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Education

Independent Estyn review announced

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Helpul to get an independent view: Chief Inspector of Schools Meilyr Rowlands

AN INDEPENDENT review of the role of Estyn in supporting education reform has been announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams and the Chief Inspector, Meilyr Rowlands.

Estyn plays a key role in raising standards and the quality of teaching and education across the country through rigorous inspection and expert advice. The review will look at the implications of Wales’s extensive education reforms for the future role of Estyn.

The review follows an exchange of letters between the Chief Inspector and the Cabinet Secretary, where they agreed that such a review would build on Estyn’s strengths and improve the work of the Inspectorate further.

The review, which will be undertaken by Professor Graham Donaldson, will begin in August and is due to report in early 2018.

The Cabinet Secretary said: “I am grateful to Meilyr for proposing this course of action. I fully support the proposals so that we continue to drive up standards in our education system.

“Our education reforms must be aligned to support the delivery of our new curriculum. I am therefore especially pleased that Professor Donaldson has agreed to take forward the review. He has a wealth of experience of conducting reviews of education systems around the world, including Australia, Portugal, Sweden and Japan. ”

Meilyr Rowlands, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales, said: “Significant changes are happening to the education landscape in Wales and inspection is also changing. With Estyn’s mission to achieve excellence for all learners in Wales, we believe it will be helpful to gain an independent view from Professor Donaldson.

“I am pleased that the Cabinet Secretary has accepted my proposal and is supporting this review.”

Professor Donaldson said: “Estyn has a vital part to play in the success of the reform programme in Wales. I am therefore pleased to have been asked, jointly by the Cabinet Secretary and the Chief Inspector, to undertake an independent review of the ways in which its contribution to the reforms can best be realised.”

Professor Donaldson will present his report to Welsh Government and the Chief Inspector after gathering and analysing evidence on inspection, quality enhancement and accountability while supporting Estyn to refine and develop their practices.

Commenting on the announcement of an independent review into Estyn, Rob Williams, Director of Policy for NAHT Cymru, the school leaders’ union for Wales, says: “We welcome the statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, announcing a review of Estyn, as it acknowledges what NAHT Cymru has been saying for some time.

“For the wholesale reform of education to achieve its aims in Wales, we have to shape accountability systems that provide challenge and support in the right places.

School leaders, teachers, parents and pupils need to focus efforts on key areas, such as teaching and learning, to bring to fruition recommendations like those found in the new curriculum and assessment arrangements. Any external influence that distracts from that purpose cannot be a constructive part of a self-improving system.”

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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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