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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

Becoming a teacher

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Thinking of teaching: Do your research

TO TEACH in a Welsh state school, you must have a degree, and gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) by following a programme of Initial Teacher Training (ITT).

All teachers in Wales are also required to register with the Education Workforce Council (EWC).

In Wales, most training programmes are university or college-based, and you have a choice of programmes delivered in English or Welsh. QTS awarded by the Education Workforce Council in Wales is automatically recognised in England.

UCAS Teacher Training is the scheme to use to apply for the main postgraduate routes leading to QTS. If you don’t already hold a degree, you can apply via UCAS Undergraduate for teacher training programmes, to graduate with QTS.

Some more specialised teaching routes – including the Welsh Graduate Teacher Programme and Teach First – are not managed by UCAS and have a different application process. These training options offer different routes to gain QTS, depending on your professional or academic background.

Postgraduate training

University-led PGCE or PGDE

Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) training programmes are available for prospective primary and secondary school teachers. You’ll get classroom experience by spending time teaching and being trained in at least two schools, as well as time at the university or college you’ve chosen, working with a group of other students and being taught by university staff.

Typically a one year programme, students must complete a minimum of 120 days in a school, among blocks of study at their chosen training provider. Spaces on popular teacher training programmes fill up quickly. Places are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so apply early.

Graduate Teacher Programme

For prospective primary and secondary teachers wishing to study for their Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in Wales, the Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP) is an employment-based route into teaching which offers a way to qualify as a teacher while you work. Programmes typically last for one year and require students to pass a newly qualified teaching year.

The GTP is very similar to School Direct (salaried) programmes in England, but is managed and delivered by the three regional teacher training centres in Wales:

  • North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education
  • South West Wales Centre of Teacher Education
  • South East Wales Centre for Teacher Education

There are a limited number of primary and secondary places available on the GTP in Wales each year. Applications are made directly to the regional teacher training centres. For more information, see Discover Teaching in Wales.

Teach First: Leadership Development Programme

This option combines leadership development and teacher training, giving applicants the chance to become an inspirational leader in classrooms that need it the most. It is a two year salaried programme leading to a Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) qualification. Following five weeks of intensive training, you’ll continue to learn on the job while you work towards QTS.

Undergraduate training

Bachelor of Education (BEd) degrees

Bachelor of Education (BEd) teacher training programmes are an undergraduate route for those who would like to follow a career in teaching, and graduate with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). BEd programmes typically last three years, and are a popular route for prospective primary school teachers. Some providers do offer secondary-level BEd programmes for specific specialisms.

Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BSc) with QTS

Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) are popular with prospective secondary school teachers, and focus on developing specialist subject knowledge required to teach. Not a common route for those wanting to study for primary teacher training programmes, most providers only offer BA and BSc with QTS for secondary teaching.

Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE): Introduction to Secondary Teaching

This Wales-only training route is for prospective secondary teachers who may not have any formal academic qualifications, but do have a passion for maths, science, or design technology. This route gives you the chance to earn the credits needed to meet the entry requirements for BSc (Hons) degree programmes, enabling you to work towards QTS in three years.

Funding

Full-time undergraduate and postgraduate Initial ITE courses attract funding in the same way as other undergraduate degree programmes.

This means full-time students will be able to apply for student finance for fees and living costs in the same way as undergraduates on any other higher-education course.

In addition, the Welsh Government offers incentives for top graduates to train to teach in designated subjects, particularly sciences, modern languages, Welsh, and ICT.

Eligible students who are ordinarily resident in Wales and started full-time postgraduate ITE courses in the current academic year could also get a Fee Grant of up to £4,954.

Grants are also available, depending on the subject studied, for eligible ITE students undertaking full-time, pre-service PGCE PCET/FE courses.

Student teachers starting postgraduate secondary ITE courses and training through the medium of Welsh may be able to get the Welsh Medium Improvement Scheme grant. This is aimed at student teachers who need extra support to raise confidence in their ability to teach effectively in Welsh.

Student teachers on some employment-based teacher education courses will be paid a salary by their school. This will be at least equal to the minimum point on the unqualified teacher pay scale, but their school may choose to pay more.

Information on employment-based routes in Wales can be found under the ‘Employment-based routes’ section of the Teacher Education and Training in Wales website at http://bit.ly/1fFu5Ap

Students can also attend School-centred Initial Teacher Training courses in England if they have been designated to receive funding by the Welsh Government.

