which, of course, is to promote public confidence in the exams. Wales is likely now to have a different system from the other parts of the UK, even though there are some similarities with Scotland, for example. How do you think this is going to pan out, bearing in mind that there might have been some loss of confidence in qualifications last year because of what happened?

I think it's important to recognise that all of the UK is facing the same problems. So, each jurisdiction is coming up with slightly different solutions—at least at this point different solutions—to the same problem. And it's the problem that I set out earlier about the confidence in being able to deliver timetabled exams, and, more importantly, at the moment, concerns around fairness, with the different learning experiences that learners have got. So, everyone's trying to face the same problem and actually the solutions drive different concerns around fairness. So, one of the primary concerns that the Minister has been trying to address is the issue of fairness, given the different learning experiences and the fact that disruption is likely to continue. 

I think what 2020 has probably proven is that the way that we think about qualifications and qualifications results is somewhat different during a period of crisis like we're in at the moment. I think, in a normal year, where, if I took one example of a statistic—. So, let's look at the proportion of learners who were getting A* and A at A-level—so that, normally, over the last few years, has been changing by about a percentage point, and we reached 27 per cent of learners getting A*s and As in 2019. Now, with the final outcomes—and admitting that this is lifted somewhat by the introduction of the AS4 in August—we ended up with 43.7 per cent of the learners getting an A* and an A in 2020. Now, in normal times, I think that would have been a primary concern that would have played out in the press, would have been a primary concern that you as a committee would have been talking to both us and WJEC about. But that hasn't been an issue at all. The issue has always been about the standardisation process, which was trying to make results look more broadly similar. So, we don't know what this will do in terms of perceptions of results. Clearly, what we wanted to do, through our advice, was put something in place that was as similar as possible to normal times. But what we will be doing is doing everything we can to come up with a system that does promote confidence, given these exceptional circumstances.

09:50

Well, I think part of this comparability also refers to different years as well, doesn't it? I was very struck by your emphasis on external setting and external marking of assessments so that it could compare relatively fairly with previous years as well. It's a very strong message in your advice to the Minister. Was that part of the thinking as well, or was that more about alleviating pressure on teachers?

So, it was both. It was about alleviating pressure on teachers. So, teacher-led assessment now, if it is a centre-designed one, they have to think about those, they have to design them, they'll have to make sure that those are valid assessments. Clearly, WJEC go through an extensive process to make sure that their assessments are fair, unbiased, meet equalities requirements, cover the specifications as they should do, sample things like assessment objectives—so, all sorts of technical things that they need to think about. What we didn't want to do was to displace that effort on to teachers, because, first thing, they're not used to that—that's not their core role, that's not something that they do in normal times, so, there would need to be training for them to be able to do that. And also it's a case of let people play to their strengths. The strength of WJEC is in designing good, well-structured assessments that schools could use. 

Equally, what we wanted to do was to think about reliability in the marking. So, if schools are going to be doing the marking of these assessments, they would need to be trained in that, they would need to be standardised, they would need to be moderated—all of those things would, again, draw on teaching and learning time. And what we were very keen to do was to pay regard to the Minister's priority about maximising teaching and learning time.

So, there is something in terms of managing workload, but, from a comparability perspective, what we wanted to do was to have a mechanism by which standards could be maintained, and we believe that teacher-led outcomes provide probably less opportunity for the controls that would normally be in place for maintaining standards. So, if we're thinking about those comparabilities year on year, then, yes, our proposals around external assessments and external marking were partly guided by that need to be fair not only to this year's learners, but to learners past and present. And that's one of the things that we were trying to do last year as well.

Okay, thank you. And just very, very quickly, universities have made it plain that they're very used to dealing with different types of qualifications for entrants. The Minister's decided not to follow your proposal for a single A-level exam in particular disciplines. Are you worried about that, or are you happy to take the universities at their word?

09:55

So, Suzy, if I could come in here, I think we have some concerns around that. Obviously, there have been conversations ongoing with universities. Our concern focuses, really, on the offer strategies of universities, and we wouldn't want any of those to disadvantage learners in Wales.

Okay. That's a really politically—a very sort of nicely put answer. I was after a 'yes' or a 'no', really, but thank you very much.

Okay. Thank you. Just before we move on, if I can just ask about the risks of teaching to the test in this system that the Minister's been proposing. The Minister's made a great play of the fact that this is about maximising learning time; do you think there's more of a risk under this system that we'll see more teaching to the test, which could actually distract from quality learning time for young people?

Could I come in here? I think it's definitely a risk. So, we're always concerned about things like teaching to the test even in normal times when there's an unseen examination. So, what we would want is for learners to experience as much of the curriculum and what's set out in the specifications as is possible. I think all of the solutions that we've looked at this year, including the proposals that we've put forward, have presented concerns to us, and it's been something our board has thought about in terms of reduced security requirements do lend themselves to the propensity to teach to the test. What we would have wanted to do, and I think what's important in the way forward, is to position things for teachers in a slightly different way, which is around preparing learners to be able to take the assessments, and, given the fact that schools are saying they don't have enough time to cover all of the content, it's placing greater trust in schools and in teachers to make sure that they're doing the right thing and making sure that they're covering the content, so that, when a learner is presented with an assessment, they can tick that fundamental box of fairness, which is, 'I've had an opportunity to learn the material that I'm going to be assessed on.' So, what we'd need to do is position it in that way, and trust the teaching profession to do the right thing.

Okay. Thank you. We've got questions now from Siân Gwenllian.

Diolch, Cadeirydd, a bore da. Mae'r ffocws rŵan wrth gwrs yn symud at ddylunio'r system asesu newydd. Dydy o ddim yn hollol glir i mi pwy fydd yn penderfynu beth fydd y balans rhwng yr asesiadau allanol, yr asesu mewnol ac ati, sef y mix fydd yn y gyfundrefn newydd. Ydy hi'n glir i chi pwy fydd yn gwneud y penderfyniadau ynglŷn â hyn? Ai'r grŵp delifro fydd yn cynghori'r Gweinidog, a'r Gweinidog yn gwneud penderfyniadau oherwydd ei fod yn fater polisi, y mix yma, ynteu fydd gennych chi rôl benodol o ran y penderfyniadau—rôl ymgynghorol, efallai—ynteu a ydych chi'n gweld eich hunain efo rôl ddelifro yn unig, unwaith y bydd y grŵp delifro wedi gwneud ei waith? Mae hwn yn gwestiwn i'r ddau gorff, a dweud y gwir.

Thank you, Chair. Good morning. The focus now, of course, is moving towards designing the new assessment system. It isn't entirely clear to me who will be deciding what the balance will be between the external assessments, the internal assessments and so on—that mix that will be in the new system. Is it clear to you who will be making the decisions with regard to this issue? Is it the delivery group that will be advising the Minister and then the Minister making decisions as a result—because it is a policy issue, this mix, that is—or will you have a specific role in terms of the decisions—an advisory role, perhaps—or do you see yourselves as having a delivery role only once the delivery group will have done its work? It's a question to both organisations.

Who'd like to start? Philip? Oh, sorry. Let's take Ian first.

I think it's a good question, and I think, in terms of—as we've discussed, the role of the design and delivery group is to look at options and to provide advice to the Minister, for ministerial and Government decisions to be made. That would then flow through the normal channels in terms of, as Phillip's already mentioned, a kind of direction to Qualifications Wales for Qualifications Wales then to consider how they apply their role to the direction that's been given, and, similarly, our role would then follow from that in terms of the regulatory framework in which we operate. Clearly, our input to the group is important, in terms of that advice and guidance, because what we've got to ensure, as I said at the start, is that we've got a solution that is deliverable, fair and balanced for everybody. Now isn't the time to be reinventing the wheel, in terms of assessment approaches and assessment methodologies, when we're in a mode of crisis and crisis response. That would need significant thinking, significant discussions and a longer period of time to do it. 

So, I think there's clarity in terms of the flow of information and the flow of decision making. It's how we respond as organisations to that and where we see we can fit into that decision, in terms of the deliverable aspects of it.

10:00

Yes, it was just to restate what I said earlier, really, around our statutory responsibilities as the independent regulator. So, there'll be a combination of policy decisions here and then operational decisions that flow from those. The Minister will, no doubt, want to consider this design and delivery advisory group and its recommendations, and it's an advisory group to her, as the Minister, in terms of the policy decisions that she will need to make.

But our board will have to fulfil its statutory responsibilities in making decisions about assessment arrangements. That's one of the reasons why we will be observers and providing advice on the design and delivery advisory group, rather than members of it, because we need to preserve our position as the independent regulator and make sure that we're making those right decisions, which we will be presenting a little bit further down the line.

Diolch am hynny. Dwi'n cyd-fynd â chi mae'n bwysig ofnadwy bod cyfrifoldebau'r gwahanol randdeiliaid yn y broses yma yn hollol glir o ran lle mae'r penderfyniadau polisi yn gorwedd a lle mae'r penderfyniadau delifro, ond, wrth gwrs, fod yr ymgynghori yn digwydd yn fanwl hefyd.

A gaf i jest droi at y dyfodol pellach, os liciwch chi? Ydych chi'n meddwl y bydd creu'r gyfundrefn asesu newydd yma, a hynny mewn ffordd gyflym iawn, iawn, dwi'n derbyn hynny—a fydd o'n ddefnyddiol ar gyfer y trafodaethau sydd yn mynd i ddod, o gofio bod y cwricwlwm newydd yn gyrru newidiadau mawr i'r dyfodol, o ran y dulliau asesu fydd eu hangen arnom ni yng Nghymru?

Thank you for that. I agree that it is very important that the different responsibilities of different stakeholders in this process are entirely clear in terms of where the policy decisions lie and where the delivery responsibilities lie, but that the consultation happens in a very detailed way too.

Turning to the longer term future, if you will, do you believe that creating a new assessment system in a very swift way, and I accept that—will it be useful for the discussions that will take place, remembering that the new curriculum is driving major changes in future, in terms of the assessment methods that will be required in Wales?

Perhaps I could make a start on the answer to this. Clearly, the focus at the moment is very much on coming up with the fairest solution possible for learners in 2021 That's the immediate and most pressing need. We've already signalled, in the consultations that we have already done on Qualified for the Future, as we call it, which is the work that we will need to do to respond to the new curriculum—we've signalled that we're open to thinking about different assessment arrangements, and the curriculum itself lends itself to greater subsidiarity and schools looking at part of the curriculum being designed by them. That will have an impact on the way that qualifications function and it will have an impact on the assessment arrangements that we want to put in place.

