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.”
Aber academic’s exhibition of theatre architecture and performance space
AN ACADEMIC from Aberystwyth University has been appointed to the international artistic team behind the world’s largest exhibition of theatre design and scenography.
Dr Andrew Filmer from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies has been appointed to curate the Performance Space Exhibition for the 15th Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space which takes place from 8–18 June 2023 at the Pražská Tržnice in Prague, Czech Republic.
Established in 1967, the Prague Quadrennial (PQ) brings the best of design for performance, scenography and theatre architecture together to be experienced by professional and emerging artists as well as the general public.
Dr Filmer will be one of the PQ curatorial team which is responsible for offering the festival’s participants a fresh look at the artistic production of our times in performance design and scenography.
The PQ 2023 theme is ‘Rare’, and will take into consideration the strange and precarious world of uncertainty we live in.
Scenographers, set designers, spatial artists, architects, theatre designers, and performers from over 90 countries will use their imagination and creativity to help people envision what the world and theatre could look like in the post-pandemic future.
Dr Filmer, a Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Performance, said: “It’s a great honour to take on the role of curator of the Performance Space Exhibition for the PQ in 2023. The PQ is an inspiring event that brings people together to experience and discuss the richness of performance design and scenography. My hope is that the Performance Space Exhibition in 2023 will offer an expanded sense of what performance space can be in a variety of settings, environments and cultures.”
Dr Filmer’s appointment extends a history of involvement by staff from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies in the PQ.
Professor Simon Banham, the current Head of Department, was PQ Commissioner of the Weather Exhibition in 2015 and part of the UK Gold Medal winning exhibition in 1994.
Mr Richard Downing’s work was displayed as part of the UK exhibition in 2007 and he was invited to lead a Space-Lab Workshop in 2015.
Both were invited to design and curate the PQ SharedSpace Symposium in 2014.
Originally from Sydney, Australia, Dr Filmer joined Aberystwyth University in 2008.
His research explores the sites of encounter between performance and architecture.
He is currently working with National Theatre Wales on the Ever After Project<https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.tandfonline.com%2Fdoi%2Ffull%2F10.1080%2F23322551.2020.1856304&data=04%7C01%7C%7Cc54248e7523c4c3e8ee908d94080c335%7Cd47b090e3f5a4ca084d09f89d269f175%7C0%7C0%7C637611744029985411%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C1000&sdata=7EE6DuZVF2kOnTZlBpJ3QkZn546ZVxe07TwaK6G607g%3D&reserved=0> which is exploring theatre and performance in the era of COVID-19, and considering how the processes of theatrical production and theatre aesthetics might be reconfigured in the light of the conditions imposed by the pandemic and in the post-pandemic future.
Aber to teach nursing in boost for NHS in Wales
ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY will offer nursing qualifications for the first time, after new healthcare investment plans were given the go-ahead.
Health Education and Improvement Wales has awarded a contract to Aberystwyth University to educate both adult and mental health nurses until the end of this decade.
The first nursing students will arrive for their studies at Aberystwyth University in September 2022.
The decision has been hailed as a major boost for the health service, especially in mid Wales.
The new degree courses will also offer students the opportunity to study up to half of their course through the medium of Welsh.
Reacting to the announcement, Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure commented:
“This is excellent and exciting news for everyone here in Aberystwyth. A big thanks goes to everyone who has been a part of developing our plans. We are very grateful for the consistent support of our partners, including the local health boards and Ceredigion County Council, without whom this exciting development would not be possible.”
“Supporting the community needs, in close co-operation with our partners, is central to our civic mission; and establishing nursing education here will be an important part of that. It will benefit the local recruitment and retention of nurses, as well as the potential to inspire new models of healthcare delivery which will be of benefit to everyone. Our plans will also make an important contribution to enhancing mental health and Welsh-medium provision locally and beyond.”
“During the pandemic, the hard work and commitment of our nurses, and that of other NHS and care workers during this turbulent time, has been nothing short of extraordinary. It is a great honour that Health Education and Improvement Wales has put its trust and investment in us, so that we can deliver on our exciting plans to educate nurses here.”
