SUGGESTING that the problem is not so much ‘fake news’; as fishing for facts to suit different agendas, the reaction to the Estyn report into Wales’ education and training has been a particularly illuminating example of cherry-picking for attention-grabbing headlines.
Estyn states that: “The underlying picture gained from this year’s inspections is similar to last year. Progress with fundamentals such as basic literacy and numeracy; and behaviour and attendance; that learners need to be ‘ready to learn’ generally continues: but variability within and between providers remains a prominent feature of our education system.”
A lot of words to say that improvement continues but there is a variation between different schools in different areas.
Not, perhaps, the sort of se arching conclusion that could not be ascertained without producing 158 pages of text, graphs, pictures, and excerpt boxes.
The chief finding of the report alighted upon by BBC Wales was that ‘teaching is one of the weakest aspects of provision in most sectors’.
Conservative AM Darren Millar, who could be relied upon to lambast the Welsh Government for discovering a diamond mine inside a mountain of gold, said: “The Chief Inspector’s report highlights a huge deficit of strong leadership in around half of schools across Wales, which is holding back teachers and children from achieving their potential.”
NUT Cymru Secretary David Evans said: “The key findings of the report are not a major surprise. The idea that there needs to be a focus on professional development for teachers tells us nothing we did not already know and that the NUT have not been saying for some time.
“No one would argue with the notion of promoting school to school collaboration or better access to professional development. The reality is that there remain significant barriers to ensuring this happens From a lack of high quality training provision, a lack of financial resources to release teachers or workload pressures making non-classroom activity almost impossible.”
Commenting on Estyn’s Annual Report, Rob Williams, Director of Policy for NAHT Cymru, the school leaders’ union for Wales, said: “NAHT Cymru wholeheartedly agrees that concentrating on developing excellent teachers and excellent learning in our classrooms is the most important core aim of school leadership.
“The mixed picture described by Estyn across Wales reflects the unprecedented workload required of schools and particularly school leaders against the backdrop of financial pressures.”
Against all of those words of warning needs to be set one key finding: improvement in education performance is continuing – at least according to Estyn, although you would be hard-pressed to tell.
Poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live
ABERYSTYWTH UNIVERISTY scientist Dr Karen Siu-Ting discussed 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 featured 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.
Apply for six-month 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 24 with interviews to be held on November 6.
Application packs are available from the National Park Authority’s website atwww.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/jobs or by contacting contact Joanne Morgan by calling 01646 624856 or by emailing email@example.com.
Committee concerned at £12.7m error
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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