So, I think we're looking very keenly at what we can learn from 2021, because if different assessment arrangements are being put in place, then we can use that as a means of understanding how effective they are. We will be going out and consulting, subject to a decision by our board later this month, in January. Certainly, we're proposing to go out and consult on the range of subjects that will be included in the core qualifications for the future. Then we will be engaging with and, potentially, consulting later next year on assessment arrangements for those qualifications, or at least the broad principles that we'd need to underpin them.

Yes, I think the simple answer is that we're very open to learning from this experience, and we've been open for longer than just this current crisis. We've been open ever since we started thinking about qualifications for the new curriculum, thinking about what would be the right assessment arrangements for them. It may well be a different balance between centre-led assessments and external assessments, so there could well be some different balance there. So, yes, we're very open to considering it and actively doing so.

Thanks, Chair. I think just one comment, Siân, in terms of the question. I think we need to be careful in terms of the language that we're using in terms of what we're doing for this summer. We talk about a new assessment system. What we're talking about is building on assessment systems that are already in place and making some adaptations to cater for the situation in which we find ourselves. I think if we talk about this in the context of saying, 'This is completely new' or 'We're designing something from scratch', then that adds pressure to the system. What we're talking about in terms of the reference to externally set, externally marked tasks is based on the usual approaches that we would take. The difference for this year is that kind of engagement from the teaching profession in terms of an element of those outcomes being generated by the teacher. So, I think we just need to be careful that we're not selling it as something where we're throwing the baby out with the bath water and starting again. It's predicated on standard processes that are in place already and are embedded in terms of the processes that both schools and colleges, and organisations are used to.

10:05

Dwi'n derbyn y pwynt yna. Hynny yw, ddim y dulliau asesu sydd yn newydd, ond y mix fydd yn newydd, mae'n debyg, a'r ffaith na fydd yna ddim arholiadau allanol ar ddiwedd y cyfnod. Mae o'n mynd i weithio mewn ffordd wahanol. 

Jest i ddod yn ôl, jest un pwynt ynglŷn â'r dyfodol—mae'r cwricwlwm, wrth gwrs, yn gyrru'r newid mewn ffordd arall hefyd. Mae'r cwricwlwm yn gyrru'r newid oherwydd bod y pwyslais ar ddatblygiad yr unigolyn, ac felly os ydy'r pwyslais ar ddatblygiad yr unigolyn, mae angen i'r asesu ar gyfer yr unigolyn yna fod yn wahanol. Mae o'n ffordd gwbl newydd o weithio yng Nghymru. Ian, ydych chi'n credu bod yna nifer o wersi i'w dysgu allan o beth sy'n mynd i fod yn cael ei roi yn ei le rŵan ar gyfer y dyfodol i ymateb i'r newidiadau mawr yna yn y cwricwlwm?

I accept that point. That is, it isn't the assessment methods that are changing, but it's the mix that's changing, and the fact that there won't be external examinations at the end of the period. It is going to work in a different way.

Just to come back, to make a point about the future—the curriculum, of course, is driving the change in a different way too. The curriculum is driving the change because the emphasis is on the development of the individual, and if the emphasis is on the development of the individual, then the assessment for that individual needs to be different. It's an entirely new way of working in Wales. Ian, do you believe that there are several lessons to be learned out of what is going to be put in place now for that longer term future to respond to those major changes in the curriculum?

Yes, definitely. There's an opportunity to look at what happens in the coming year, isn't there, in terms of how that plays out and in terms of what those outcomes look like? I think we do need to make sure that we don't end up in a situation where the future is only based on what happens this year, at a time of crisis, when we're trying to put something in place to deal with a specific set of situations. So, I think we do need to be mindful of that, and there are longer term thought processes, holistically, about what qualifications are for and how you assess those qualifications. So, this isn't the time to come up with a solution that we will be embedding for the next three, five or 10 years. I think Elaine might have a view there as well, Siân.

Thank you. Yes, I think it's really important, going to back to where we started in this conversation—the qualifications that there currently are, the specifications are structured in a certain way to meet the needs that were required when they were created, and I think what we're saying is that what's important for teachers and for learners is that they understand the balance of that knowledge, the skills, the application of all of that, and the way we assess this year needs to reflect that, because that's the way the learning will have been structured. New qualifications, to meet the needs of the new curriculum, will be structured in a different way, and I think it's really important—. As we always say, the teaching and learning is really, really important. How we measure that will look different, and how the learners bring their contextual experiences into the assessment I think is the valid way that we're going to assess those new qualifications in the future.

Sori, gaf i jest ychwanegu yn gyflym, i ymateb i Siân Gwenllian, ac i gyd-fynd efo popeth mae Philip wedi'i ddweud, ac Ian, o safbwynt dysgu o'r profiad yma? Wrth gwrs, doedden ni ddim eisiau'r sefyllfa yma, ond dwi'n cytuno'n llwyr efo ti—mae'n rhaid inni gymryd y cyfle i ddysgu ar ôl 2021 a defnyddio'r profiad yma i fod yn feddwl agored am y ffordd dŷn ni'n datblygu'r cwricwlwm newydd lan at 16, ond ar ôl 16 hefyd, a defnyddio'r profiad eang sydd gyda ni ar draws Cymru, ac yn y colegau hefyd. So, dwi'n derbyn y pwynt yn iawn, ac mae'n rhaid gwneud hynna fel rhan o ddatblygu'r cwricwlwm newydd, a mwy na hynny hefyd.

Sorry, just to add very quickly, in response to Siân Gwenllian, and to agree with everything that Philip has said, and Ian, of course, on learning from the experiences—of course, we didn't want to be in this situation now, but I agree that we do need to take the opportunity to learn after 2021 and use this experience to be open-minded about the way that we develop the new curriculum up to 16 and post 16 too, and use the wide-ranging experience that we have in Wales, and in the colleges as well. So, I accept the point, and we do need to take all of that into consideration to develop the new curriculum and beyond. 

Okay, thank you. Just before we close, then, can I just ask Philip a question? You've emphasised several times this morning your role as an independent statutory regulator. Are you telling us that there could be things coming out of this delivery group that you would refuse to sign off?

There is the potential for that, and that would be us exercising our independence, which is what the Senedd would expect us to do. I would hope that we don't find ourselves in that situation. So, one of the reasons why I think it's important that we sit as observers on this design and delivery group and provide the advice that both we and WJEC will do as assessment experts is to try and guide the recommendations that they come out with, the proposals that they present to the Minister, to make sure that they're the sorts of things that we can accept. And I think it comes back to this point that I've made several times, that these are very unusual times. These are exceptional circumstances and we need to be flexible in those exceptional circumstances, and that's notwithstanding what we've already said in the response to the last question about thinking ahead for Qualified for the Future. We do want to think about things differently in the future, but here and now, what we need to do is come up with something showing flexibility that can get buy-in across education that gives us a sound platform for those assessments that need to take place in 2021.

The one point we haven't made, which, I think, is important, is we've got to remember that all qualifications will be, and all these assessments are measurements of what young people know. So, that's all the qualification can ever be. It can't be the remedy to all of the problems that they're experiencing, or may be experiencing, in their education at the moment. So, we'll play our part to make sure that those measurements are as fair as they possibly can be in the circumstances, showing the flexibility that we can. 

10:10

Okay, thank you. I'm afraid we are out of time, Siân, I'm sorry. Can I thank you all for your attendance this morning and for answering all our questions? We'll send you a transcript to check for accuracy, as usual, but thank you again, all of you, for your time and your input this morning. It's very much appreciated. Diolch yn fawr. The committee will now break for 15 minutes.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:12 a 10:25.

The meeting adjourned between 10:12 and 10:25.

10:25
3. Sesiwn dystiolaeth ar effaith Covid-19 ar addysgu a dysgu o bell, ac ar arholiadau ac asesiadau gyda Louise Casella
3. Evidence session on the impact of COVID-19 on remote teaching and learning, and exams & assessments with Louise Casella

Can I welcome everyone back to the Children, Young People and Education Committee? Item 3 is a further evidence session on the impact of COVID-19 on remote teaching, exams and assessment. I'm very pleased to welcome Louise Casella to the committee this morning. Louise is chair of the independent review panel on qualifications. Thank you for joining us this morning. We're looking forward to hearing what you've got to say, and we'll go straight to questions from Laura Jones.

Thank you, Chair. Thanks, Louise. What are your views on the Minister's announcement of the way forward for assessment in summer 2021? And I'll just expand on that: to what extent do you believe that the way forward announced is deliverable in a way that's fair for learners and maintains the integrity of the qualifications system?

Okay, thank you. Can I start by saying, as the independent review panel, I think we very much welcomed the Minister's announcement this week, and it reflected what we had been hearing in the work that we've been doing? We've been listening to some hundreds of statements from those throughout the sector. We've taken quite a deep dive into certain schools, and we've listened, obviously, to Qualifications Wales and WJEC in the work that we've done. We've talked to people at the various tiers within the education system as well. We also had the survey that we undertook, which we had around 4,000 responses to. So, we've been doing an awful lot of listening over the last six weeks in terms of reaching the conclusions and the recommendations that we made.

Our recommendations were that the amount of lost learning that's gone on for this group of learners—and this group of learners for 2021 are probably in the worst position for that, the 2020 cohort had just about completed the curriculum by the time that we had to go into crisis mode, but for this group, they are still facing uncertainty, it's still unknown how much time they will get in school over the coming year. Our conclusion was, taking that in the round and looking at the learning experience in the round, the priority had to be on maximising their learning time in the school, maximising their learning time right through to the end of the summer term. So, by removing the exam period and the pattern that tends to happen that we were hearing about of trying to cram all learning in by March/April, using that period then through to the summer for revision, and the exam period—if that switches and you can actually concentrate on learner time, learner time in front of the teachers at a point where, hopefully, the risk of school closures and being out will be much reduced by next summer. That was going to be a much better outcome for the learner and for their preparation for progress and moving on into whatever else they're going to do next in life.

