FUNDING to help pupils from deprived backgrounds improve educational attainment should be better targeted and regularly assessed for value for money, according to a National Assembly Committee.
The Children, Young People and Education Committee has been looking at the impact of the Welsh Government’s Pupil Development Grant (PDG) which provides extra money per pupil eligible for a free school meal (eFSM).
The grant costs £94 million per year and while the Committee concluded the Welsh Government is right to use PDG, it was concerned by evidence from schools watchdog Estyn that only two thirds of Welsh schools were using the money effectively.
During evidence committee members were told that PDG is not used enough to support more able and talented eFSM pupils. This is despite the fact that the PDG should be used to improve the educational outcomes of every eFSM pupil, including helping them achieve the highest grades.
The Committee also heard that targeted funding such as the PDG is masking pressures on schools’ budgets and is no longer considered an extra resource, but is part of core funding. The Committee has recommended that the Welsh Government keep the sufficiency of school budgets under review and also intends to undertake its own work in this area.
The Committee’s inquiry looked at the impact of the PDG on attainment and the implications of changes to the way schools’ performance is measured. The attainment gap between eFSM and other pupils narrowed following the introduction of PDG, but the Committee’s inquiry highlighted that the gap was already narrowing before then.
PDG has also been extended to include pupils who were eligible for free schools meals in the past two years, but may not be anymore. But the Committee found that no extra funding had been provided to meet the new demand. Similarly, the PDG which is provided for Looked After Children can also be used on adopted children but no additional money is given for this. This means either education authorities are not targeting the money on adopted children, or are diluting PDG funding, effectively taking resources away from other Looked After Children. The Committee has called for a more strategic approach to the PDG for Looked After Children and adopted children.
“The link between deprivation and attainment is well established,” said Lynne Neagle AM, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee.
“Breaking this link has been a priority for the Welsh Government for many years.
“The Committee supports the use of the Pupil Development Grant to help narrow the gap between disadvantaged and deprived pupils and their peers but we believe much more needs to done to ensure this funding helps more able pupils from deprived backgrounds get the highest grades.”
The Committee also examined the now discontinued Schools Challenge Cymru programme which provided extra funding and support for 39 underperforming schools in Wales.
The Welsh Government brought in Professor Mel Ainscow, who had developed a similar, successful scheme in Manchester, to head up the programme. But Welsh Government decided to end the programme after three years and before the results of a government-commissioned performance evaluation were known.
Critics of the decision said Schools Challenge Cymru ended too soon and that similar models used in other parts of the UK had been given more time to raise standards. The Welsh Government has said that the regional consortia, established in 2012, are now well placed to take over support for Wales’ most underperforming schools as part of their functions for overall school improvement.
Lynne Neagle AM said: “The Welsh Government established Schools Challenge Cymru in recognition that some of our schools need targeted and tailored challenge and support to improve and ensure pupils are given the best opportunity to do well.
“Results among the schools in Wales were mixed, but the Committee is concerned that those that made good progress risk losing momentum now that the programme has ended. The Welsh Government and the regional consortia must make sure this doesn’t happen.
“It is also unclear to what extent the Welsh Government is learning lessons from the Schools Challenge Cymru programme.”
National Library of Wales stand will be hive of activity on Eisteddfod Maes
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY in Aberystwyth is promising a hive of activity at the National Eisteddfod of Wales in Tregaron from July 30 to August 6.
The library’s stand will include a unique exhibition and cinema where visitors can relax and enjoy viewing treasures from its vast moving images collection.
An exciting and diverse programme of events for families and adults will be held on our stand during the week, including gigs with artists such as Parisa Fouladi, Owen Shiers, Mari Mathias, Ynys, Izzy & Eädyth and Plu.
Other sessions will focus on health and wellbeing, including Clocsffit with Tudur Phillips and a circus workshop.
An event will be held in partnership with the charity Meddwl and singer Miriam Isaac to raise awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing.
Literary sessions with partners include a special event on Monday, August 1 with chief poet Gwenallt Llwyd Ifan, who is originally from Tregaron. He will present a sequence of poems, recently commissioned by the library in partnership with Barddas, which are based on and inspired by the current exhibition A Oes Heddwch?
The library will also have a presence in other areas of the Maes with diverse and fascinating presentations in the societies stands, Y Lle Celf and Tŷ Gwerin.
The library’s shop will launch a series of specially commissioned products by the artists Valeriane Leblond and Ruth Jên, together with unique items based on national collections, including some relating to the Tregaron area.
