Archive | June, 2017

PISA Targets

26 Jun

Yesterday I contributed to the Sunday Politics show discussion on the political fall out from the Cabinet Secretary for Education distancing herself from her predecessors PISA targets.  While it remains online you can view it here, starting around 40:04 in.

In terms of the political discussion what I said was that I don’t believe the ramifications extend to the classroom.  I don’t know of a single teacher who base their work on ensuring PISA results are improved.  Teachers are focused on simply doing their best for pupils, ensuring that socially and academically they reach their full potential, and that they attain the best qualifications possible.  Naturally if PISA measures the things it claims to in the way it claims to, and that remains a big and ever increasing if, then the work done in our classrooms should be captured.

However, where it does have an impact is on policy development.  We saw in 2010 how PISA results led to a huge upheaval in strategic direction.  Leighton Andrews put in place a raft of policy changes that often totally contradicted the previous approach in Wales, which were implemented in direct response to PISA.  Across the world Governments have changed their education policies to reflect aims and targets in PISA.  The big question that comes out of the apparent clash in PISA targets being set within the Welsh cabinet is, what are the implications for our policy approach in future?  Whose targets are we aiming for? What happens if we reach one but not the other? Why are we continuing to set targets for PISA and are they meaningless for a number of reasons? Or are we still expecting to see the possibility of our system turned upside down based on PISA?

For what it is worth I supported the position taken by Kirsty Williams.  When the original story broke I agreed that PISA targets had failed to focus policy and resources on the right elements to support our pupils and teachers.  Getting away from that is, ironically enough, the best way to ensure a better education system.

One other thing I wanted to touch on comes from the line that David Reynolds said in the piece, which is that PISA results are the driver of economic success.  His evidence for this is that Shanghai saw great inward investment following their rise to the top of the rankings.  I don’t dismiss any assumptions out of hand but I have continually been left cold by this argument.  For me it is a case of correlation without causation.  Just as you can find evidence to show one influencing the other, you can find the evidence that undermines that view.  For example Finland ranked top of PISA in 2000.  The year on year growth of the Finish economy for the next thirteen years following that was at a lower rate than in 2000.  There are a host of nations whose economic success exceed their PISA scores and vice versa.  Indeed in 2015 the Welsh Government announced historic record inward investment figures.  That alone contradicts the argument.

As I say, I don’t dismiss any thinking out of hand but it seems a reach to claim that PISA is make or break for inward investment when that isn’t necessarily born out by the facts.

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Please don’t drown…..

19 Jun

Every year I try and take part in a charity sporting venture, although I don’t recall doing one last year.  Two years ago I did a triathlon of sorts where I accumulated 10,000m on the SkiErg followed by a 10,000m run before finishing with a 10,000m row.

This year I am taking on the real thing with a proper triathlon, this Sunday’s Cardiff Bay Tri.  Full disclosure I don’t own a bike and chose not to buy one just for this event and so I am doing the swim and run portion of the full Olympic triathlon distance (1,500m swim and 10,000m run) with a friend and training partner covering the bike section.

When I signed up I didn’t think much of it really.  A 10k run isn’t easy but it’s something I knew I’d be able to get done without changing my usual training patterns.  I didn’t swim outside of splashing around on weekends with my kids in the local leisure center but I can swim and am quite fit so never questioned how hard it could be.  Turns out, pretty god damn hard!

1

I quickly found out that being able to swim, and actually swimming any sort of distance, were very much two different things.  The first few times I went to the pool I was absolutely exhausted by swimming a 25m length.  I would regularly accumulate 500m-1,000m but through numerous 25m lengths with noticeable breaks in-between.  It took me a good few weeks to get to the 150m unbroken mark.  At which point I seriously started panicking that I would, at best, get fished out of the water on race day.

With this realization I dropped down to the sprint distance (750m swim) and started taking adult swimming lessons.  The relief of having a shorter distance, the guidance of improving my technique and the many lonely and tough hours spent chipping away at it started to make a different.  By the end of January I was still only getting to 300m but that was a major breakthrough.

2

Then one day, having never gone passed that 300m mark, things just clicked and suddenly I went straight through to the 1k marker.  The perseverance started paying off and while I found the first 300m were always tough, as I settled in things would always get better as my stroke slowed and breathing settled.

I was told that open water swimming in a wet-suit was an easier proposition than the pool and so, knowing mentally more than anything I would have to try it before the event, I was really pleased to find out that Cardiff International White Water Center do open water swimming sessions between 6:30am-8:30am on Thursday mornings.  These were a revelation to me.

3

Swimming in open water was not only easier and gave me more enthusiasm and confidence, but it was so much more fun and enjoyable than the slogs you have to endure in the pool.

6

I was lucky enough to have been joined by my regular crossfit coach Pete Rankin from Crossfit Boatshed as well, although he is genuinely a good swimmer.  Having someone come along with you on that first session was a big deal, even if just to know you can be towed to safety if required.  Thankfully I didn’t need him for that!

4

After this open water swim I bumped myself back up to the full Olympic distance and am really glad I did.  The weekend before last I put in a PB of 2,000m in the pool unbroken and really only stopped because of boredom.

5I followed that up with another strong open water swim last Thursday.  I’m pretty confident now that so long as I don’t drown within the first 300m I should survive.  That said it only dawned on me recently that I also have to run and so staggered out for an 8k test two weeks ago which focused the mind on that aspect of neglected training!FullSizeRender

So, with all this said, if you want to donate anything to the cause, and it is a fantastic cause in raising money for Ty Hafan, you can do so by clicking on this link.

Also if you are bored and want to know if I have drown you can track me on the day by clicking on this link.

Fingers crossed I’m still here Monday to reflect on the result.