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Education

Education attainment gap widens

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Poverty: Still affecting children's opportunities

THESE days a huge amount depends on how well a young person does at school in year 11.

Whether they can go on to study A levels or even do an apprenticeship often depends on getting the golden ticket of 5 A*-C GCSEs. Yet the latest 2016/17 GCSE Examination results show that a huge proportion of our young people are not getting to this level, with those who are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) doing much worse.

GCSE results

The cohort sitting their GCSE exams last year were the first to take the new versions of GCSE Maths and English. The overall proportions of year 11’s achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs including maths and English/Welsh first language have dropped from 60.3% in 2015/16 to 54.6% in 2016/17. There is also a dramatic drop in students achieving any 5 GCSEs A*-C, from 84% to 67%.

Free School Meals

Many more young people who are eligible for FSM are leaving school without the qualifications they need. The proportion of year 11’s that were eligible for FSM who achieved 5 A*-C GCSEs including maths and English/Welsh language dropped by 7 percentage points since 2015/16, and more worryingly have dropped by 30.3 percentage points for any 5 A*-C GCSEs, compared to 5.8 and 15.4 percentage points for those who were not eligible.

The attainment gap between students eligible for FSM and those not eligible for FSM is nothing new in Wales. There have been numerous statements and educational strategies centred around closing this gap and increasing the achievements of students eligible for FSM. However, as the data shows – the gap between those eligible for FSM and those who are not has increased.

Last year the gap between the two was 32.4 percentage points for 5 A*-C GCSEs including maths and English/Welsh language, compared to 31.2 in 2015/16, and 32.3 percentage points for any 5 A*-C GCSEs, compared to 17.4 the year before.

Reasons for the changes

Maybe students had not adjusted well to the changes to GCSE exams last year; early entry into exams might also have played a role. The Welsh Government advises that comparisons to previous years should not be made due to several changes to performance measures data. However, do these changes explain why the drop in achievement between last year and the year before is larger for those eligible for FSM and why the attainment gap is still not shrinking?

Effect it could have on young people

Many opportunities for young people are reliant on them achieving 5 A*-C GCSEs. Taking A-levels and most further education courses and even some apprenticeships require young people to have those crucial GCSEs. So, what about young people who leave school without those qualifications, which this year has increased?

We are working on a project looking at this, asking that exact question. We know that opportunities are limited and that the lack of them can seriously impact a young person’s life. The lack of good opportunities can increase their chances of earning low wages and in turn, increasing their chances of living in poverty.

The Bevan Foundation’s project is currently ongoing with findings due out early next Spring. To find out more on the better opportunities for young people project, please go to http://bit.ly/2CerDNH

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Education

Awards evening celebrates success

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Award winners: Freya and Stephen (inset)

JUST before Christmas, the educational achievements of Coleg Sir Gâr’s A-level and access students were celebrated with an awards evening.

The Principal’s Award for Academic Excellence was this year awarded to Stephen Hughes who is studying geography at Churchill College, Cambridge.

Stephen studied four A-levels and was part of ACE, the college’s more able and talented programme.

Whilst at college, Stephen also won one of three environmental awards by the Morgan Parry Foundation.

Vanessa Cashmore, head of A-levels said: “Stephen is an exceptional student with high aspirations and a committed approach to his studies.

“We are all incredibly proud of his achievements and never doubted his ability to succeed. It has been a privilege to support Stephen throughout his academic journey at Coleg Sir Gâr and we wish him all the best for his future.”

25 year-old Freya Hutton-Lightfoot won the Principal’s Award for Lifelong Learning.

Specialising in healthcare, Freya is studying an access to higher education course, which is a university entry qualification and preparation programme for university study.

Freya achieved straight distinction grades and achieved 45 full-mark distinction credits as well as achieving 100 per cent in two chemistry exams.

Bethan Norman, lecturer in access at Coleg Sir Gâr said: “Freya was a pleasure to have in class, she was always engaged and completed all tasks to a high standard with enthusiasm.

“I was immediately impressed by the high academic level that Freya came into the course with, particularly due to fact that she was home schooled and did not have any GCSEs.

“This demonstrates just how much work she has put in for her to develop into the outstanding academic that she is today and I am sure that she will be successful at university where she is currently studying adult nursing.”

Vanessa Cashmore, head of A-levels and Access at Coleg Sir Gâr, said: “Our annual awards evening is a lovely end to the year where we recognise students for their outstanding effort, academic excellence and lifelong learning.”

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