EVEN before schools find out what the new normal will be, the pressure is already on the education system to deliver significantly more.
Some talk about a ‘lost generation’ needing to ’catch-up’ amid concerns those comments stigmatise children. However, the reality is that children have missed months of face-to-face teaching, and that has inescapable consequences.
DISADVANTAGED SLIP FURTHER BEHIND
Wales’s learners have been part of the pandemic’s ‘collateral damage.’
Although, for now, there are more questions than answers, solutions to repair that ‘damage’ will need to be carefully considered and delivered during the Welsh Parliament’s sixth term.
Even before the pandemic, Wales already faced an uphill struggle to secure good educational outcomes for all its learners.
The most disadvantaged learners have extra challenges which can prevent them from achieving their full potential.
Even though the previous Welsh Government invested £585 million since 2012 through the Pupil Development Grant (PDG), the attainment gap it was seeking to close, didn’t narrow.
It also typically widens as learners get older.
There’s a stark difference between children eligible for free school meals and their peers at Key Stage 4, the two years where learners usually take GCSEs and other examinations.
Children and young people themselves are well placed to give their verdict.
A 2021 Children’s Commissioner survey of 20,000 children found that 35% didn’t feel confident about their learning, compared to 25% in May 2020.
63% of 12–18-year-olds were worried about falling behind.
There are countless reports setting out adults’ views about how missing more than half a year of ‘face-to-face’ schooling has affected learners.
One of the major concerns is the variation between what schools have delivered to pupils.
There’s a long list of potential impacts:
· ‘Lost learning’ meaning pupils could underperform academically and have their long-term prospects affected.
· A loss of confidence in the examination and assessment system.
· Long-term reductions in school attendance, a factor known to be key to educational outcomes.
· Difficult transitions between school years and from primary to secondary.
· Challenges in re-engaging learners and addressing low motivation.
· An unhelpful ‘catch up’ narrative about lost learning placing unnecessary psychological pressure on children and young people; and
· A negative effect on learners’ ability and confidence to communicate in Welsh where they haven’t been able to do so at home.
As well as these obvious educational issues, there are wider predicted effects.
Current learners could earn less, with one estimate of up to £40,000 in a lifetime.
The harm to children’s physical health and a higher prevalence of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, are also serious concerns.
The pandemic’s wider economic impact is also likely to increase the number of children living in low-income families.
Again, it’s the most disadvantaged learners who are predicted to bear the brunt in the longer term.
For example, in March 2021, the Child Poverty Action Group found that 35% of low-income families responding to its UK wide survey were still without essential resources for learning, with laptops and devices most commonly missing.
The Fifth Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education (CYPE) Committee heard that there is “plenty of evidence” that” there are striking differences between families in terms of their ability to support young people in their learning: the resources they have around them, the enthusiasm, the engagement, the commitment”.
There must be work to rebuild relationships that have been under significant strain during the past 12 months.
Those between teaching unions and the decision-makers within the education system; between parents/carers and schools; and perhaps, most importantly, re-establishing the relationship between learners and their teachers.
Some of the immediate solutions which are already on the table or up for discussion are: more money, including the ‘Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards funding’; more teachers and learning assistants on the ground; changing term times; and setting up summer schools, holiday clubs and home tuition.
However, the longer-term problems are far harder to solve.
One estimate puts the cost of Wales’s journey back from COVID-19 at £1.4 bn to meet the challenges to the education system alone.
The opportunity exists for major reform and an examination of the whole approach to and aim of education.
Children and young people’s return to the classroom has been heralded as a big chance to put their well-being at the heart of education. As well as having a positive impact on well-being, put, mentally healthy children are much more likely to learn.
Following pressure from the Fifth Senedd’s CYPE Committee and its stakeholders, Wales has already made a significant shift towards establishing a ‘Whole School Approach to Mental Health’. The challenge during the Sixth Senedd will be to deliver it.
The potential sting in the tail is that, at the same time, the education system is getting children back to school, it also contends with major legislative reform.
This is in the form of wholesale changes to both the school curriculum and support for learners with Additional Learning Needs.
Some may argue that there’s been no better time to have such significant changes.
If the education system can successfully implement these three major reforms, arguably Wales will complete significant leg work and be on a firmer footing to meet the challenges presented by Covid-19.
At this stage there may be many more questions than answers for the education system.
The world into which learners will move has changed forever.
Not only has the pandemic interrupted their schooling, but the future journeys they were expected to make into the workplace or further and higher education could be unrecognisable.
The skills and aptitudes needed in the ‘new normal’ are only now beginning to be identified and are likely to be different from those needed before the pandemic began.
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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