Professor Treasure added:
“Over the years ahead, our ambition is to play an even bigger role in educating healthcare professionals. Given everyone’s experiences during the pandemic, there is perhaps no more important time to prioritise investing in the next generation of talented young people who will be responsible for the welfare of us all.”
Chris Jones, Chair of Health Education and Improvement Wales said:
“This has been a huge piece of work reflecting the importance of high quality healthcare education and patient care in Wales. The approaches to widening access and grounding training in our communities will equip our students to serve well the needs of the population going forward.
“Thank you to everyone involved including stakeholders who helped shape the contracts and in turn the future of healthcare education. We’re looking forward to working with Universities and Health Boards to bring this modern approach to life and equipping students with the skills, knowledge and experience to embark on successful and fulfilling careers.”
The proposals to establish nursing education were developed by Aberystwyth University in co-operation with a number of partners including the Hywel Dda, Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys local health boards as well as service users and carers.
University to host industry summit online
SUPPORTING industry’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic is a key priority for the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).
The University has a track record for working with industry through knowledge transfer, research innovation, workforce development and by providing a ready pipeline of skilled students and graduates, in partnership with employers.
In addition, UWTSD’s MADE Cymru initiative was established to support manufacturing industries in Wales to adapt to the challenges of Industry 4.0.
The initiative, funded by the EU via the Welsh Government, aims to support the economic recovery of manufacturers in Wales by offering part and fully funded training to businesses to upskill staff, as well as research and development that improves processes and products to reduce waste and costs.
In addition, UWTSD and MADE Cymru have organised an Industry Summit to be held online between June 8-10 to inform, engage and inspire businesses during this critical period of post-Covid recovery.
Expert speakers will be sharing their insights including James Davies from Industry Wales, Carol Hall, Regional Investment Manager, Development Bank of Wales, Chris Probert, Innovation Specialist, Welsh Government and Geraint Jones, Knowledge Transfer Adviser at KTN.
The line-up also includes Welsh manufacturers who will be sharing their own experiences, including Tim Hawkins, Managing Director, Markes International, Julia Chesney-Roberts, Commercial Manager, Riversimple, Angus Grahame, Founder of Splosh and Jacques Bonfrer, Co-Founder and Team Lead, Bot-Hive.
There will be guest talks from circular economy expert Eoin Bailey and lean author Daryl Powell and an opportunity to find out about the range of services offered by the University.
Graham Howe, Executive Head of the MADE Cymru project at UWTSD says: “This Industry Summit aims to explore issues and challenges facing manufacturing in Wales so that we can work together with employers to find solutions.
“We always start with asking a manufacturer what their biggest problem is today and look at how we can help them with it.
“We aim to unravel potentially confusing challenges like these. Our approach begins by looking at what companies need to increase their productivity and competitiveness.
“We aim to lead the businesses we work with through a journey of continuous improvement – a journey that makes the most of Industry 4.0 technologies and their ever-growing digital capabilities to help solve the specific problems faced by each company.
“All of the feedback we receive from businesses shapes our curriculum – we want to produce employable, digitally literate graduates who can contribute to their workplace from day one”.
Alison Orrells is CEO and Managing Director of Safety Letterbox and has been one of the organisations participating in the MADE Cymru initiative.
She said: “It was important to keep innovating and investing to set us apart and come out stronger. It’s been intense but we had a game plan – now it is all about business future-proofing, being agile, collaborations and being adaptable.”
Covid-19 has affected every part of a business and shifted the focus from production to survival.
UWTSD recently led a round table discussion with Welsh manufacturers about the future of manufacturing in Wales.
That discussion found that their outlook is positive about the future.
Manufacturers accelerated their adoption of new technologies to enhance and optimise production.
With many employees on furlough, managers took the opportunity to rethink and invest in better IT, particularly communications, training and diversified into new product areas. They looked to local colleges and universities to help shift perceptions of jobs in manufacturing and demonstrated the career opportunities and pathways available.
They also loosened their reliance on overseas imports and looked for suppliers in the UK to minimise future risk of disruption.
All sessions of the Industry Summit are free to attend and places can be booked on the UWTSD website: https://uwtsd.ac.uk/made/made-cymru-industry-summit/
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