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.”
Staff experience what dementia may feel like
During Autumn 2019 Ceredigion County Council staff and elected members were given the opportunity to take part in a Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT). By using specialist equipment and creating a simulated environment, the experience gave an insight into what dementia might feel like.
Donna Pritchard, Corporate Lead Officer Porth Ceredigion and Deputy Statutory Director for Social Services said: “This has been a very thought-provoking experience. It’s allowed participants to physically and emotionally feel what it would be like to live with Dementia and to acknowledge the challenges to overcome that sensory loss brings.”
Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. This may include problems with memory loss, thinking speed, mental sharpness and quickness, language, understanding judgement, mood, movement and difficulties carrying out daily activities.
Donna continued: “The Virtual Dementia Tour identifies ways to improve communication for people living with dementia and ways that care and support staff can change their practice to improve their lives and help them achieve positive outcomes. All our staff at residential homes have been trained to ensure that people with dementia are supported in an inclusive environment.”
Staff yn cael profiad o’r hyn y gall dementia deimlo fel
Yn ystod yr Hydref 2019 rhoddwyd cyfle i staff ac aelodau etholedig Cyngor Sir Ceredigion gymryd rhan mewn ‘Virtual Dementia Tour‘ (VDT). Drwy ddefnyddio offer arbenigol a chreu amgylchedd ffug, roedd y profiad yn rhoi cipolwg ar yr hyn y gallai dementia ei deimlo.
Dywedodd Donna Pritchard, Swyddog Arweiniol Corfforaethol Porth Ceredigion a Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Statudol Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol: “Mae hwn wedi bod yn brofiad sy’n ysgogi’r meddwl. Mae’n caniatáu i gyfranogwyr deimlo sut beth fyddai fyw gyda dementia, yn gorfforol ac yn emosiynol, a chydnabod yr heriau i oresgyn y golled synhwyraidd honno.”
Mae dementia yn syndrom (grŵp o symptomau cysylltiedig) sy’n gysylltiedig â dirywiad parhaus o ran gweithrediad yr ymennydd. Gall hyn gynnwys problemau o ran colli cof, cyflymder meddwl, miniogrwydd meddwl a chyflymdra, iaith, deall dyfarniad, hwyliau, symud ac anawsterau’n cyflawni gweithgareddau dyddiol.
Parhaodd Donna: “Mae’r ‘Virtual Dementia Tour’ yn nodi ffyrdd o wella’r cyfathrebu ar gyfer pobl sy’n byw gyda dementia a ffyrdd y gall staff gofal a chymorth newid eu hymarfer i wella eu bywydau a’u helpu i gyflawni canlyniadau cadarnhaol. Mae pob un o’n staff mewn cartrefi preswyl wedi cael eu hyfforddi i sicrhau bod pobl â dementia yn cael eu cefnogi mewn amgylchedd cynhwysol.”
Seren and Sbarc kick off new series of books with a story to coincide with Rugby World Cup
WELSH Government and WRU announced a partnership to encourage more school children to use Welsh.
They have been inspiring school children to use Welsh in and out of the classroom for a while, but Siarter Iaith mascots Seren a Sbarc have now moved on to the next level with their very own book. Released as part of a partnership, the book will be issued to all primary schools in Wales to encourage children to read more Welsh and to cheer Wales on in Welsh.
The book, Seren a Sbarc yn Achub (Cwpan) y Bydysawd (Seren a Sbarc Save the Universe (Cup)), written by Elidir Jones and illustrated by Huw Aaron, tells the tale of the heroic characters fighting off monsters and villains using the skills they have learnt through rugby and speaking Welsh.
The book gives children and parents fun way of learning and using Welsh through rugby, as the nation eagerly watches Wales on their World Cup journey.
All primary schools in Wales will receive copies of the book to help inspire the next generation of Welsh speakers as part of the Siarter Iaith.
Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan, said: “As rugby fever grips the country, children right across Wales will be reading about the heroic antics of Seren and Sbarc as they fight off monsters with their fantastic Welsh and sport skills! This exciting project with the WRU is a great way of inspiring the next generation of Welsh speakers, and future rugby players. Rugby is a sport that brings the nation together and the Welsh language is a big part of that.”
To launch the book, Seren and Sbarc joined pupils of Ysgol Bro Allta in Ystrad Mynach for a busy day of rugby practice and sending good luck messages to the Wales team. Dragons players Aaron Jarvis and James Benjamin also joined the Year 5 and 6 pupils as they carried out tasks from the WRU Digital Classroom resource, launched to inspire pupils to achieve in all areas through rugby.
Ceredigion Schools Succeed in Exam Results
The GCSE exam results published today (22 August) by the WJEC show that very high standards are being maintained in Ceredigion schools.
98.8% of entries for WJEC exams were graded A* to G, with 24.9% of the entries achieving A* and A grades. 72.5% of entries were graded A* to C.
Councillor Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said, “We are delighted with Ceredigion pupils’ achievements in a wide range of subjects. They have proven once again that hard work and commitment leads to success. I would like to sincerely thank staff and governors for their leadership and their continued support for our pupils. We wish the young people of Ceredigion the very best as they confidently progress on their chosen path.”
The following table provides the figures for Ceredigion and Wales:
Grade A* – A 24.9% 18.4%
Grade A*-C 72.5% 62.8%
Grade A*-G 98.8% 97.2%
Compared with the Welsh average, an additional 6% of Ceredigion entries achieved A*-A grades and, in the case of A*-C grades, Ceredigion’s entries achieved almost 10% more than the Welsh average.
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