THE BIGGEST trend in Welsh education over the last seven years has been the move towards a culture of self-improvement.
According to Estyn’s Chief Inspector’s Annual Report published on Wednesday (Jan 24), schools and other education and training providers increasingly take ownership of their own improvement and share expertise and best practice with each other.
Chief Inspector Meilyr Rowlands says: “Looking back over the last seven-year cycle of inspections, there’s been a shift in education in Wales towards greater collaboration. It’s clear from our inspections of over 2,700 schools, non-maintained settings, colleges and other education and training organisations that there is enough excellence across Welsh education to support improvement and help reduce variability.
“This spirit of cooperation is most obvious in the way that the new curriculum is being developed with the teaching profession and how schools themselves are beginning to develop innovative teaching and learning practices. Consortia of local authorities work together and schools support each other to improve teachers’ professional skills.”
In schools like Ysgol Gynradd Bynea, Llanelli, pupils led a project to develop an outside learning village. Learners developed a range of skills from designing architectural models to budgeting and placing orders. In the further education sector, Pembrokeshire College has developed partnerships that support the development of skills in Pembrokeshire, improve learners’ access to post-16 education and engage with hard-to-reach groups.
More findings from the seven-year inspection cycle:
- Inspection findings this year are broadly similar to those for the last seven years as a whole. Seven-in-ten primary schools inspected this year are good or excellent, similar to last year, while half of secondary schools inspected are good or excellent, a bit better than last year
- There are many strengths in nursery settings, maintained special schools and in further education colleges, where the quality of education provided is good or better in most cases. Variability within and between providers remains a challenge in most other sectors.
- Schools that are most successful at raising standards for all their pupils and at closing the gap in the performance of pupils eligible for free school meals compared to their peers, encourage greater involvement of parents and the community and create a culture where education is respected and valued.
- In the quarter of schools that deliver the Foundation Phase well, pupils make good progress, become confident learners, and are well-prepared for future learning. But many schools remain reliant on more traditional teaching methods, especially for children aged 5 to 7.
- As the secondary school accountability system became increasingly linked to examination results, some schools focused too much on examination technique rather than on providing a broad education. The best schools develop learners’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes to learning by capturing their interest through engaging learning experiences.
- Mergers of further education colleges have resulted in a smaller number of large providers. The new leadership teams of these institutions have overseen improved provision in this sector over the last seven years.
Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, welcomed the report as further evidence that Wales’ education system is uniting in a mission of self-improvement.
The Welsh Government also expressed pleasure in the ’spirit of cooperation’ with the teaching profession in developing a new curriculum.
The report also welcomes:
- The establishment of a National Academy of Educational Leadership;
- A “more systematic approach” to how pupils learn, apply and practise their literacy and numeracy across the curriculum;
- Major changes in how professional learning is organised;
- Improvements in attendance and behaviour;
- Strengths in learner wellbeing, care, support and guidance, and learning environment; and
- Strengthened links between higher and further education.
Welcoming the report, Kirsty Williams said: “Our national mission for education seeks to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and enjoys public confidence.
“It is clear from reading this report that there is sustained momentum in Welsh education; a culture of self-improvement that is embedded in the system and, most importantly, owned by those working in the profession.
“I am heartened to see the Chief Inspector welcoming the steps we have taken to drive up standards and support improvement in our schools – particularly our efforts to work with the teaching profession in developing the new curriculum.
“The report notes our efforts to reduce the attainment gap, but we know there is no room for complacency. That’s why we’re doubling the Pupil Development Grant for our youngest learners, so that every child has the opportunity to reach their potential.
“By continuing to work together, I am confident that we can achieve our national mission and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.”
David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union Cymru, said: “This report shows that despite increasingly difficult funding settlements and the ongoing concerns of workload schools and teachers in Wales are continuing to provide an education service we can be proud of. Amongst the many positives identified, it is especially good news to see recognition from Estyn for the work schools are doing to work constructively together.
“The profession has always espoused the benefits of self-improvement, collaboration and the focus on teaching and learning. This report highlights those issues and the benefits to be gleaned when teachers are allowed to take ownership of their teaching practices. This will be a big boost as we seek to implement the new curriculum and highlight the cooperative approach that we see being priorities in communities across Wales.”
Community safety promises as students return to Aberystwyth
Aberystwyth University has launched five ‘community promises’ as part of its plans to ensure the safety of students, staff and the wider community as it prepares to welcome students back later this month.
The ‘community promises’ outline five pledges for students, staff and the wider town community. The five points are:
1. Maintain good hygiene – wash hands regularly
2. Keep our distance – follow guidelines
3. Know who we are with – test and trace saves lives
4. Protect those around us – wear a face covering where advised
5. Respect each other – be kind
The pledges come on top of the comprehensive safety measures the University has already introduced.
These include introducing one-way systems, classroom layout changes and signage, along with enhanced cleaning and hygiene arrangements, including providing hand sanitizer stations and regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.
It has also restructured its teaching timetable to support social distancing, is introducing contact tracing in co-operation with the local council and health board, and expects all staff, students and visitors to wear a face-covering while indoors on all University sites.
Aberystwyth University’s Vice-Chancellor, Elizabeth Treasure, said: “As we bring teaching on-campus later this month, our priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our students, staff and the wider community. The University has been working very hard over many months to adapt our campus and activities in light of the global pandemic. These comprehensive measures include enhancing cleaning, ensuring social distancing, contract tracing, and expecting all staff, students and visitors to wear a face-covering while indoors on all University sites. These adaptations have been introduced as a result of an extensive programme of risk assessments in order to identify and mitigate risks.