Pedr ap Llwyd, the library’s chief executive and librarian, said: “We very much look forward to seeing people from far and wide visiting us on the Maes and in the library building as we welcome one of Europe’s biggest cultural festivals here to Ceredigion.
“After a long wait, we look forward to a special and memorable occasion and we have prepared a varied and exciting programme of events, celebrating our language and culture for families, on our stand and in other areas of the Maes in Tregaron.”
Pedr ap Llwyd, the National Library of Wales’ chief executive and librarian.
Harnessing the power of theatre to explore the impact of translation on court proceedings
AN INNOVATIVE fusion of theatre and law has been adopted as a research tool in a project by Aberystwyth University academics exploring the influence of simultaneous translation on court proceedings.
The pioneering approach has been adopted by Dr Catrin Fflûr Huws, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Law and Criminology, who is interested in the engagement between theatre and law.
Dr Huws is the lead researcher on a study which is considering the effect, significance and influence of simultaneous translation in court cases, particularly the challenges and benefits to interpretation services in instances when court proceedings are held remotely.
As part of the study, a moot court was held at the University on Monday 20 June 2022.
The simulation involved the cross-examination of the claimant (an actor) by a barrister through an interpreter, following a script of a real-life court hearing.
For the purposes of the moot court, the barrister, the claimant and the interpreter were all in different locations, in order to emulate a remote court case. A mock jury was formed of members of the public.
The event used an interactive theatre technique known as Forum Theatre, which uses theatre as a tool for challenging and changing preconceptions. Audience interaction is encouraged and different options for dealing with a problem or issue are explored through participation.
Dr Catrin Fflûr Huws explains: “In a court case, effective multilingual communication is wholly reliant on the role of the translator. And yet the importance of interpretation is not adequately understood.
“In our moot court the mock jury listened to an intense cross-examination of a claimant by a barrister, both with and without simultaneous translation. Their reactions, opinions and feelings were then analysed, facilitated by a director. This allows us to ascertain the jury’s response and understanding of a claimant with an interpreter, and a claimant without an interpreter, therefore establishing the effect and impact of the interpreter.”
Other Aberystwyth academics involved in the study are Dr Rhianedd Jewell, a Senior Lecturer in Professional Welsh with expertise in translation studies and professional translation, and Psychology lecturer Dr Hanna Binks who specialises in language acquisition and the psychology of bilingualism. Non Humphries, a PhD student within the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies is also part of the investigation team.
The research work has been funded by Aberystwyth University’s allocation of the Research Wales Innovation Fund from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.
Dr Rhianedd Jewell said: “This research is allowing us to explore how current practices might be changed for the better. Although the focus of this research is on Welsh-English bilingualism in court proceedings, many of the findings will also be relevant in other contexts in which court hearings are multilingual, including British Sign Language.”
The outcome of the research will be the subject of an online conference to be held on 21 July 2022.
The conference will be of interest not only to academics from the fields of Psychology, Translation Studies and Linguistics, Law, Criminology and Politics, but also to people working in the fields of justice and criminal justice, law practitioners, the police and translation services.
Free School Meals for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 from September 2022
CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL will be offering Free School Meals from the Autumn term onwards to all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children.
This comes following Welsh Government’s announcement to offer Free School Meals for primary school pupils across Wales, starting with Reception classes from September 2022.
In response to the current rising cost-of-living, this is a positive step forward in ensuring that no child goes hungry while in school and tackling poverty in our County.
From Monday 5 September 2022 onwards, all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 Children in Ceredigion schools will be offered Free School Meals, extending the offer beyond what needs to be done by September.
Ceredigion County Council and Welsh Government are committed to implementing this scheme quickly and would ask for your patience as we build catering capacity to ensure a successful phased implementation and work towards a whole school roll-out over the next three years.
The Council are working with Welsh Government to develop a process for you to be able to request a free meal for your child/children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 from September 2022, trying to avoid any unnecessary burden for you.
If your child is currently in receipt of free school meals and/or any other associated benefits, these will not be affected.
Wyn Thomas, Cabinet Member responsible for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: “The Government’s aim is for Welsh Local Authorities to provide a free school meal for Reception pupils in September 2022. The Council has taken advantage of the flexibility of the scheme and so more pupils in Ceredigion will benefit from the offer of a free meal for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils in September 2022 in the County’s schools.”
Further information will follow by the end of term.
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