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Education

Attainment gap closes again

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Kirsty Williams: Doubling money for disadvantaged pupils

Kirsty Williams: Doubling money for disadvantaged pupils

THE GAP between pupils in Wales receiving free school meals and their peers is continuing to close, according to the latest official figures released on December 8.

The statistics show that since 2009, the gap between children eligible for free school meals achieving A* to C in GCSE Maths, Science and English and their fellow pupils has fallen. In Science, it has more than halved.

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced the amount of money spent on the youngest disadvantaged pupils is set to double.

The Welsh Government is investing more than £90m in the Pupil Deprivation Grant, including doubling the support provided to disadvantaged pupils aged three and four. This will mean funding to support those eligible will jump from £300 to £600 for the youngest learners eligible; this could benefit some 15,000 pupils.

Kirsty Williams said: “These figures show once again that the performance of pupils eligible for free school meals is consistently improving and I want to thank children, parents and teachers for all their hard work to achieve this.

“I am determined that we continue to break the link between a child’s social background and how they do at school. Improving the attainment of those on free school meals is not only good for those pupils individually, it also raises standards overall. That is why we are increasing investment in the Pupil Deprivation Grant that is making a real difference to the lives of children from less well-off communities. We still have a long way to go to make sure every child has a fair start in life and the same opportunity as others to succeed.”

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Education

Poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live

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Dr Siu-Ting: Specialises in amphibians

​ABERYSTYWTH UNIVERISTY​ scientist Dr Karen Siu-Ting discuss​ed poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live ​last Thursday ​(Sept ​28​).

Dr Siu-Ting is an IRC ELEVATE-MSCA Co-fund Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University.

Her research into poison arrow frogs feature​d​ as part of ‘Ask a Biologist’​,​ hosted by The Royal Society of Biology.

An evolutionary biologist from Peru,​​ Dr Siu-Ting specialises in amphibians and combines field work in the Amazon rainforest with laboratory and computational analyses to address biological questions.

She is currently working on a project on poison arrow frogs between Aberystwyth University and Dublin City University.

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Education

Apply for six-month traineeship scheme

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Applications open: Join the National Park Authority’s Skills in Action traineeship scheme

​IF YOU’D like to earn as you learn hands-on skills to prepare you for a career in practical conservation or estate management, apply now for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Skills in Action traineeship scheme.

The project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future scheme, will provide two six-month salaried apprenticeships with the National Park Authority’s Ranger and Warden Teams.

Skills in Action Project Coordinator for Pembrokeshire Coast Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Tom Iggleden said: “The successful candidates will be learning the skills and experience that are essential to be successful in obtaining employment within a highly competitive sector.

“The main duties of the placement will include practical hands-on work-based experience in conservation and estate management.”

The six month traineeship will see the successful applicants learn a wide variety of skills including traditional hedgelaying and modern conservation methods that are essential to the work of the National Park Authority.

This is an extension to the original three-year project which has helped many of the 15 previous trainees gain employment​.​

The closing date for applications is October 2​4 with interviews to be held on November​ 6​.

Application packs are available from the National Park Authority’s website ​at​www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/jobs or by contacting contact Joanne Morgan by calling 01646 624856 or by emailing joannem@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk.

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Education

Committee concerned at £12.7m error

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ALN Bill: Savings turn into costs

​A £12.7M alteration to the cost of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill has been described as concerning by a National Assembly for Wales committee.

In the original figures submitted alongside the Bill the Welsh Government identified savings of £4.8m over a period of four years if the Bill was passed.

But the estimates were challenged by children’s charity SNAP Cymru which claimed the Welsh Government had misinterpreted figures it had provided concerning disputes and resolution services. The Welsh Government admitted the error and revised the figures from the original saving to a cost of £7.9m – a difference of £12.7m.

The Finance Committee asked the Welsh Government to delay the financial resolution on the Bill, the mechanism by which government gains support to spend the money enacting the law and the government agreed.

“A £12.7m swing from a saving to a cost is very concerning, as it shows a government which doesn’t fully understand the figures it quotes,” said Simon Thomas AM, Chair of the Finance Committee.

“It also throws into doubt any future costs connected to Bills which come before this committee as we are left wondering whether the government has done its sums right.

“We are grateful to SNAP Cymru for highlighting the inaccuracies and acknowledge the steps taken by the Minister subsequently, but we will need further reassurance that such errors will not happen again.”

The Bill’s aim is to improve the quality of support available to children with additional learning needs through a person-centred approach which would identify needs early on and make sure the right support, monitoring and evaluation was put in place to help them.

The Finance Committee welcomed the actions taken by the Welsh Government to address the situation. But Members were concerned and surprised that inaccuracies as significant as this were raised and that SNAP Cymru was not consulted on the final figures before they were published.

The Committee acknowledges that revisions have since been made and the Minister’s assurances that the revised figures are robust, however, it is concerned at the need to have made this level of changes to the original costings.

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