Saturday 15 August 2020

'Gwynoro's People' podcast on Wales News Online meets Aneira Thomas, first NHS baby

It was a pleasure to meet up with Aneira once again. We went to the same primary school in Cefneithin, although I am a few years older and also to Gwendraeth Grammar school.

Both of us grew up with a wide range of people in Cefneithin and Foelgastell and we have shared treasured memories.

Image result for aneira thomas bookAneira by now is well known as the 'First NHS Baby' and also has published a book based on real life experiences.

The book is called 'Hold on Edna' and it is a heart warming account that goes back before the NHS came into being in 1948 

In the podcast she tells about the events surrounding her birth, family background, school life, her career as a nurse and much more.

Also refers to the people she has met over the years film stars, tv personalities and politicans along with visiting Downing Street.

In the series I ask guests to choose three pieces of music. Aneira chose:

'How Great Thou Art' - Cary Underwood
'Love Changes Everything' - Michael Ball and Alfie Boe
'In Dreams' - Roy Orbeson

Take a listen.

and maybe read this as well.

2020 exams student gradings result in anger, disappointments, dismay, confusion and government u-turns across UK

Article as appeared in  WalesNewsOnline

THE latest chaos and confusion over grading for A-Level and AS levels have made the news as Ministers shapeshift and move the goalposts to try and make some sort of process appear to be fair for the many thousands of students who through no fault of their own have been thrown into a grading system, which has struggled to cope with the curveball which was and still is COVID-19.

In this article, former Schools Inspector GwynoroJones takes a look at what has happened across the UK as governments announce their latest approach to assessing students.

Former Schools Inspector: Gwynoro Jones

As in Scotland and England, the publication of the AS and A level results in Wales has ended up in controversy. There has been a call for a review of the awarding process used which was a combination of teacher assessments and a subsequent standardisation mechanism.

When initial findings began to emerge the examination watchdog indicated that the gradings had "been too generous" and would have to be revised downwards to ensure standardisation and consistency.

When the results were announced Thursday (August 13) the data for Wales showed a record proportion of A and A* grades at 29.9%, up 2.9 percentage points from 2019. But significantly this was less than the 40.4% estimated after the initial teacher assessments.

The announced results for Wales also revealed that performance at both A* to C and A*-A grades in Wales is higher than in all regions of England, apart from the south-east, which is only slightly higher.

The results for Wales further indicated that proportionately more pupils received more top grades and grades A* to C than in England, but fewer than in Northern Ireland. Also, the performance at both A* to C and A*-A grades in Wales is higher than in all regions of England, apart from the south-east, which is only slightly higher.

But despite all this encouraging and praiseworthy performance, the concerning statistic was that the announced results saw 42% of students had their result downgrade from the original assessment made by schools and teachers. Yet 53.7% of students received the same as forecasted earlier with 4.1% achieving a higher grading.

In the meantime, in order to forestall some of the looming criticism, the Welsh government has already announced a free appeals process for students and that no student should have got a grade lower than their AS results of 2019.

Qualifications Wales chief executive Philip Blaker said this year's process had not disadvantaged particular groups of pupils.

"We have analysed attainment gaps this year relative to previous years - looking at aspects such as gender, age and eligibility for free school meals", he said.

"Our analysis shows no statistically significant differences this year relative to other years."

Although Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford is claiming that it was a "record year" for results and that "the big picture is we have more students achieving, more students achieving at the very top end of the scale, and a record number of people from Wales accepted into university." the criticisms and allegations of unfairness has burst into the open.

Several Labour Senedd members are asking for an urgent review and Plaid Cymru urging that pupils who have received a lower grading should receive their earlier teacher assessment predicted results.

A Welsh Government spokesman has stressed however that about 94% of the grades were the same or within one grade of those that students were predicted to achieve earlier on in the process.

"This is before any adjustments are made as a result of the AS [level] floor announced yesterday by the minister for education," he added.

In England, the education minister Gavin Williamson and the government too are facing increasing and mounting backlash over the contentious A-level grading system used. Among the many critics is the Labour leader Keir Starmer who is calling on the UK government to scrap its "fatally flawed" results system.