So, yes, we very much welcomed that. It removed risk, it gave some certainty and meant people could get behind a single system and move forward with that now in the interest of the learner, rather than, potentially, riding the two horses of, 'Maybe exams can happen, maybe they can't. Are we going into centre-based assessments? How quickly would we need to switch on that?' This gives us some time to know what we're doing and for the education sector to come together behind that and co-design an outcome that works for the learners and the learners in 2021.

Thank you, Louise. Are there any areas in the announcement that you would have liked to have seen included that are not?

It's a matter for the Minister to make those decisions. We've made a number of recommendations, and I think most are almost wholly aligned with what we asked to see. I actually can't think of anything else that I would have wanted to see in there. I think it's a balanced set of recommendations that reflect the advice that's come from Qualifications Wales as well, who have a very proper role to play in this.

Laura, you've got a third question on this section as well. You're muted.

Okay. Right, we've got some questions now, then, from Hefin David, whose camera is off. Hefin.

10:30

Okay. You're dipping in and out at this end, but I can just about make out what's being said. I'm sorry about this. 

I did see you on Wales Live last night, where you answered questions very clearly with regard to the review. But I don't know whether it was just me, but I kind of picked up a little bit of trepidation from the regulators with regard to the timescale for implementing what is required in the recommendations. Do you perceive that yourself?

I think we have to be realistic. It's a tight timescale and it needs people to come together and really get behind this now, and step up and do the work. It would be wrong of me to sit here and say it's going to be easy. We didn't think that in making the recommendations that we made. However, we're starting in November. If you look at what was achieved last year, from March onward, to deliver all sorts of different approaches, both in our schools and elsewhere in the public and private sector, it's clear that when we come together as a country and when the education sector comes together, it can make changes.

In a time of crisis, sometimes you really have to get together and do things differently. I accept that our recommendations put some pressure on the system to come together, but we weren't recommending something that was entirely new. Schools are doing continuous assessment, they're doing non-exam based assessments, all through the year in different ways. Our FE colleges are extremely used to doing continuous assessment in terms of the various vocational qualifications that they deal with. So there's a lot of expertise out there about how you do this fairly, how you moderate, how you validate processes, et cetera, which can be brought to bear on this process as well. 

Thank you for that. One of the things you said on BBC Wales last night was that it's not your job to ensure the integrity and standards of the qualification itself, but to make recommendations about a way forward. But can I press you a bit further on that? How do you perceive, when you are making the recommendations, that you are able to prioritise that balance between the needs of learners and what you would then perceive to be the integrity of the qualification? Because I'm sure it came into your consideration.

I do not believe anything that we have recommended diminishes the integrity of the qualifications. I think you have to look at what those qualifications are intended to do, and they are about saying, 'Do these learners have the potential and the learning—have they demonstrated that they've got the potential and the learning to progress on to the next thing in their lives?' And what this shift is is where that judgment is made. Is that judgment made through an exam sat on a single day, or is it made through a series of assessments with the teachers and college lecturers around what the progress of that individual is, and how they have worked?

So, I think one of the problems if you only look at the integrity of the system is that you look, year to year, at groups of learners rather than individual learners, and I think this is one of the issues that then comes out—that if you're simply looking at the performance of the group, you miss that unevenness of learning amongst the individual learners, and I think one of the things we really have to think about for 2021 is what that impact is on the individual, and how unevenly that falls and how unpredictably that falls. Do you take that single-day examination as a measure of all our learners when actually, there's some mitigation that needs to be built into that? It's the teachers and lecturers who are close enough to be able to do that. 

I don't think that that undermines the integrity of the system. I think the system should be supporting the best efforts of every individual learner.

Okay, and then if we look at what you've just said about the well-being of learners, and how they perceive the current stresses of the uncertainties that lie ahead, do you feel that that was a primary consideration of the recommendations you made, and do you think that learners have found centre-based assessments stressful up to now?

Apologies—it cut out a little bit for me. Could you repeat it?

Do you feel that the mental health and well-being of learners was a primary consideration? You've indicated that you considered it as a significant part of your recommendations. Do you feel that centre-based assessment caused a degree of further stress for students?

I think all students are different, aren't they, in terms of how they respond to the different regimes that are in place and what's put in front of them. But I think one of the accepted issues around stress and uncertainty is the uncertainty of what’s going to happen. And I think what we’re doing here is trying to remove that uncertainty and to give the learners clear sight by January about what the system will look like and what’s happening. And removing the pressure of the final exam when students feel that they have lost a lot of learning is also removing a stress for them.

Ongoing centre-based assessment is something I think students are used to. It depends how you label it, it depends how you present it, but continuously in schools—schools and colleges are used to doing formative assessment, supporting their learners about how well they’re doing, being reflective in their learning, et cetera. So our view as a panel was that that produced far less stress than the exam system, but it does need to be carefully defined so that students understand what it is that feeds in. And that’s about the clarity, but also that’s why we’re saying that teachers and lecturers should come together to be part of the design of the system, because they understand that and they understand that very well.

10:35

Okay, Chair. With the risk of my Wi-Fi cutting out, I’m going to stop there.

Okay, thank you, Hefin. We’ll move on to some questions from Suzy Davies.

It was interesting what you said, actually, that exams are there to help people understand whether individuals have the potential to progress. Qualifications Wales said that they are there as a measurement of what people know. Do you think that those are mutually exclusive statements, or are they complementary and that you’re basically saying the same thing but in a different way?

I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. I think there may be a slight philosophical difference about how we approach that one, and I’m not the exam regulator. With our job in terms of looking at learning lessons from 2020 and making recommendations into 2021, we took very much the perspective that we needed to look at the whole learner experience and how this group of learners in 2021 could be supported to progress with their studies. So, I think if you only took exams as a test of what you know and what you can produce on a single day, I’m not sure that that’s really what we want for our learners, is it? Don’t we want our learners to be able to progress in accordance with their potential and their learning? And in terms of what we do this year for this group, our assessment regime has to reflect what it is that this group of learners have experienced.

Yes, that’s what I was coming to, really. I wasn’t trying to catch you out. It’s a difficult time, isn’t it? But we do have comparability between years to consider here so that students from the past don’t feel disadvantaged, or—well, disadvantaged, let's put it that way. What we had in the summer of this year, do you think that that fundamentally undermined the trust in exams, whatever they’re for, or is this a situation that’s recoverable and exams at some point will play the place that we always had them playing?

Right. In terms of the 2020 summer, I think it’s generally accepted—and I don’t think this is just from me—that there has been an undermining of confidence in the system because of what happened in 2020. And this is the reason why the independent review was asked to take a look at this and to look at what lessons we could learn from this and take it forward. And I think, in doing that, we are reflecting—and our final report, which comes out in December, will reflect on this very much more on events of 2020. Our interim report concentrated, really, on recommendations for 2021. And I think we will have to take some lessons out of that about how we move forward. It would be a waste not to, wouldn’t it? This is a time when we are all learning some things, and crises give us opportunities to really reflect on given ways of working and the way we’ve always done this. And actually, when you have to adapt very quickly, you often create some quite interesting innovation as well.

So what’s the place of exams going forward? Well, it’s not for me to make that judgment, but I think what we will see, and I think particularly from the work that will be done for 2021 and how that then will align with the curriculum for the future—

If I just butt in there, you’ll get some questions on this particular point later on, Louise. It was mainly to do with: are exams even trustworthy anymore? I’m sorry, I didn’t ask the question in that way.

Of course there are circumstances in which exams are appropriate and trustworthy, but I think it’s about matching it to what your learner experience is and how your learners are prepared for that. So, it's all contextual, isn't it? It's all about the context in which the learner is operating and learning. 

10:40

So, can I just flip that over? Are teacher assessments or centre-assessed grades trustworthy as well? You'll have heard Qualifications Wales's comments on how far out they were, certainly in this last year, compared to exam results in previous years. We're all familiar with this story. Do you understand that there's concerns about those as well?

I do understand, and certainly, in our conversations with the schools and colleges about the work they had to do this year to very rapidly produce the centre-assessed grades, and the rank order that they had to submit, there was an expectation there that there would be a professional conversation around what they had produced, if it was out of line with expectation. There was an expectation that they would have had the opportunity to discuss that and to understand it. And, of course, because of the time considerations, the qualifications bodies didn't feel that that was doable across the summer.

What you've got the opportunity for now, in terms of doing centre-based outcomes, is to introduce those systems of validation of the process being used. You've got the opportunity to do some standardised assessment across, and this is where the WJEC's expertise and input will come in. And you've got the opportunity to do some moderation of some of those pieces of work. You can introduce that into the system to create more standardisation of the process as it goes through. And I think one of the problems of last year that we've been identifying is that standardisation of the outcome at the end created enormous perturbation. And that's where your problem was—in standardising the outcome, when you hadn't tried to standardise the system and the various processes that fed into the system in the first place. 

Okay. Thank you. Obviously, we've heard concerns about whether there's enough time for that, but, obviously, you've responded to that as well. I just very quickly wanted to ask you about the A-levels. As you know, the Minister has decided not to proceed with any set exams for A-levels. Have you got any concerns about how universities might look at that? They've been saying very reassuring things, but how can we be certain that they mean it?

I think you can be certain that they mean it. As you know, I'm from the university sector; this is an area I actually understand extremely well. We talked to universities about this. We talked to universities in Wales, we talked to universities in England about it, and we discussed with them what their concerns might be, and where their priorities would lie, because they are very conscious of the experiences the students coming to them are having at the moment. Certainly, the priorities of those that we spoke to were about maximising the learner time, getting them to the point where they were ready to progress with confidence into their courses, and that's where they put their priorities. 

They're also extremely used to dealing with all sorts of different qualifications. They deal on an international basis. Not every qualification comes on an examined basis; many of them come on an assessed basis. What the universities want confidence in is that that's robust. And the other thing that universities told us is that they don't want a late change of course. They want certainty now. They want to be able to know now what's going to happen so that they can adapt. I think, for them, the worst thing in 2020 was the late switching—the late changes that then created an enormous workload for them and the way that they then had to deal with that, which created all sorts of issues about admissions and delays for students, and the stress around that for those students, and the stress for the university staff, who dealt extremely professionally with it, but had to change course at such a late date. And they don't want to see that again. 

I just want to finish off on this point, because the big losers in that great change were those high-demand, high-status courses—the science, technology, engineering and maths courses, and the medicine courses. Have you had the reassurances from the universities for those particular courses that Welsh students won't be disadvantaged by the lack of a traditionally set A-level?

