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Education

Fund to cut class sizes introduced

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Investment: Targeted at infant classes

A NEW £36m fund to reduce infant class sizes and raise standards has been announced by Education Secretary Kirsty Williams.

Directed at the front line and starting with the largest class sizes, it will target classes where teaching and learning needs to improve and where there are high levels of deprivation.

The money, consisting of both revenue and capital funding, will be invested over the next four years, up until 2021.

The latest figures show that 7.6% (8,196) of infant pupils in Wales were in classes of over 30.

Kirsty Williams said: “Our national mission is to raise standards and extend opportunities for all our young people.

“Time and time again parents and teachers tell me that they are concerned about class sizes. We have listened to these concerns, looked at the international evidence, and are today announcing a new £36m fund to address infant class sizes.

“There is a positive connection between smaller classes and attainment, particularly for pupils from poorer backgrounds. This is most significant for younger children, which is why we are targeting this investment at infant class sizes.

“This announcement, linked to our other reforms, will create the space for teachers to teach and for pupils to learn.”

Jess Turner, UNISON Cymru organiser for schools, said: “Classroom-based support staff really welcome this news. Smaller classes reduce workload and give support workers more time with pupils and this more personalised support helps to tackle inequalities. UNISON would like Welsh Government to go much further and also apply additional funding to junior and secondary schools too. The evidence around class size shows they need to be reduced very significantly to make a real difference to student attainment.

“It’s essential teaching assistants are properly deployed in the classroom and never used as cheap stop-gap replacements for teachers.”

“While we welcome this statement, it’s important to put it in context. When one considers that the money will be paid out over a five year period, it is not a vast amount; it is, however, most certainly a small step in the right direction,” said Ywain Myfyr, Policy Officer with UCAC.

“We hope that in helping to reduce class sizes this money will go some way towards reducing teachers’ workload and improving standards of attainment, especially for pupils living in areas of social deprivation,” he added.

“The introduction of the Foundation Stage was a visionary step but it was not properly funded from the outset. It is essential that we ensure that no child in the Foundation Phase in Wales is educated in a class which exceeds the legal limit in terms of size. It is now important that this money is shared carefully to ensure fairness.”

“We now call on the Welsh Government to go one step further and make classes of under 25 statutory for all age groups and to plan for a general reduction in class sizes for the benefit of pupils and the education workforce in general in Wales. We believe that this would match the principles expressed in this morning’s statement.”

NUT Cymru Secretary David Evans said: “This announcement is very welcome news. Kirsty Williams and the Welsh Government should be congratulated for responding to the concerns of parents and the teaching profession who see unmanageable class sizes as one of the most concerning issues they face. For too long, this problem has been ignored. Putting it on the agenda has been a major campaign for the NUT and we are grateful there has been a positive reaction from the Cabinet Secretary for Education.

“Naturally, we will have to monitor exactly how this money is utilised. What we do not want to see is local authorities using it to fill holes in their budgets. The Welsh Government are absolutely right to demand that any and all business cases show explicitly how they will contribute to reducing class sizes. It will be crucial that local authorities are not only clear about how they are going to use this funding, but also that they are accountable at the point of implementation.

“If this funding is put to good use it could have a profound impact on an issue that is at the very top of the agenda for teachers, which is why it absolutely must find its way to the front line.”

The Welsh Conservatives’ education spokesperson gave a less enthusiastic reception to the Education Secretary’s announcement.

Questioning how the policy can feasibly be implemented in the face of Wales’ teacher recruitment crisis, Darren Millar AM said: “The scant evidence base for this policy is well documented with a Welsh Government adviser having publicly spoken out against the idea of its implementation back in June.

“Conversely, there is growing evidence of Wales’ worsening teacher recruitment crisis, and so it remains unclear how this policy can be made to work; smaller class sizes mean more classrooms, which in turn demands more teachers – of which our country is in woefully short supply.

“Today’s announcement is little more than a multimillion pound sop to the remaining Welsh Liberal Democrat and will not be the silver bullet to solving the education crisis facing Welsh schools.”

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Education

Aberystwyth Young People create powerful short film to raise awareness of Youth Homelessness

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October 10, 2020 is World Homeless Day, which is an international day to raise awareness and encourage local communities to help those who are homeless.

