England v Wales: Education performance and accountability

There is increasing disparity between the achievement of pupils in England and Wales. Sandra McNally explores the possible causes

IN MANY RESPECTS, the education systems in England and Wales are very similar. They had a shared history up until Welsh devolution in 1999, and although differences have increased since then, the main examination for 16-year-olds in both countries remains the GCSE.

What we know
● Educational performance has lowered in Wales compared to England in recent years.
● The timing coincides with the scrapping of publication of exam results in Wales.
● Other potential explanations are lower funding per student in Wales and the success of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies in England.
● The abolition of “league tables” of examination results in Wales gave teachers less incentive to focus narrowly on assessment.
● International low-stakes tests also suggest a relative decline in Wales.

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June 2011