It is one of the areas that we explored, certainly. And if you take something like medicine, you have the various testing—independent testing—that they do with applicants to look at aptitude. And exam results, of course, are not the only thing that they take into account. They're looking at aptitude; they're looking at much more than that in their admissions. So, yes, it is something we discussed with them and had reassurance on. 

Thank you. I'm going to go to Jack Sargeant now, who first of all has got some questions around risk. Jack. 

Thank you, Chair. Good morning, Louise. Just to focus on risk firstly, both Hefin and Suzy Davies mentioned, obviously, centre-assessed grades, and fairness of the approach going forward. Can I just press you again on that? Are you confident or can you go perhaps as far as assuring this committee that the way forward of centre-assessed grades—that the level of work in Connah's Quay, for example, to gain a C, will be the same as in Ceredigion and Cardiff? And further to that, what overall assessment of any risks from the approach announced by the Minister for 2021—what is your assessment of those?

10:45

You'll have seen in our interim report that we call out the risks quite explicitly in the recommendations that we gave. Alongside those risks, we talked about the mitigating actions that needed to be taken. So, I think we have to be clear that no approach is risk free and so the importance is what you do to mitigate for those risks. We put those risks in a number of categories. We certainly looked at the issue about comparability, and this is where we feel that the standardisation issues need to come in and what I've talked about in terms of validation—standardisation and moderation needs to come in to create that comparability.

We talked about risks around fairness for certain disadvantaged groups and one of the issues there that we heard from those giving evidence to us is the risk of unconscious bias in the judgments being reached, and that's something we took very seriously. We think there is a role for training and development in this and certainly one of the things we heard from the FE colleges is some very good work that's gone on there around that that could be shared.

There is a risk too in terms of the timing, and we've talked about that—can it be delivered, the capacity, can it be delivered quickly enough? And this is about getting on with it right now in terms of the design and delivery group, which meets for the first time next week. And there's a risk there about the capacity of the system to cope with change. We went back and tested that very hard with the teachers and school leaders who talked to us about being engaged and involved in the scheme and asked them, 'Are you sure?' and the answer came, 'Yes, we're sure. We think this is such high priority, we have to be engaged with it—it's so important to our learners'. So, we called out those risks and looked at them. We're not saying that it's risk free, but neither is an exam system risk free. And I think if you went with it—if you were to have gone down the exam route, you'd also be carrying a lot of risks in that.

We were very struck by one of the things that we heard from Sir Alasdair Macdonald, who advises on pupil deprivation and achievement. One of the phrases that he used to us, which summed it up to a large extent, was that exam systems advantage the most advantaged and disadvantage the most disadvantaged. You'll see that quote in our report. And this is about, when you go back to the unevenness of learning—those who can compensate for that unevenness tend to be in the most advantaged groups, and those who can't compensate tend to be in the most disadvantaged groups. And if you then echo that in the exam system, you are amplifying those disadvantages. So, I think that is a far greater risk than any of the risks that we've called out and talked about the mitigation for, for the system that we recommended.

Okay. Thank you for that answer. Obviously, you've noted some risk there and it's still there. So, assurances perhaps—the way I'm reading it is that you're confident about this being a fair system. If I can move on to the delivery group that you mentioned in previous answers, which the review obviously recommended—the establishment of that. Will you explain to the committee what you see the role of the group or board being, who it should involve and in what ways such a board or group, whatever we want to call it, would have improved the outcomes this summer?

As you've seen from our report, this was one of our key recommendations. This is something we think has to underpin the work for the coming year. As I said, we spoke to a lot of people in the work that we've done over the last six weeks, and we were absolutely struck throughout by the professionalism and the hard work of everybody at every layer of the system who we've talked to, who were working in extreme, crisis conditions and responding with decisions and were very, very fast in doing this. And each of them was working in their own area to make the best decisions that they could make.

However, one of our reflections was—a reflection from my professional life and our professional lives, really—when you're in that kind of major change scenario, which is what you were across the summer, of having to make some very big changes, you need to bring people together who are delivering, to make sure that everything is aligned and can be done together, and that sometimes needs to step outside of the normal boundaries. You bring people together to kind of do that, and you can refer back into your decision-making and assurance route afterwards, but you need to bring them together to design together, and to spot where things might fall down the cracks, or is the communication for everybody absolutely right, is the design going to work for all groups.

So, we felt that there was something missing there in 2020, as everybody—as I say, this is not a criticism of any individual whatsoever; this was people working their socks off in major crisis conditions. But there is a need for something to bring everything together and to spot some of the risks and issues that the system that was being developed had in it, and to provide some challenge and questioning of that.

What we're suggesting with the design and delivery group now is first, the design phase, which is about bringing that expertise together to say, 'Yes, this would work. Where does the expertise already sit? What can we learn from it?' It's not about designing something completely new. I did catch Ian speaking to you earlier, talking about drawing on the expertise that they've got and the experience that they've got and I think that's enormously important. It's about having everybody there to have a shared confidence in what goes forward, and then for the delivery part, it really is about saying, 'And are we all confident this is happening? Are we all confident that this is going forward?' and keeping an eye on all the parts coming together as a whole in delivering that changed system.

10:50

Thank you. And finally, Chair, if I may, you mentioned then about bringing everyone together and this isn't about a certain individual group and so on. Can I just ask you for your assessment on how the group would impact Qualifications Wales as the independent qualifications regulator here in Wales?

Qualifications Wales has this role to ensure that the qualifications stand up to scrutiny and everything else. And they are sitting, as I understand—and I haven't got the details of the group; that hasn't been shared with us. We made the recommendations and I've seen the announcement, but I haven't seen the working process of the group. So, I understand that there will be observers on the group and I think that's proper, in terms of where they are in the system, and where their legal responsibilities lie. But I'm sure they will also engage in the group. They're not simply going to sit as observers and not engage, and their engagement, and helping the group understand what works and what doesn't, will be really important in moving that forward.

Diolch yn fawr. Bore da, a diolch yn fawr i chi am eich adroddiad cynhwysfawr. A gaf i jest bigo i fyny ar gwpwl o bethau o'r atebion diwethaf yna? Mae'ch adroddiad chi yn sôn am fwrdd cyflawni ac mae'r Gweinidog yn sôn am grŵp dylunio a delifro. Ydych chi'n credu eu bod nhw yr un peth, i bob pwrpas; hynny yw, yn tynnu pobl at ei gilydd i wneud y penderfyniadau? Ac ydych chi'n credu bod hynny wedi bod yn un o'r problemau sylfaenol yn ystod y broses yr haf diwethaf, sef bod y broses gwneud penderfyniadau ddim wedi bod yn ddigon clir, a bod angen eglurder wrth symud ymlaen o ran lle yn union mae cyfrifoldeb polisi yn gorwedd, a lle yn union mae cyfrifoldeb y delifro? A fyddwch chi'n rhoi sylw i hyn yn eich adroddiad terfynol chi, fel bod yna wersi i'w dysgu ynglŷn a hynny?

Thank you very much. Good morning and thank you very much for your comprehensive report. May I just pick up on a few issues from the previous responses? Your report talks about a delivery board and the Minister talks about a design and delivery group. Do you think that they are one and the same, to all intents and purposes; namely, bringing people together to make the relevant decisions? And do you believe that that has been one of the fundamental problems during the process for the previous summer; namely, that the process of making decisions hasn't been sufficiently clear, and that there is a need for clarity in moving forward with regard to where exactly policy responsibility lies, and where delivery responsibility lies? Will you be giving this due attention in your final report, so that there are lessons to be learnt in that regard?

Okay. I'll break that down a bit. There was quite a lot in there. Is the design and delivery advisory group the same as the board that we recommended? It's not quite the same, but it has had further thought and consideration given to it in relation to the governance roles of the various parties and how they play in, and I think that's quite appropriate. But it is close enough to what we recommended for us to feel comfortable that here is a board that can really bring people together and design and test the impact of decisions together. The decisions on that and how that will play out—I would sincerely hope that, as Philip Blaker said earlier, it becomes a collective decision that the board, then—the Qualifications Wales board—has confidence in because of the role that has been played. But, that is the way that we were proposing it: that what's needed is that collective confidence in how things move forward.

Sorry, the last part of your question was about—.

10:55

I was asking whether your final report will, actually, address some of the problems that—. I gather that the need for a delivery board is because the process wasn't clear last time and that the responsibilities need to be clearer. So, will your final report be helping us to address some of those problems, going forward?

Yes, sorry. Yes, one of the things we will be reporting on in our final report is these issues about decision making and flow of information between places, and the context of that as well. I do stress that we recognise the context in which people were working, but we have to take lessons from that about where we then go into 2021.

One of the big strands around this in our report will be about communication, and communication with the different audiences that not only have an interest in what's happening, but are impacted by what's happening and who have to implement what's happening. Each of them needs to understand the basis for it, and I think the earlier people are involved in that decision making—part of what the design and delivery board is about is getting that earlier involvement and understanding—the more they will feel invested in the solution. So, what we were looking for was something that was done with the sector, because, certainly, what we heard last year was the sector feeling it was done to them and they weren't able to input as much as they would have wished. 

Wrth gwrs, mae yna feirniadaeth wedi bod nad ydy llais y dysgwr a llais y bobl ifanc, nad oedd hynny ddim yn cael ei glywed yn ddigonol. A fyddwch chi'n trafod hynny, hefyd, yn eich adroddiad terfynol chi a ffyrdd o wella hynny i'r dyfodol?

Of course, there has been criticism that the voice of the learner and the voice of young people, that that voice wasn't heard adequately. Will you be discussing that, too, in your report and ways of improving that in future?

Yes, we have already mentioned that in the interim report, as you picked out, that we feel that there is an opportunity to involve the young people at a much earlier stage in all of this and to listen to their concerns, and to listen to their ideas as well. We've had what I have to say was the absolute pleasure of having met with various young people in the course of our work. The quality of the input we have had from those young people has been outstanding.

We had a brilliant session with the Youth Parliament, and I think the Youth Parliament could really contribute and have a role to play here. We have heard such thoughtful contributions from school pupils and college students across Wales. Those contributions, I have to say, were so fair and balanced; they were so considerate of the whole of their year group and the whole of their contemporaries; they were not fixed on their personal positions. We were knocked out by it, let me say. They gave us some really brilliant contributions and I think they need to be listened to—it's really important.

