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This report examines the major challenges for education in Wales, including low outcomes across a range of measures and high levels of inequality.

Last December, the OECD published the latest round of PISA tests in reading, maths and science skills. These international comparisons always prompt public debate. Most countries saw declining scores, reflecting the effects of the pandemic. In Wales, the declines were particularly large, erasing all the progress seen since 2012. This report argues that low scores in Wales are a major concern and challenge for the new First Minister. Low educational outcomes are not likely to be a reflection of higher poverty in Wales, a different ethnic mix of pupils, statistical biases or differences in resources. They are more likely to reflect differences in policy and approach. We recommend that policymakers and educators in Wales pause, and in some cases rethink, past and ongoing reforms in the following areas:

  • The new Curriculum for Wales should place greater emphasis on specific knowledge.
  • Reforms to GCSEs should be delayed to give proper time to consider their effects on long-term outcomes, teacher workload and inequalities.
  • More data on pupil skill levels and the degree of inequality in attainment are needed and should be published regularly.
  • A move towards school report cards, alongside existing school inspections, could be an effective way to provide greater information for parents without a return to league tables.

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