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Education

‘Pause button’ pressed on new curriculum

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Teaching unions: Welcome change of plans

KIRSTY WILLIAMS has listened to concerns expressed by teaching unions and opposition parties and elected to roll out a new curriculum in a phases, as opposed to one ‘big bang’.

Publishing the revised action plan on Tuesday ​(​Sept 26​)​, The Education Secretary revealed details of a plan that aims to continue to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

Objectives also include introducing a new accountability model and ensuring strong and inclusive schools committed to excellence and well-being.

​PHASED ROLL OUT

The new curriculum will be introduced from nursery to Year 7 in 2022, rolling into Year 8 in 2023, Year 9 in 2024, Year 10 in 2025 and Year 11 in 2026. All schools will have access the final curriculum from 2020, to allow them to move towards full roll-out in 2022.

Kirsty Williams said: “We are entering a fast-changing world that is increasingly competitive, globally connected and technologically advanced. Schools have to prepare our young people for jobs that have not yet been created and challenges that we are yet to encounter. Education has never been more important and, working with the teaching profession, we will continue our national mission to raise standards.

“Our plan is aimed at ensuring every young person in Wales has an equal opportunity to reach the highest standards and their full potential. We can’t achieve those ambitions if we just stand still. Teachers and educators across our system are working together to raise standards and reduce the attainment gap. It is an exciting time to be involved in education in Wales.

“We all share a responsibility to inspire and challenge the next generation. That is why we will support teachers with continuous learning and development, better support and identify our leaders, and reduce class sizes so that we can raise standards for all.”

Commenting on the new curriculum, she added: “Since becoming Education Secretary I have visited schools across the country, spoken to a range of teachers, parents and experts and held talks with unions.

“It’s the right decision to introduce the curriculum as a phased roll-out rather than a ‘big bang’, and for that to start in 2022. This approach, and an extra year, will mean all schools have the time to engage with the development of the curriculum and be full prepared for the changes. As the OECD have recommended, we will continue our drive to create a curriculum for the 21st century.”

​MILLAR AGREES BUT STILL MOANS

In December, Darren Millar AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Secretary, called on the Welsh Government to “push the pause button” on the proposed changes.

Mr Millar has now welcomed the delay, but also predicted “major chaos” if teachers will be expected to teach two separate curriculums at the same time.

He said: “The extra 12 months to prepare for these major changes will be welcomed by schools and I encourage the Welsh Government to use this time to engage with teachers so that they are fully abreast of the transitions afoot.

“My major concern, however, is that under these plans two curriculums will be running side by side for a period of around six years.

“This has the potential to cause major chaos for teachers who are essentially being asked to juggle the demands of two syllabuses, and so Welsh Government will need to explain how it intends to manage this so that learning is not adversely affected.”

​MOVE WELCOMED

Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Llyr Gruffydd said: “Finally, the Cabinet Secretary has accepted what we have been warning for several months – the new National Curriculum should not be rushed through.

“Teachers and experts have expressed their concern that the Welsh Government has continued to attempt too many reforms at the same time without ensuring that the system has the capacity to implement them. It was naïve of the government to think that it can push through reforms to unrealistic timeframes.”

UCAC, the Welsh teachers’ union has welcomed the Plan.

Rebecca Williams, UCAC’s Policy Officer said​:​ “This action plan is a breath of fresh air. It strikes a refreshing balance between ambition and realism, setting out plans for deep and far-reaching reform, but also outlining realistic methods of working and timeframes.

“The plan emphasises progress through co-operation, support and respect for everyone at every level of the education system, in contrast to some of the more threatening methods of the past. This is clearly a joint project, with shared responsibility.

“UCAC very much welcomes the clarity about the introduction of the new curriculum. We believe that the timetable as set out in the action plan will allow sufficient time for design and testing, for training and familiarisation, and for forward-planning of any consequential reforms to qualifications.

“The attitude towards assessment and accountability, with its emphasis on ‘assessment for learning’ rather than artificial comparisons between schools, is another positive step.

“We look forward to being part of the project, as a critical friend, over the next four years and beyond.”

NEU ​PRAISES STATEMENT

The National Education Union Cymru has also praised the statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, which it says recognises the concerns raised by the union over the last year.

David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “This announcement will be welcomed by the teaching profession and shows that the Cabinet Secretary is listening to the concerns that have been raised and is acting on the best advice and evidence available to her.

“There is a true consensus behind the new curriculum. The sector is on board with the Welsh Government’s vision but we must all make sure we are not risking that good will by rushing its implementation. The new timescales offer a better opportunity to develop the rigour of the system. At the same time changes to the way it will be introduced, moving from a big bang approach to a phased roll out, will make for a much smoother transition process which better supports school staff and pupils.

“The National Education Union have warned that the delivery of the new curriculum was not going to work under the old timeframe and so we are certainly delighted that the Cabinet Secretary has taken our views on board and has set in place a more realistic and promising strategy.”

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Education

Aberystwyth Vice Chancellor pays tribute to community-wide efforts to control COVID-19

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ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY’S Vice Chancellor has paid tribute to local organisations and workers for efforts to control cases of COVID-19 in the area.

Marking the anniversary of the initial lockdown, Professor Elizabeth Treasure said that the actions of organisations such as Ceredigion County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board had saved lives and she offered her heartfelt thanks.