Mr Starmer has even called on the Prime Minister to resolve the situation with "a Scottish Government-style U-turn",

When the results were announced by the exam regulator Ofqual it transpired that 39% of teachers' assessment was downgraded by one or more grades. Figures from Ofqual also showed that some 24,000student results were lowered by more than one grade - something the schools' minister Nick Gibbs had said would not happen.

What has further added to the dismay and anger in England has been the revelation that independent schools faired much better than state schools and experienced greater rises in the grades awarded.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation as was the case in Scotland was that the greatest reduction in grades awarded was recorded within those students and schools from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In an attempt to retrieve the situation Mr Williamson abruptly announced that students could use results from their mock examination to appeal. That actually just added to the whole controversy because schools across the country approach such mock examinations in so many different ways and added to which a lot of schools don't even hold them at all.

Turning to Scotland, initially, the Scottish government announced results also following a moderation process by the Scottish Qualifications Authority which saw over 125,000 students having their grades reduced. But within a day the government did a complete turnaround.

Over the last four years, pass rates in Scotland in nearly all the school education institutions fell. Even after the 2020 moderation process the results bucked the trend and revealed increases in grades. However, after the uproar and cries of unfairness and mounting concerns, the Scottish government reverted to the originally recommended grades as per teacher assessment.

The 2020 grade results in Scotland reveal the increased performance of 10.4% for National 5s, 14% for Highers and 13.4% for Advanced Highers. Results in Scotland have not just bucked the trends of the last four years but smashed them.

The ongoing controversy raises questions over the credibility of the whole process, which many claims have been completely unfair to the student population. It remains to be seen whether or not the powers that be are able to sort out the mess once and for all and most certainly in readiness for the students of 2021.

Tuesday 11 August 2020

Gwynoro's People - in discussion with Wyn Thomas the former broadcaster

Next on #GwynorosPeople on #LlanelliTalkRadio
Meeting with a very good friend of decades back, #WynThomas a very well known personality on #SwanseaSound and later #HTV.
His life and times from his childhood in #Bethesda. A great personality #Cymro to his core and in many ways a broadcasting pioneer.
Wyn chose two songs and an extract from Rev Martin Luther King's memorable and historic 'I have a Dream' speech The two songs Cor y Penrhyn singing 'Sunset Poem' and Pavarotti 'Ce Gelida Manina'


Sunday 2 August 2020

Gwynoro's People - Pobl Gwynoro

Over the last half-year or so I have been working in partnership with Alan Evans, the owner/editor of  LlanelliOnline/and WalesNewsOnline. Over the months he has been developing and expanding another arm of the business, that being LlanelliTalkRadio. We also have podcasts. 

Recently we have stumbled on the idea that I meet up in his studio with people I have come across, work with, friends, and interesting people who have a story to tell to talk about their life, career, and more.

First up is Alun Gibbard, a well known prolific author of over 30 books, broadcaster, educator, and other experiences.

There are two interviews with Alun, in Welsh and English

The books we talk about in English include:

Into the wind - on Carwyn James,
Who Beat the All Blacks 1972,
The Official Scarlets History, 
Derek Bevan and Nigel Owens.

Non sporting ones include:
April Jones  'Pink Ribbons for April'
Howard Marks,
Life in the Coal House.

Alun also makes reference to a book about to be published on the former First Minister, Carwyn Jones. 

In the Welsh language interview, books covered include:

Yn erbyn y Gwynt - hanes Carwyn James, 
Fyny gyda'r Swans,
Llyfre ar George North a 'Foxy'r Llew' (Jonathan Davies),
Non yn erbyn y ffactore - Non Evans.

Then the non-sporting ones:
Talcen Caled- about the miners strike,
O Llinell Biced i San Steffan - about  former MP Sian James.
Straeon Tafarn - on Dewi Pws,
Bywyd yn y Coal House,
Tony ac Aloma' Mab y Mans - on Arfon Haines Davies, and Carwyn Jones again.

Take a listen.

Next up is Wyn Thomas, another broadcaster and of course of Swansea Sound fame.