“All these detailed arrangements have been developed in close collaboration with Students’ Union representatives, as well as in discussions with Ceredigion Council, Hywel Dda Health Board, the Welsh Government and UK wide stakeholders. From the outset of the current pandemic, safety has been at the forefront of our thinking and will continue to be so for the new academic year.”
The new commitments have been backed by the Leader of Ceredigion Council, Students’ Union representatives, and the Mayor of Aberystwyth.
Ellen ap Gwynn, the Leader of Ceredigion County Council, said: “Ceredigion County Council has been working closely with Aberystwyth University over the last few months in ensuring that arrangements are in place to welcome students back safely to the County. We support the range of safety measures that Aberystwyth University has put in place, as well as the ‘community promises’ so that the students can return and once again become part of the community in Aberystwyth. We will continue to work closely with Aberystwyth University over the coming months to ensure the safety of the students and the local community.”
Aberystwyth Mayor Cllr Charlie Kingsbury added: “I’m very grateful for the hard work the University has undertaken to ensure that students return safely to Aberystwyth. Sensible measures, which are cognisant of the risk are essential as we welcome students back, and I have every confidence in the University’s commitment to support the health of the community in Aberystwyth.”
President of Aberystwyth Students’ Union Nate Pidcock commented: “These commitments are an important part of a package of adaptations which are being made in light of the pandemic. With students gradually returning to campus, these changes are going to be relatively new to everyone. We are going to do our very best, alongside other partners, to ensure that students are aware of this new normal. We are going to do all we can to work together to protect all the people and communities of Aberystwyth and Ceredigion as a whole.”
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the University has been working with a wide variety of local and national partners to keep infection rates low in the Ceredigion, including providing facilities to the local health board and producing and supplying PPE. The University has also planned for a more gradual return of students this month, including making special provision for students who may need to self-isolate on arrival.
Vital support for job seekers and employers in West Wales
TO MATCH job seekers with employers and career agencies across West Wales, a virtual jobs fair is taking place on Wednesday 9 September.
The free online event will be hosted by Working Wales, which is delivered by Careers Wales, and is in partnership with Job Centre Plus teams across West Wales and the south west and mid Wales Regional Learning and Skills Partnership.
Now, more than ever, job seekers and employers are relying on online support to find jobs and fill vacancies.
The event will run through Working Wales’ Facebook channels and will be split into two regional events covering West Wales mid and south. 10am-11am is for job seekers and employers in Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Powys and Neath Port Talbot. 2pm-3pm will focus on Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Swansea.
Attendees for the free event will have access to a wide variety of job vacancies from many sectors across West Wales as well as expert careers advice to support with job applications.
Working Wales is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund and was launched by the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates in May 2019.
Within the first year the service has directly assisted over 37,000 people across Wales. Careers Wales chief executive, Nikki Lawrence said “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the west to deliver a virtual jobs fair. Our careers advice and guidance is a vital part of supporting the economy during this pandemic, and these online events allow us to effectively and safely continue reaching and supporting our customers during these challenging times.”
To register your interest in these events, follow Working Wales on Facebook @WorkingWales. If you are an employer with vacancies to fill please also get in touch.
Available to anyone over the age of 16, Working Wales provides a one-to-one, tailored employability advice and guidance service, supporting people across Wales with job searching, CV writing, interview preparation, training and upskilling as well as with redundancy support.
For more information on Working Wales visit: www.workingwales.gov.wales or call 0800 028 4844
Ceredigion ready to welcome pupils back safely
Ceredigion pupils will return to school gradually from September onwards.
The autumn term begins on 3 September 2020, with pupils gradually returning until everyone is back on a full-time basis by 14 September 2020.
Ceredigion County Council would like to thank all staff for their hard work over recent weeks in ensuring that the appropriate arrangements are in place to safeguard the health and welfare of staff and pupils.
One-way systems will be in place in schools, bubble groups by year and class groups, and pupils will sit facing the front of the class, rather than facing each other, and scattered break and lunch times. Staff will also continue to take the temperature of each pupil as they arrive on site. We will ensure good hygiene by ensuring regular hand washing opportunities throughout the day and a supply of hand sanitizers in places where hand washing is not possible, as well as ensuring adequate fresh air within classes. In addition, the schools will be cleaned during the day and after school hours. The Contact Tracing system will be used in the event of any coronavirus case, and each school will have a dedicated isolation room if a pupil or member of staff feels unwell during the day, with clear signs placed around the sites to emphasize the importance of hygiene and keeping a social distance. Secondary schools will also be asking all pupils to carry face coverings with them and they will be expected to use them in line with the school’s Risk Assessment policy.
Transport arrangements will continue in Ceredigion for pupils who are eligible for school transport, in accordance with the county’s Transport policy. Ceredigion County Council expects pupils to wear face coverings on school transport. It will be the duty of parents/carers to provide a face covering for their child. Social distance is not a requirement on school transport and therefore the Council believes that wearing a face covering on school transport should be taken as one means of reducing risks.
The situation will be continually reviewed, and we thank everyone for their patience and co-operation as we prioritise the health and safety of all pupils and staff. We aim to ensure that our pupils receive as full an educational experience as possible within these circumstances.
The Headteachers of each school will be on hand to reassure pupils, parents and carers of any aspect of these preparations.
We look forward to welcoming old and new faces back to the schools in September, and we wish everyone a successful term, brimming with education.
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