Professor Treasure said: “I wanted to take this opportunity to outline my gratitude to those local partners who have worked so hard to combat COVID-19 transmission locally.  Their efforts have saved lives over the past months, and we will no doubt need to continue to support them over the coming weeks and months.”

Following the Welsh Government’s decision to allow all students back to university campuses after the Easter break, Professor Treasure thanked the wider community for its support over the course of a difficult year since the start of the pandemic.

Professor Treasure added: “I am very pleased that the Government has decided that students can return for in-person teaching after the Easter break.  I have received a great deal of positive feedback about the responsible actions of our students over recent months from other sections of our community.

“We are all helping to make a difference – contributing in our own ways to those life-saving efforts.

“We are fortunate to live in a community which is inclusive and welcoming, and I am so grateful for the wide support for all our work.”

On Monday 15 March 2021 the Welsh Government announced that students could return to universities after Easter for in-person teaching. Further practical details are expected to be released by the Welsh Government over the coming weeks.

As has been the case from the outset of the pandemic, Aberystwyth University is adhering to Welsh Government guidance as it plans for the return of students to Aberystwyth and to a COVID-secure campus.

In addition to initial significant contributions of PPE for healthcare workers, since the start of the pandemic the University has provided locations in Aberystwyth for public COVID-19 testing facilities and a mass vaccination centre.

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Education

U-turn on compulsory lifesaving lessons in Welsh secondary education

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SCHOOLS in Wales will now teach first aid and lifesaving skills as part of the new curriculum.

Wales will join England and Scotland by introducing first aid and lifesaving kills to their national secondary education curriculum.

Kirsty Williams, Education Minister had previously rejected the calls for emergency resuscitation skills to be compulsory in school.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was introduced in the secondary school curriculum in England in September 2020.

Local authorities in Scotland have also committed to introduce lifesaving skills to their secondary education curriculum.

The British Heart Foundation had backed the campaign for CPR to be taught in schools.

In a long fought battle, Suzy Davies, a Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, secured the commitment from the Welsh Education Minister in the course of debating amendments to the new Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, which will make sweeping changes to the way Welsh children are educated.

The new curriculum for Wales is planned to come into force from 2022.

Children, parents, families and medics have long argued that regular teaching of CPR in particular will raise our children to have the skills and confidence to step in and save the life of someone in cardiac arrest if they encounter them outside a hospital setting.

The commitment was included in the Welsh Conservative manifesto for the Assembly election in 2016, and Suzy Davies, the Shadow Education Minister, said:

“After 10 years campaigning for this, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen.

“From securing cross-party support for this in my early days as an Assembly Member, through several debates and pitches to different Ministers, on to my own proposed legislation which found favour among Senedd Members, it was difficult to understand why Welsh Government was so resistant.

“In this country, our chances of surviving a cardiac arrest outside hospital are as poor as 10%. In countries around the world where teaching CPR and defibrillator use is compulsory, those odds improve dramatically. These skills are quick and easy to learn and easy to remember.

“ Alun Davies MS – himself a cardiac arrest survivor – has rightly argued that we should be able to learn these skills at any time in our lives and that defibrillators should be a commonplace feature of our public landscape. I couldn’t agree more – but how simple it is to ingrain these skills from an early age and raise generation after generation of lifesavers.”

Under the new curriculum, teachers must follow statutory guidance made by Ministers to support various aspects of the new way of teaching. After changes guaranteed by the Education Minister, this guidance will now instruct teachers that they should teach lifesaving skills and first aid: It is no longer optional.

The mandatory teaching of life saving skills and first aid (not just CPR) has been supported by the medical profession, including paramedics and fire service co-responders, as well as charities like St. John’s Cymru, British Heart Foundation, Calon Defibrillators, Cariad and the Red Cross.

It is taught through many youth groups, including Torfaen Sea Cadets who trained Aneurin Metcalfe, the young man who saved someone’s life only this week.

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Education

Styling their way to the top

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FOUR hairdressing learners: Holly Mathias, Jenna Kilgallon, Helaina Thomas and Leah Rees, recently earned themselves a place in the next stage of the Concept Hair Magazine Learner of the Year Competition.

The candidates were invited into the College to show their fully presented entries as evidence and then submitted them remotely to the Concept Hair Magazine judges in December.

The categories for the competition were: Festival Hair, Red Carpet, Old School Barbershop, Celebration of Colour and Safari.

The unique styles allowed the learners to show off their creative hair styling skills from plaits to updos, to bold colour creations.

Charlotte Jones, Hairdressing lecturer was over the moon with the learners’ success; “We were all so impressed with the creativity, dedication and enthusiasm of all the students who took part in the competition. Also, the students who supported the entries during the day and the models who gave up their time to be involved. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved. The results were amazing!”

The students worked to COVID regulations ensuring all the correct PPE and procedures were followed.

Finalist, Holly Mathias entered three categories which included; Styling Level 2 – Festival Theme, Hair Up Level 2 – Red Carpet and Avant Garde – Safari.

Holly shared her experience; “Taking part in the Concept Hair competition, has really boosted my confidence and proved that hard work really does pay off. The support from the staff at Pembrokeshire College is outstanding. I would recommend everyone to take part in this competition as not only is it an amazing experience, but it really allows you to think outside the box and be as creative as you can! I would 100% take part in this competition again.”

Holly plans to go into full-time employment when she completes her course and hopes to one day work on cruise ships or even own her own salon.

The next stage involves the candidates submitting photographic entries on the 12th March where six will be shortlisted for the national finals which is set to take place virtually in April.

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