Rwy'n cytuno'n llwyr â chi ar hynny. Yn olaf gen i, Gadeirydd, yn edrych ymlaen at y dyfodol rŵan, mae'r drafodaeth yn fyw iawn, erbyn hyn, o gwmpas asesiadau, arholiadau, aseiniadau—yr holl faes asesu wedi dod o dan y chwyddwydr yn sgil COVID—ond, mae yna hefyd gyfleon i greu systemau newydd drwy'r cwricwlwm newydd a'r angen i ymateb i'r dulliau dysgu a fydd yn y cwricwlwm newydd. Ble ydyn ni'n mynd i fod pum mlynedd o rŵan, ydych chi'n credu? A fydd y drafodaeth wedi'n symud ni ymlaen, ynteu a fyddwn ni'n dal i drafod?

I agree entirely with you in that regard. Finally from me, Chair, looking to the future now, the discussion is a very live one around assessment, examinations, assignments—all of this issue of assessment has come under the magnifying glass as a result of COVID—but, there are opportunities to create some new systems through the new curriculum and the need to respond to the learning methods that will be in that new curriculum. Where are we going to be five years from now, do you believe? Will the discussion have moved us forward or will we still be debating this?

Oh, I haven't got that crystal ball, but let's hope we have moved forward. I think this does give us an opportunity to really think about how assessment works for our young people and how that would work in the context of the new Curriculum for Wales. I think there really are opportunities to shift our thinking. As you say, there's a lot of debate going on out there and a lot of research going on about what the best outcomes are, and I think one of the things we're proving in Wales is our willingness to be innovative and our willingness to listen to the research and bring the evidence base into the steps that we take and the decisions that we make as a whole. So, what I hope we will take out of 2021 is that open mind around what might be possible and what would work best for our young people, and what the research and evidence might show us for the future. So, times of crisis actually sometimes offer you opportunities and we need to take those opportunities that are offered to learn and to move forward. So, no crystal ball, but I hope it doesn't look the same in five years' time or we will have wasted an opportunity to learn.

11:00

Diolch yn fawr, a gobeithio y medrwn ni eich cael chi nôl pan fydd yr adroddiad terfynol yn barod, neu o leiaf ein bod ni'n cael cyfle i drafod rhai o'r canfyddiadau o hwnnw hefyd, Gadeirydd. Diolch yn fawr.

Thank you very much, and hopefully we can get you back when the final report is ready, or at least that we have an opportunity to discuss some of the findings in that report, Chair. Thank you.

Okay, well, we've come to the end of our questions, so can I thank you, Louise, for attending this morning and for answering all our questions? This is your first appearance before the committee, so just to say that we will send you a transcript to check for accuracy following the meeting. Thank you again for your time this morning. Diolch yn fawr.

Diolch yn fawr, pawb.

Thank you, everyone.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:01 a 11:22.

The meeting adjourned between 11:01 and 11:22.

11:20
4. Sesiwn dystiolaeth ar effaith Covid-19 ar addysgu a dysgu o bell, ac ar arholiadau ac asesiadau gyda chynrychiolwyr y sector addysg
4. Evidence session on the impact of COVID-19 on remote teaching and learning, and exams & assessments with representatives from the education sector

Can I welcome everybody back to the Children, Young People and Education Committee for our third evidence session of the morning? I'm very pleased to welcome Guy Lacey, who is chief executive officer at Coleg Gwent and vice-chair of ColegauCymru; Kay Martin, who is the principal at Cardiff and Vale College, and chair of the ColegauCymru curriculum and quality group; Meinir Ebbsworth, chief education officer and corporate lead officer, schools and culture at Ceredigion council, and here today representing the Association of Directors of Education; Mike Tate, assistant director of education and lifelong learning at Cardiff council, also representing the Association of Directors of Education; Councillor Ian Roberts, leader of the council and cabinet member for education at Flintshire County Council, and education spokesperson for the Welsh Local Government Association; and Arwyn Thomas, managing director of GwE, representing all the regional education consortia. Thank you all for joining us this morning. We've got lots to cover, so we'll go straight into questions from Jack Sargeant.

Diolch, Chair, and bore da, pawb. It's good to see you all, and in particular my own leader of the council. Good morning. Can I ask the witnesses, what are their views on the Minister's announcements on the way forward for assessments for summer 2021, and to what extent they believe the way forward announced is deliverable in a way that is fair to learners and maintains the integrity of the qualifications system?

Perhaps, if I could take that, madam chair. As WLGA spokesperson for education, I have held meetings of 22 cabinet members from across Wales with the education Minister, with Ian Morgan from the WJEC, and with Phillip Blaker. I would say that there is a very warm welcome for the Minister's announcement, and in particular because it puts the young people who have suffered the most in this at the heart of the process. It recognises the challenges and puts the young people at the heart of the process. I was a teacher for many years, and I'm also very pleased that it recognises the professional role that teachers have to play in the examination system, or in the qualifications system. I shouldn't call it the examination system really. The system is something that should recognise the achievements of the young people and needs to adapt, as our schools have done throughout this crisis, to the fact that we still need qualifications, but need to adapt to the needs of the pupil through changing circumstances. So, in fact, yesterday, GwE, which is the education consortium for north Wales, met, and are in the process of preparing a letter of thanks to the Minister from the six local authorities in north Wales, for her decision, saying that,

'This gives the best opportunity to demonstrate a student's ability regardless of how COVID has affected them during the year. It's taken significant pressure off the shoulders of learners, teachers and school leaders.'

Yes, we can't pretend that the way ahead may not be difficult; there will be issues now, which GwE have certainly offered to work on, and WJEC and local government will play its part in it as well, in how we actually achieve this now, but I think a resounding, 'Thank you, Minister' from the WLGA.

11:25

If I could, just briefly, just to say that, in the independent review, learners across the FE sector were spoken to by the people, and this was the result that they wanted too. So, while there is never going to be universal agreement for whatever decision the Minister made, it is generally welcomed, and now we must work together to make sure it is deliverable in the timescales, and we deliver what is best for the learners in Wales.

Thank you, Chair. I was going to say something very similar to what Kay has just said. It is warmly welcomed. I think, as Kay has said, for young people within the FE sector, this was their preferred way forward. So, we absolutely welcome it and we're ready to work with the design and delivery advisory group to ensure that the implementation is effective, which, I think, is the next key step in the process.

Thank you, Chair, and thank you for those answers. Everyone seems to be singing from the same hymn sheet there, but also recognising the challenges that we still face. One particular question I have, finally, is on vocational qualifications, and it's something that's come into my inbox following the announcement of the Minister. Can I ask the witnesses, and perhaps ColegauCymru, really: do you have any concerns about the impact on vocational qualifications going ahead?

Thank you. Yes. The short answer is, 'Yes, we do.' I think Kay is probably better placed to answer this than me, given that she chairs our curriculum quality group, but the short answer is 'yes'. I think the top-level issue here is that so many vocational qualifications that are delivered in Wales are not regulated in Wales, and that is a key part of our concerns, but I suggest Kay says a few words.

Okay, absolutely, Guy. We work with about 40 awarding organisations that operate right across the United Kingdom, so are governed by the three-nations agreements, and so, we have to wait, with each of those awarding bodies, to work with them to see what changes they will make. But we don't have control of that in Wales, so there will be different ones. So, we are now working with those and we've got many of those already agreed, if you like, across Wales. But there are challenges there because there are still examinations in January for many of the Pearson courses, and we still have many learners in Wales who, you know, are still completing qualifications from last year. So, the big challenge is the large number of learners on vocational qualifications and working with so many awarding bodies. So, we are working with each one of them, and each one of them has a different solution, so it is a challenging situation.

Thank you. We've got some questions now on continuity of learning, starting with Laura.

Thank you, Chair. Welcome, everyone. Nice to see you all here today. Given the ongoing nature of the pandemic and continued disruption of learning—the challenges, obviously, of the home and blended learning is something that I experience as a mother of a 10-year-old—how has the education sector been able to implement any lessons learned from the March lockdown?

Os caf i ddod mewn fanna. Dwi'n credu bod ein hysgolion ni wedi ymateb yn arbennig i'r her oedd o'u blaenau nhw bryd hynny, ond rwy'n credu beth ŷn ni wedi ei weld wrth fod y cyfnod yn mynd ymlaen yw datblygiadau sylweddol iawn ers y cyfnod clo cychwynnol hwnnw. Mae hyder a sgiliau'r gweithlu a'r disgyblion eu hunain wedi bod yn arwyddocaol ers mis Mawrth, ac rwy'n credu bod rhai o'r pethau oedd yn heriau inni nôl ym mis Mawrth, er enghraifft, sut i sicrhau datblygiad llefaredd disgyblion, sut i roi adborth ystyrlon i ddisgyblion, mae'r elfennau hynny wedi datblygu'n sylweddol iawn mewn cyfnod byr. Ond rwyf i'n credu ei fod e'n briodol inni dalu, mewn gwirionedd, ein diolch ni a'n balchder ni i'r gweithlu am y ffordd llawn egni, llawn dychymyg maen nhw wedi ymateb i'r heriau oedd o'u blaenau nhw.

Ond yn sicr, beth mae'r cyfnod wedi ei roi inni yw cyfnod o dreialu, cyfnod o arfarnu, ac yn hynny i gyd, mae yna newidiadau a datblygiadau wedi digwydd. Penllanw hynny, efallai, oedd yr wythnos wythnos diwethaf ble oedd gweithgareddau dysgu byw, dysgu cydamserol—y cynnydd yn y maes hwnnw wedi bod yn aruthrol ym mhrofiadau dysgu blynyddoedd 9 i 13, oedd yn amlwg ddim ar gampws ysgolion wythnos ddiwethaf. Felly, mae yna gynllunio gofalus iawn wedi bod, ond mae yna ddatblygiadau aruthrol wedi bod yn y maes, sy'n ein camu ni'n hyderus iawn tuag at Gwricwlwm i Gymru maes o law. Mae wedi bod yn sail gadarn iawn, y datblygiadau hynny.