In February 2020, young people from Penparcau Youth Club, who form the Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors Group, embarked on a new project in partnership with Arad Goch to create a short film in a bid to educate and raise awareness of youth homelessness. The project was funded by Ceredigion Association of Voluntary Organisations’ (CAVO) Youth Led Grant Scheme.

The group researched the topic, discussed with local organisations, created a script, filmed scenes in and around Aberystwyth and edited and evaluated every stage of the project. The film was produced by young people, for young people under the support and supervision of local Theatre Company, Arad Goch. The project was also supported by drama pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Gymunedol Penweddig who participated and supported the production. The short film follows the poignant journey of a young person who faces family breakdown and subsequently homelessness, before finding support with a local organisation.

Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors said, “We feel that this is an important issue for not only people in Aberystwyth but across wales. We wanted to help tackle the issue of homelessness, but not only homelessness, the stigma that surrounds being homeless. We feel that there is a need to raise awareness of homelessness, where to get support and that it could happen to anyone.”

Carwyn Blayney the director of the film said, “It was a pleasure to work on this project with such a great team of youth workers, very talented young people and based on a true story of a very brave individual; thanks to him for sharing his story and for letting us use it as the basis for this short film. Every one of the young people – the producers and the cast – worked hard on this project back in February, and you can be very pleased with the way you’ve discussed such a sensitive and important issue through this film.”

Catrin Miles, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Support and Intervention, said: “Huge congratulations to everyone in the team who got together to create this inspiring and contemporary film that highlights a serious problem in our society. Thanks to all the partners who cooperated on this project, one that is pertinent and of interest to everyone, Wales-wide. It particularly shows our children and young that homelessness can arise totally out of the blue but that support is on hand to enable a bright and positive future.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the original launch for the film has been postponed, but a virtual launch will take place in November, where the film will be launched and made available to view.

Ceredigion Youth Service would like to thank Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors, Arad Goch Theatre Company, pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Gymunedol Penweddig, CAVO and Ty Curig, Aberystwyth.

For more information about the work of Ceredigion Youth Service, visit their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page @GICeredigionYS or visit their website at www.giceredigionys.co.uk.

For more information about the work of Arad Goch Theatre Company, visit their website https://aradgoch.cymru/?lang=en.

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Education

Two face masks for each Ceredigion pupil

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EVERY secondary school pupil in Ceredigion will receive two reusable masks.

Welsh Government has funded and provided two reusable masks to secondary school pupils.

The mask should be worn to help protect the pupils and others, alongside other measures such as social distancing and washing hands regularly.

In school, the pupils will be instructed when to wear a mask. This will happen when pupils are outside of their contact group and where it is challenging to maintain social distancing.

Pupils will receive their masks through their school over the next fortnight.

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Education

Newtown: Online threat to ‘use of firearms at a school’ lead to swift police action

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE was made aware this morning, the force said, of “utterly irresponsible and scaremongering posts” on Facebook, suggesting that the authors of the posts were going to use firearms at a school in the Newtown area.

The posts were by individuals local to Newtown, and police acted swiftly to address this, which resulted in the arrest of three local men, aged 20, 21 and 27 on suspicion of malicious communications and public order. As part of the initial response schools were also given advice to be vigilant.

A spokesman said: “Understandably the posts caused serious concern in the area, and unfortunately the subsequent rumours led to misunderstandings. This is turn led to calls to the police alleging there was a man with a firearm seen outside Newtown High School.

“Police had to respond appropriately to these calls based on the threat allegedly posed, and a firearms unit was sent to the school. We can confirm that there was no man at the school, and when we have delved further into the detail of the calls, it has transpired that they were as a result of the rumours circulating, and not based on first-hand accounts.

“Police have also carried out thorough searches as a result of the arrests, and no weapons have been recovered. The local Neighbourhood Policing Team will also be present at the school at home time to reassure and inform parents, pupils and staff.

“We hope this clarification will reassure the community of Newtown that there is no threat to schools in the area, and the matter was dealt with seriously and swiftly. We would also appeal to everyone to stop sharing the posts and any associated rumours, in order to prevent any further unsubstantiated fear and alarm in the area.”

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