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.”
Kirsty Williams announces online PGCE
A NEW part-time PGCE that combines online study with tutorials and seminars could soon make Wales a world-leader in Initial Teacher Education (ITE).
The addition of this new alternative route into teaching, announced today by Education Secretary Kirsty Williams, is the latest in a series of reforms designed to revolutionise the way ITE is provided in Wales. These also include new full-time ITE programmes.
The new part-time PGCE would provide a high quality alternative to full-time study and remove the need for students to travel just to attend their chosen course.
Students could instead interact with their lecturers and fellow students online, just as they would in the soon-to-be accredited full-time ITE programmes. This would remove any barriers that might be caused by their location or distance from a university.
In addition to the new PGCE, the Education Secretary also announced a new Employment Based Route (EBR), which would see a student teacher employed by a school from the outset. This would be targeted to help regional consortia address teaching shortages in schools region by region.
Both the part-time PGCE and EBR would enable student teachers to maintain their current commitments, including employment and income, whilst studying to be a teacher.
The students would also be able to take advantage of opportunities afforded by Wales’ new student finance arrangements. From the 2018-19 academic year, all Welsh students – whether studying undergraduate full or part time – will receive support for their living costs equivalent to the UK national living wage.
Announcing the changes today, Kirsty Williams said: “An education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and our new curriculum cannot be delivered without a well-supported, aspirational teaching profession.
“The new part-time PGCE has the potential to completely transform the way Initial Teacher Education in Wales is delivered, complementing our equally high quality full-time ITE programmes.
“New students who may previously never have considered a career in teaching or been put off by costs or their location will have access to an academic qualification and programme that is of the very highest standard while also being flexible and easily accessible.
“It’s by harnessing technology in this way that we’ll attract highly-talented, experienced people with the higher level skills needed by both the teaching profession and our wider economy.
“I am confident that along with the step change in our soon to be accredited full-time ITE programmes the new part-time PGCE and EBR, together with new Professional Standards for teaching and accreditation criteria for initial teacher education, will allow us to raise standards across the board and make Wales a world-leader.”
The Education Secretary also confirmed today that an HE provider, or partnership of providers, will be procured to deliver the proposals by working with schools and education consortia across Wales.
Yale to unlock students’ potential
THIS summer, 16 of Wales’ brightest sixth-formers will join students from across the world for a life-changing summer programme held at one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions.
The pupils, all part of the Seren Network, will join over 1500 other students from 126 countries and 50 US states on Yale’s Young Global Scholars Programme (YYGS), at Yale University’s New Haven campus in the US, as part a new scholarship opportunity made possible through the Seren Network.
Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, will join the first group of pupils from Wales to travel to Yale’s New Haven campus as she looks to build on links already made with the university through Seren.
The Education Secretary will also travel to both Harvard University and MIT in Boston to discuss new opportunities and collaborations.
This opportunity has been made available to Welsh students thanks to a jointly funded scholarship between Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) and the Welsh Government. The flight costs have been supported through sponsorship by businesses in Wales who are all rooting for the Welsh students.
The students will each spend two weeks at Yale’s New Haven campus, where they will take part in a rigorous academic programme led by world-leading academics in one of six areas, including International Affairs & Security, Frontiers of Science & Technology and Politics, Law & Economics.
The partnership has been established to broaden the academic horizons of Welsh students, giving them a taste of university life in the States and the opportunity to make strong university applications when they return.
Kirsty Williams said: “It is a huge success story for Seren that we’ve been able to broker a partnership which will see Yale’s renowned Young Global Scholars programme made accessible to students across Wales.
“I’m proud to be joining our first ever group of students to take part in this life-changing summer programme and look forward to making new links with other universities as we try to open new doors for many more of our students.
“I want every pupil in every school in every part of Wales to know that if you work hard then no academic opportunity is off-limits. I think this is a perfect example of what is possible and I want to thank all the sponsors involved in making this happen.”
This partnership has been made possible through Liam Rahman, a Yale University alumnus born and raised in Carmarthenshire. A Co-Director at E-Qual Recruitment Education in Cardiff and West Wales, Liam is an avid supporter of The Seren Network and has been the driving force throughout the partnership. E-Qual Recruitment Education is a headline sponsor of the partnership, having raised in excess of £10,000 to fund the cost of students’ flights to and from the US.