If I could come in there. I think that our schools have responded excellently to the challenge that faced them at that time, but I think what we've seen as the period has gone on is very significant developments since the initial lockdown. The confidence and skills of the workforce and the pupils themselves have been significant since March, and I think that some of the things that were challenges for us back in March, for example, developing the oral skills of pupils, how to give them meaningful feedback, those elements have developed very significantly in a short period of time. I think it's appropriate for us to thank the workforce for the energetic, imaginative way they've responded to the challenges in front of them.

But what the period has given us is a period of trialling and evaluation, and as a result of that, there have been changes and developments that have happened. The endpoint of that, perhaps, was the week last week where live learning activities and synchronous activities had been seen, with a significant increase in that area in the learning experiences of years 9 to 13, who obviously weren't on school campuses last week. So, there has been very careful planning, but there are significant developments that have happened in this field that do lead us confidently towards the Curriculum for Wales in due course. So, those developments have been a positive foundation.

11:30

Gaf i ategu, Gadeirydd, beth oedd Meinir yn ei ddweud yn fanna hefyd? Mae'n debyg, petasen ni'n edrych yn ôl i fis Mawrth a phe byddai rhywun wedi rhagweld y bydden ni'n dal newydd ddod allan o ail gyfnod clo ym mis Tachwedd, byddai hi wedi bod yn beth anodd iawn i bobl i'w gymryd yn ddifrifol, mae'n debyg, a'n bod ni'n debygol o ddal i fod yma am gyfnod estynedig eto. Beth ydyn ni wedi ei weld, mae'n debyg, drwy'r cyfnod ydy, erbyn hyn, mae ysgolion yn edrych yn llawer iawn mwy strategol ar y dysgu cyfunol, dysgu o bell, ac mae o'n rhan bellach o'r arfogaeth sydd ganddyn nhw ar gyfer cynllunio ar gyfer unrhyw senario sydd yn dod o'u blaenau nhw yn y cyfnod anodd yma.

Rydw i'n meddwl bod y dysgu mae'r proffesiwn wedi mynd trwyddo wedi bod yn sylweddol yn y cyfnod yma. Mae'r trafodaethau o ran sgiliau digidol staff a disgyblion wedi symud ymlaen yn sylweddol yn y cyfnod yma. Mae yna drafodaethau o gwmpas beth ydy'r dulliau mwyaf addas ar gyfer dysgu ac addysgu. Mae'r rheini wedi bod yn allweddol, ac rydw i'n meddwl bod yr arweinyddiaeth o fewn yr ysgolion, fel oedd Meinir yn ei ddweud, wedi bod yn allweddol yn y cyfnod yma hefyd.

Rydw i'n meddwl hefyd ei fod o wedi gwneud i ni fel gwasanaethau cefnogi newid ein dulliau ni o weithio hefyd, y rhaglenni sydd i fod yn cefnogi'r proffesiwn o ran yr athrawon a'u sgiliau digidol, ond hefyd beth sy'n dod yn allweddol ydy'r cydweithio sydd wedi bod ar draws asiantaethau yn y cyfnod yma, mae'n debyg am y tro cyntaf yn hanes Cymru, fod Estyn, yr awdurdodau a'r rhanbarthau wedi dod at ei gilydd i edrych allan yn rhyngwladol yn y lle cyntaf, ond wedyn i dynnu canllawiau at ei gilydd i roi cyngor i ysgolion ar ddysgu cyfunol, dysgu o bell, a hefyd wedyn rhoi esiamplau i ysgolion fedru defnyddio'r rheini. Beth rydyn ni wedi ei weld fel ffrwyth llafur hynny ydy'r esblygiad i ddysgu sydd yn gynyddol yn fwy cyffrous ac yn ategu'r pwynt bod yna lwyfan a seiliau cadarn wrth inni edrych yn ein blaenau ein bod ni wedi symud, ac mae'n debyg ar gyflymder aruthrol, i fod yn llawer iawn mwy parod i wynebu heriau Cwricwlwm i Gymru wrth inni symud yn ein blaenau.

May I echo, Chair, what Meinir said there? If we were to look back to March, if one would have foreseen that we would have just come out of a second lockdown in November, it would have been very difficult for people to comprehend that or even to take it seriously, and that we're likely to be in this position for an extended period again. But what we've seen, throughout the period, by now is that schools are looking far more strategically at distance learning and blended learning, and it's part now of the tools that they have to plan for any scenario that faces them in this current difficult situation.

I think that the learning that the profession has gone through has been significant in this period. The discussions in terms of digital skills of staff and pupils have moved forward significantly. There have been discussions around what the most appropriate methods are for learning and teaching. They've been vital, and I think that the leadership within schools, as Meinir said, has been vital in this past period.

I think, too, it's made us as support services change our methods of working as well. There have been programmes that have supported the profession in terms of teachers and their digital skills, but also what's been vital is the collaboration that there has been between agencies during this period. For the first time in the history of Wales, the authorities, the regions and Estyn have come together to look internationally, initially, and they've put guidance together to advise schools on blended learning and distance learning, and they've provided examples for schools to be able to use. What we've seen as the fruit of that labour is the evolution of learning that is increasingly more interesting and exciting, reiterating the point that there are firm foundations as we look ahead, that we've moved at great speed to be far more prepared to face the challenges of the Curriculum for Wales as we move forward.

Can I add to that, really? I think what both Meinir and Arwyn have talked about is a real opportunity, and the opportunities that have come from this period, and they very much talked about the pedagogical response to this, and how that's developed, in terms of the progress that's made in a very short period of time. I think what it's also allowed support services, local authorities and Welsh Government to do is to really get upstream in terms of ensuring that the majority of our families are prepared for a different approach to learning in terms of the hardware and the connectivity around that. But it's also ensured that we're aware of that as a particular issue and we can address it, and local authorities are addressing it through the resources from Welsh Government to ensure that those pupils from backgrounds where there are elements of digital deprivation have got the appropriate and necessary resources to allow them to develop as they go further. I think, really, what we have to look at—and really this goes back to what Arwyn was saying—are the opportunities that we've had over the last six months really wouldn't have been enabled to the teaching profession, and we've seen huge impacts in terms of the differences and the changes to pedagogy, more so, I think, than we've seen for the last 30 years.

11:35

Could I just possibly come in to agree there with what Mike has said? I think the issues of digital exclusion early on, and the resources that came from Welsh Government to provide schools with additional laptops and devices to loan out to students, were really key in all of this. The inclusion agenda has been quite clear.

There is an issue where a family's only connection, or a home's only connection, to the internet may be through a mobile device. There is an issue there of data, and I know, as far as my authority is concerned, we did lend out some dongles to students so that they could access the lessons. But I do think, as spokesperson for education, I must pay tribute to staff in schools for the fantastic work that they've undertaken, and the speed at which they've undertaken it. Mind you, I suppose we've all got used to remote computer meetings during this time, and how to use various systems, but the staff in school need recognition for the fantastic work they've done on a number of fronts.

Okay, thank you. Guy, okay? Do you either of you want to come in from an FE perspective?

I was going to say from an FE perspective, I think we were well placed in March to continue learning, which we did, because of the connectivity and the staff development, the continual professional development that had gone on beforehand, and the work with learners as well. Obviously then we learned that, in September, we needed to get the new learners ready for online learning very quickly, and make sure the inclusion issues that were mentioned were dealt with. But obviously, the vast majority of our learners couldn't complete their qualifications online, and they've had to come into college since August to complete their competency based qualifications in engineering, carpentry, hospitality, health and social care, et cetera. So, they weren't able to be awarded their qualifications until much later.

Yes, thank you for those answers. I think it's clear to us all, in that first lockdown, there were different experiences across schools and colleges, even classrooms. But we've come an awful long way in that time. As you say, everyone's had to get up to speed very quickly with their digital skills, and it's been impressive, the speed at which that's happened, actually. There were issues, as Mr Tate and Mr Roberts outlined, on computers and things being available for children. Now, I think that's pretty much sorted, but there are still internet issues. We're in Wales, and this happens, doesn't it? It needs to be sorted pretty quickly. But to what extent are schools and colleges able to ensure that there is continuity, fairness and consistency across the board with this new way of learning, for all learners? How have learners with additional learning needs been supported in this way?

Dwi'n credu eto, o ran ymdrechion ysgolion i sicrhau'r equity o fynediad yna, mae hynny wedi bod yn rhywbeth sydd wedi bod, yn sicr, yn flaenllaw iawn o ran y cynnig lles a'r cynnig cynnydd academaidd. Yn amlwg, mae'r ddau beth wedi mynd ochr yn ochr yn ystod y cyfnod yma. Ond o ran profiadau disgyblion, yn sicr, mi oedd y profiadau hynny yn fwy amrywiol ar gychwyn y cyfnod clo, ond mae cynnig mwy cyffredin, mwy cyson, yn sicr, wedi datblygu dros gyfnod o amser. Eto, roeddem ni mewn man gwahanol iawn, iawn yn Ebrill, Mai o ran dysgu cydamserol, dysgu byw, nag oeddem ni ym mis Medi ac wythnos diwethaf, yn sicr iawn. Felly, mae hynny, dwi'n credu, wedi sicrhau mwy o gysondeb.

O ran disgyblion gydag anghenion penodol, heb amheuaeth, mae rhai o'r pethau greddfol hynny mae athrawon yn medru gwneud yn y dosbarth pan fyddan nhw wyneb yn wyneb gyda disgyblion, y subtleties hynny sydd y tu ôl i bob addysgu arbennig, mae’r rheini yn dueddol o fynd ar goll ar-lein. Mae’r pethau yna ynglŷn ag annogaeth, iaith y corff, cymhelliant tawel bach a chyson, mae hynny'n llawer mwy anodd. Rydyn ni wedi gweld pobl yn defnyddio pob math o amrywiaethau i geisio goresgyn hynny o ran y ffordd y mae chat o ran plenaries ar ddiwedd gwersi yn unigol a gyda grwpiau o blant, ac yn y blaen, wedi digwydd wedi bod yn effeithiol iawn.

Ar lefelau ychydig yn fwy cymhleth, rydyn ni wedi gweld llwyddiannau mawr mewn pethau megis therapi lleferydd yn cael ei gynnal dros Teams, a sicrhau bod ymyrraethau llythrennedd a rhifedd wedi parhau er mwyn sicrhau bod yr ymdrechion rhesymol hynny i gwrdd ag anghenion pob plentyn wedi cael eu cyflawni. Ond, yn sicr, dwi’n cydnabod dyw hynny ddim wedi bod heb ei heriau a heb waith aruthrol o ran y proffesiwn.