Liam said: “Since returning to Wales last year, it’s been a real privilege to work with high potential Welsh students through the Seren Network and to be an interviewer for Yale’s Undergraduate Admissions Office in Wales through Yale’s Alumni Schools Committee.
“Over the past few months, I’ve worked to build the relationship between Yale Young Global Scholars and The Seren Network, which has culminated in this fantastic partnership and scholarship opportunity.
“This scholarship will deliver life-changing opportunities to some of Wales’s brightest sixth formers and gives Yale the opportunity to access some of Wales’s very best talent.”
Adult learning: Richard’s story
UWTSD has marked Adult Learners’ Week by encouraging its mature students to tell their own stories.
Richard Thomas, a single father of three, graduated last summer with a degree in Sports Therapy.
He recently spoke to UWTSD about his transformational journey from gardener to Sports Therapist:
“In the summer of 2014 I was working as a Gardener and handyman in the quiet village of Bancyfelin. I didn’t see it as a long term career and with three children and no partner, I felt I needed a better career direction so I started to look at returning to education. After realising that UWTSD offered a degree in Sports Therapy I decided this was the area that I really wanted to learn more about.
“I immediately loved the course description – having been passionate about sport, fitness, Crossfit and having also had many sporting injuries in the past – I felt that this course would be fascinating to follow. Because of my family commitments, I wasn’t able to travel long distances to study so the fact that the Sports Therapy course was available to me in Carmarthen was great too! I had no idea of how I was going to work, study and juggle my boys’ commitments too and I can’t deny that there were times during the course where I found it difficult – but those hard times were definitely worth it!
“Following this course has not only helped me to learn about a new profession and to embark on a new career that I’m very passionate about – it has also helped me grow as a person. The course set me academic challenges as well as challenging me to manage my time and to fit in work, study and raising three boys as a single father.
“The course was full of work experiences and volunteer opportunities and by the end of the course, I felt prepared to face the world of work because of those opportunities.
“This past year – the first year after graduation – has been tough but it would have been even more difficult if it hadn’t been for the experience and connections that I made during my time on the course.
“During my studies, I was lucky enough to work with the Welsh Under 20’s Rugby team; the Dragons; Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey; Swansea City FC as well as Bristol City FC – not forgetting the various events that we covered such as the Swansea Triathlon, The Burn, Invncbl and some epic Charity cycle rides.
“Since graduating, I’m really lucky that the list of organisations and events I’m working with continues to grow. I now work with the FAW and the Under 15’s Welsh Girls Football team; Whitland RFC and I have a role with Hockey Wales too. I also work with Gower College Rugby, Llanelli and District Schoolboys Under 15’s and the successful Rugby Sevens team, the Carmarthen Warriors. Alongside this work I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a Hip and Groin Testing team – which I initially started doing during my time on the course – but I’m now also been working with Swansea City as part of their testing team as well as the IRFU as part of their ongoing Injury reduction strategies.
“I am currently still trying to manage my time but am enjoying the challenge. Indeed, enrolling on this course was easily one of the best decisions of my life. It’s helped me immeasurably – not just academically and career wise – but it’s also made a huge difference to me on a personal level. I’ve met friends that I’ll have for life and I managed to complete a BSc degree – something that for many years would have felt impossible.
“I am the first person in my family in living knowledge to complete a degree and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried like a baby at my graduation ceremony. Receiving an award for my academic work was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. The fact that I’ve achieved something that I previously didn’t really believe I could, has helped me to raise my own expectations and has allowed me to really expanded my horizons – both career wise and personally. It’s also had a great positive effect on my children – the eldest of whom is now going to University this year.”
As the only Sports Therapy degree in Wales accredited by the Society of Sports Therapy, the BSc Sports Therapy degree programme is designed to educate competent practitioners in all aspects of Sports Therapy. During their time on the course, students learn in a practical setting with plenty of hands on teaching in a dedicated Sports Therapy Suite and Rehabilitation Centre. All teaching staff are experienced Graduate Sports Therapists who have worked in professional, semi-professional, national and international sports over a number of years.
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