Again, in terms of the efforts of schools to ensure that equity of access, that has been something that has certainly been a priority in terms of the welfare offer and the academic progression offer. The two things have gone hand in hand during this period. But in terms of the experiences of pupils, certainly those experiences were more varied at the beginning of the lockdown, but a more general offer, more consistent offer has developed over a period of time. Again, we were in a very different position in April and May in terms of blended and live learning compared to September, or last week, certainly. So, I think that has ensured greater consistency.

In terms of pupils with specific needs, without a doubt, some of those instinctive things that teachers can do in the classroom when they are face to face with the pupils, those subtleties behind all particular education and learning, those things tend to go missing online. In terms of body language, encouragement, that consistent, quiet encouragement, that’s more difficult online. But I’ve seen people trying to overcome that in several ways in terms of chat, in terms of plenaries at the end of lessons, individually and with groups of pupils, and those things have been very effective.

On a more complex level, we’ve seen great successes in terms of oracy and language therapy over Teams, to ensure that those literacy and numeracy interventions have continued, to ensure that those reasonable attempts to meet pupils' needs have been achieved, but we do acknowledge that that hasn't been without its challenges and without a great deal of work from the profession. 

11:40

Dwi’n meddwl hefyd fod y parodrwydd—y cwestiwn o gysondeb roeddech chi’n ei holi yn y cwestiwn—dwi’n meddwl bod parodrwydd ysgolion i rannu adnoddau wedi esblygu ac wedi symud yn sydyn iawn, iawn, iawn. Beth sydd wedi bod yn nodweddiadol iawn yn y cyfnod clo yma, yn y cyfnod anodd rydyn ni’n byw ynddo fo, ydy parodrwydd asiantaethau a pharodrwydd pobl i rannu’r broblem ond i rannu’r datrysiad hefyd. A phan fyddwn ni’n gweld arfer da, un o’r pethau rydyn ni’n gallu ei wneud yn naturiol wedyn ydy hwyluso’r trafodaethau yna i rannu’r arfer da ymysg ein gilydd. Ond beth mae’r math yma o gyfrwng yn ei wneud ydy ein bod ni’n gallu’i rannu fo hefyd i bob ran o Gymru yn sydyn iawn, iawn, iawn drwy'r cydweithio sydd yn digwydd. Mae hynny wedi bod yn fanteisiol.

Dwi’n meddwl eich bod chi’n iawn i godi’r cwestiwn am ddisgyblion efo anghenion dysgu ychwanegol. Dydy’r cyfrwng yma, fel roedd Meinir yn disgrifio, ddim yr un mwyaf hylaw i wneud y dysgu yna—nid bod yr athro ddim yn ei gefnogi, ond yn aml iawn mewn ystafell ddosbarth pan fydd y dysgu wyneb i wyneb, mae’r gefnogaeth yna yn gallu bod yn un sy’n amlwg ond dim ond yn amlwg i’r disgybl penodol yna. Felly, mae tynnu sylw at anhawster dros y math yma o gyfrwng, nid dyna’r steil naturiol o gefnogi’r math yna o ddysgwyr. Rydyn ni’n ymwybodol hefyd fod sesiynau unigol. Mae’r gwaith bugeiliol wedi gwella’n sylweddol hefyd, yn ogystal, trwy wneud yn siŵr, os dydy pobl ddim yn y wers rithiol—mae yna gyswllt cynt—fod yna gyswllt ar ôl, ac rydyn ni’n gwybod am enghreifftiau o ysgolion sydd yn dilyn i fyny i garreg y drws i wneud yn siŵr bod y disgyblion yna’n iawn hefyd.

I also think that, in terms of the consistency that you asked about in your question, the ability of schools to share resources and their willingness to do that, that has evolved and has moved very quickly. What has been characteristic over the lockdown, this difficult period that we've faced, is the willingness of agencies and the willingness of individual people to share the problems but also to share the solutions. And when we see good practice, one of the things that we can do is to facilitate the discussions, or to share that good practice amongst ourselves. And what this kind of medium allows us to do is share it to all parts of Wales very quickly through the collaboration that does take place. And that has been advantageous. 

I think that you're right to raise the question of pupils with additional learning needs. This medium, as Meinir described, isn't the most easy to use to facilitate that learning. It's not that the teacher doesn't support that learning, but in a classroom, when you're teaching face to face, that support can be provided in an obvious way, but only obvious to that pupil. But if we do it over this kind of medium, it draws attention to that support, which isn't the natural way in which we would support those learners. And we're aware that there are individual teaching sessions. Pastoral work has improved significantly to ensure that, if people aren't in the virtual lesson, then there is contact made afterwards. And we know examples of schools that follow up to the doorstep to ensure that the particular pupil is okay. 

Yes, I think that the learners with additional learning needs, particularly those with severe learning difficulties, were clearly the ones most affected, because learning online for them depends a lot on the ability of their parents or carers to support them. And while support mechanisms were put in place that I’m aware of in schools and colleges, it was difficult to get full engagement with some of those learners, whatever efforts were tried, because of the ability of their parents and carers.

Yes, that’s something I was concerned about, and that was in my inbox. Several of the people I spoke to, that’s what they were concerned about, because there was a heavy reliance on parents who weren’t used to dealing with that situation. Thanks very much for those. Thanks, Chair.

Thank you. We’ve got some questions now from Hefin David.

Yes, I just wanted to make sure that this has been answered. There was a suggestion that there should be a minimum offer for learners who are required to study from home—for example, a guaranteed personal contact. Do you feel that that’s appropriate, and how do you respond to the deliverability of that?

Ie. Dwi’n meddwl, o ran y cwestiwn o gysondeb, tegwch, equity i bob disgybl, mae’r cysyniad o isafswm disgwyliad yn un da. Rydyn ni’n ymwybodol bod yna nifer o ysgolion yn sicrhau, fel y gwnes i gyfeirio ato yn yr ateb blaenorol, fod yna gyswllt cyson wedi bod yn digwydd efo cartrefi. Mae technoleg ysgolion wedi esblygu'n sylweddol hefyd yn cyfnod yma o ran eu dulliau o gyfathrebu, ac maen nhw'n gallu cyfathrebu yn unigol efo disgyblion. Yn fras iawn, mae gennych chi'r garfan anghenion dysgu dwys, yn yr ateb blaenorol, ac hefyd, mae gennych chi'r rhai sydd yn heriol eu hymddygiad yn naturiol, ac mae eisiau cynnwys y rheini yn eu haddysg wrth fynd ymlaen a'u cael nhw i ymgysylltu'n naturiol drwy'r cyfrwng. Ac mae'n debyg bod yna garfannau penodol o ddisgyblion dŷn ni'n dechrau adnabod sydd yn cynnig mwy o her drwy'r ymgysylltu, beth bynnag ydy'r cynnig sylfaenol mae ysgolion yn eu rhoi ar eu cyfer nhw.

Ond o ran y pwynt roedd Meinir yn ei wneud yn gynharach, mae'r dulliau asesu a'r adborth mwy soffistigedig sydd wedi esblygu yn y cyfnod diweddar yma yn gwneud y dysgu yma'n fwy personol nag oedd o ar ddechrau'r cyfnod clo. 

Yes. I think in terms of the question of consistency, fairness and equity for all pupils, the concept of a minimum expectation is a good one. We are aware that there are a number of schools that ensure, as I referred in my previous answer, that there is consistent contact made with homes. The technology in schools has evolved significantly over the recent period in terms of methods of communication, and they can communicate individually with pupils. In very general terms, you have the cohort with intensive learning needs, as in the previous question, and you also have those who are challenging in terms of their behaviour, and they need to be included in their education, going forward, and to get them to engage naturally through this medium. And there are specific cohorts of pupils that we're starting to identify as providing different challenges in terms of the basic offer that schools have put in place.

But on the point that Meinir made earlier, the more sophisticated assessment and feedback methods that have evolved over the recent period make this learning and teaching more personalised than it was at the beginning of the lockdown. 

11:45

Can I follow up on that? I think it's about contextualising the offer as well. As Arwyn said, over the time, we've been able to really focus down on individuals. And whilst there is now a lot more guidance, and a lot more guidance in terms of what that offer should look like, it's ensuring that appropriateness of that to the age of learner, to where they are, to the engagement and to how best the individual learns really is taken into consideration as well. And I think, throughout this process, we've had the opportunity to make those contacts, to develop that one-to-one approach and to really look at our learners. But whilst we all now have a sort of minimum expectation of what learning should look like across Wales, it's really important that we look at how we contextualise that for a school, an area, et cetera, very much like how we're interpreting the curriculum in these areas as well. 

Hefin, before you come in, can I ask a question? Arwyn, you've said a couple of times that you're aware of schools doing particular things that are good practice. What's the role of the consortia and, indeed, the local education authority when you're aware of schools that aren't doing those proactive things, and to what extent are you systematically monitoring that? I saw the Education Achievement Service report on remote learning that was published in the summer, and it was very headline stuff, I thought, really. So, how can we be assured as a committee that you're really going to drill down in those schools where maybe children are getting a lesser offer?

Dwi'n meddwl, os ydych chi'n edrych ar draws y 22 awdurdod a'r pedwar rhanbarth, fod yna lot fawr o rannu gwybodaeth am ysgolion a sut mae ysgolion yn gallu ymgysylltu. Os ydy o i wneud efo'r isadeiledd digidol ydy un o'r cwestiynau. Wedyn, y cwestiwn dŷch chi'n cyfeirio ato fo yn fan hyn ydy ansawdd y cynnig maen nhw'n ei roi i ddisgyblion. Dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni wedi bod mewn cyswllt cyson efo pob ysgol drwy'r cyfnod yma. Roedden nhw'n gysylltiadau bugeiliol reit ar y dechrau, ond rŵan maen nhw'n gysylltiadau sydd yn edrych ar ansawdd y cynnig sy'n cael ei roi. 

Yn gyffredin, dwi'n meddwl, ac yn fwy cyffredin, dŷn ni'n tynnu ysgolion at ei gilydd i weithio mewn clystyrau a thriawdau, i rannu'r arfer yma ar draws ysgolion ac i ofyn y cwestiynau dŷch chi'n eu gofyn—os ydy hwn yn arfer da, sut allwn ni ei ddefnyddio fo mewn ysgolion eraill? Dwi'n meddwl, am fod pethau'n symud mor gyflym, mae'n debyg mai'r un ateb ydyw ag i gwestiwn y gwnaeth Jack Sargeant ei ofyn ar y dechrau, sef yr her sy'n ein hwynebu ni wrth fynd yn ein blaenau ar gyfer yr arholiadau ydy'r un her sy'n wynebu gweddill y proffesiwn yn darparu ar gyfer disgyblion ar hyn o bryd—yr angen i symud yn sydyn, dysgu yn gyflym a bod yn barod i rannu'r arferion sy'n gweithio ymysg ei gilydd. Un, dŷn ni'n rhannu, a, dau, dŷn ni'n cael y trafodaethau yma ar lefel ysgol unigol i wneud yn siŵr bod yr arferion gorau yn cael eu meithrin gymaint ag sy'n bosib. 

I think, when you look across the 22 authorities and the four regions, there is a great deal of sharing of information about schools and how schools can engage. If it's to do with the digital infrastructure, that's one of the questions, and then the question that you refer to in this regard is the quality of the offer that they provide to pupils. I think that we've been in consistent contact with all schools during the past period. They were pastoral connections at the beginning, but now they're connections that look at the quality of the offer that is made. 

In general terms, and more generally now, we draw schools together to work in clusters and to share this good practice across schools, and to ask the question that you posed, which is that if this is good practice, how can we apply it in different schools? I think that, as things are moving so quickly, it's the same answer to the question that Jack Sargeant asked at the beginning, namely that the challenge that faces us in going forward in relation to exams is the same challenge that faces the profession in providing for pupils at the moment—the need to move at pace, to learn at pace and to share the practices that work. So, we share, but we also have these discussions on an individual school level to ensure that best practice is being adopted as much as possible.

I think this is an absolutely fundamental question, because it's fundamental in terms of our change in thinking of what is school improvement. I think we're now, with KPIs and the delivery of exam results, in a very different place. We now need to be looking at fundamentally what schools are and how schools are doing. And this is certainly one of the parts, in terms of our improvement partners and the principal improvement partners, that is about having that dialogue with schools. And whilst we're on that learning journey in terms of the development of pedagogy, we're also on a learning journey in terms of how we assess how schools are doing, and it's looking then at all of these different things: well-being, the impact of learning, the delivery of learning, going back to the last question on the minimum offer—all of these things, I think, are starting that conversation, and this is a really important conversation to be had because now we're actually talking about teaching and learning. So, I think this is absolutely fundamental to us, going forward.

11:50

A all dysgwr gael mynediad hawdd i wersi byw gartref?

Can pupils access lessons at home easily?

Is it possible to repeat the question? Hefin broke up; I couldn't hear the whole question. If it's possible please.

A all dysgwr—

Can a learner—?

Hang on a minute. I've got my—. Wait a second. There we go. Let's try again.

A all dysgwr cael mynediad hawdd i wersi byw gartref?

Can a learner easily access live lessons at home?

Os ydw i wedi deall y cwestiwn yn iawn, dwi'n meddwl bod y mynediad i ddysgu byw yn rhywbeth sydd wedi cynyddu'n sylweddol yn y cyfnod diweddar yma. Felly, i fynd yn ôl reit i ddechrau'r cyfnod clo unwaith eto, mi oedd yn gysyniad newydd i'r rhan fwyaf o ysgolion, buaswn i'n ei ddweud, yn gyffredinol, ac i athrawon dosbarth. Mae'r ysgolion sydd wedi cael eu taro gan y COVID, os ydy o'n swigod o fewn ysgolion neu os ydyn nhw'n flynyddoedd cyfan, wedi symud yn sydyn yn y tymor yma i roi cynnig dysgu byw i ysgolion. A'r ymateb dŷn ni'n ei gael yn ôl gan y disgyblion a'r ymateb dŷn ni'n ei gael yn ôl gan yr athrawon yw bod y profiad o ddysgu byw yn cyfoethogi'r dysgu cyfunol neu'r addysgu cyfunol sydd wedi bod yn mynd yn ei flaen. Ac mae'n debyg, os ydym ni'n wirioneddol yn edrych am ddysgu heb ffiniau wrth inni fynd yn ein blaenau, fod y dysgu byw, y dysgu cyfunol yma, yn mynd i fod yn rhan o arfogaeth yr athro a'r ysgol wrth inni edrych ar sut dŷn ni'n cynnig cefnogaeth i ddisgyblion wrth inni fynd yn ein blaenau, yn enwedig yr oedrannau hŷn, fel dŷn ni wedi bod yn trafod yn gynharach, sydd yn wynebu beth bynnag fydd y paratoi ar gyfer cymwysterau. Dwi ddim yn sôn am 2021, ond ymhellach i'r dyfodol hefyd.

Felly, mae'r dysgu yn y cyfnod yma, dwi'n meddwl, yn rhywbeth sydd yn sylfaenol yn mynd i adeiladu arno fo. Dwi'n meddwl bod y mynediad, Hefin, i'r dysgu byw yn rhywbeth sydd yn cael ei gryfhau. Hefyd, mae'n ffenomenon newydd, i fod yn deg i'r proffesiwn, ac mi ydyn ni'n edrych i roi mwy o hyfforddiant ar beth ydy dylunio dysgu byw effeithiol wrth inni fynd yn ein blaenau. Felly, mae pawb yn y system yn dysgu, dwi'n teimlo, ar hyn o bryd o beth sydd yn gwneud dysgu byw effeithiol.

If I've understood the question properly, I think the access to live lessons is something that has increased significantly over the recent period. If you go back to the beginning of the lockdown period, it was a new concept for the majority of schools, I would say, in general terms, and for classroom teachers. The schools that have been impacted by COVID, whether in bubbles within the schools or entire years, have moved very quickly this term to offer live learning to pupils. And the response that we receive back from the pupils and from the teachers is that the experience of live learning does enrich the blended learning or blended teaching that has been taking place. And if we're genuinely looking at learning without boundaries, as we go forward, the live learning and the blended learning are going to be amongst the tools available to schools and teachers, as we look at how we provide support to pupils moving forward, especially to the older age groups, as we've been discussing earlier, who are facing whatever the preparations for qualifications will be. I'm not talking about 2021, but further ahead.

So, learning and teaching in this period is something that is going to be built upon. I think that the access to live learning, Hefin, is something that is being strengthened. It's a new phenomenon, to be fair to the profession, and we are looking to give additional training on what the design of effective live teaching and learning will be, going forward. Everyone in the system is learning at the moment, I feel, as regards what makes effective live learning.

Os caf i ddod i mewn yn fan yna hefyd, mae methodoleg dysgu byw yn fethodoleg ychydig yn wahanol, a dwi'n credu ein bod ni wedi buddsoddi amser mewn datblygu dealltwriaeth staff o hynny. O edrych eto ar yr wythnos diwethaf fel ryw fath o linyn mesur ar gyfer blynyddoedd 9 i 13, mae holiaduron staff a holiaduron llais y disgybl yn sicr iawn yn gosod dysgu byw fel y ffordd fwyaf effeithiol yn eu barn nhw o barhau i ddatblygu sgiliau.

If I can come in on that, the methodology in terms of live learning is slightly different, and I think that we've invested time in developing the understanding of staff of that. Looking again at last week as a benchmark for years 9 to 13, staff surveys and pupil voice surveys have set out that live learning is the most effective way, in their opinion, of continuing to develop skills.

Chair, I didn't want to go to everyone. I think we're going to be forever if we keep on. I've got one more question. Is that okay?

Okay, yes. I was keen to get an FE perspective, but I'll take that after you've asked your question.

Yes. I was specifically—. And I apologise—I'm not sure if it was my poor Welsh, which I'm constructing myself, or whether the signal was bad, but I did want to come back. With regard to live lessons in schools, I wanted to know what support teachers have had to achieve it. So, how have teachers been able to do it? Because one of the problems—. I've got a three- and five-year-old at home, and not every teacher is able to achieve that.

11:55

I'm going to go to Guy or Kay first, then, maybe, to pick up the general issue and also to say something about support for teachers.

Yes, I can start—. Go on, Guy.

Sorry, Kay. I think, in the post-compulsory setting, it is slightly different. I think, for many of our learners, it's more about learning on demand than it is necessarily live, so all colleges for a long time have had elements of blended learning in the delivery of their programmes. All colleges use virtual learning environments, and this has allowed, over a period of time, for learners to pursue elements of their learning at a time that suits them.

So, I think, in the post-compulsory setting, there's probably less, if you like, of an urgency to have live sessions, but having said that, I have to say that I know of lots and lots of really creative examples of staff in further education delivering to groups of learners, and indeed delivering to groups of learners in mixed settings, some of whom may well be in college whilst others are at home and still delivering a live experience.

And then, just very briefly, in answer to the question from Hefin about support for teachers, again, in all of the colleges, there's an extensive network of support staff who are trying to upskill and improve digital skills amongst all staff in colleges, and they themselves form a very effective informal network across the colleges in Wales.

I was just going to say that each college has got their digital department, if you like, and has been training staff for several years in digital competency, but every college has got its challenge; some staff are not as easy to come to a digital world as others, and we're working with those staff who are less competent to make sure that happens.

As Guy said, live learning online is something that we've been doing for many years, so that continued throughout March, April and May. One of the things I wanted to mention was that some of the groups who actually benefited from that live learning at home were our young carers, and people who are our junior apprentices across colleges, who are 14-year-olds, who actually said that having some time at home gave them more time to do the other things they needed to do, their family commitments, and that was particularly true as well for our English for speakers of other languages people, who are mainly refugees, who digitally, we had to equip them very quickly, and like the schools, we were grateful for some of the additional resource provided by Welsh Government for that. But they are people who really need to keep that language. When you're learning a language, you have to keep at it every day, and keeping them on live learning was really important during lockdown for the more vulnerable areas.

With the more mature learners, they're more autonomous. Our A-level learners were more autonomous and could get on with things more easily. But I just wanted to mention the benefit for some of the parents, young carers, who said they benefited, actually, from having some of the time at home and still being able to learn.

Thank you. And is there anything anybody would like to say from a school's perspective in terms of support for teaching staff? Mike.