EDUCATION MINISTER, Huw Lewis has announced he is to reorganise the whole system of initial teacher education training in Wales.
The Minister’s announcement follows publication of a critical Estyn report on the North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education which the Minister has described as “very disappointing”.
Estyn’s report concludes that both the North and Mid Wales Centre’s performance and its prospects for improvement are unsatisfactory. It also identifies aspects where the centre is failing to comply with statutory requirement for initial education teacher training.
The Minister said: “The North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education has had some two years since shortcomings were identified to develop and improve its provision. However this report shows the necessary improvement has not been made. Frankly, this is not good enough.
“This latest report leaves me in no doubt that more needs to be done to accelerate the process of improvement in ITET provision across the whole of Wales.
“We need an ITET sector that can act as a key driver in building workforce capacity, particularly as we prepare for the new Curriculum for Wales. This is something that the school sector, local authorities, Consortia and the public are all, quite rightly, calling for.
“I am meeting Vice Chancellors in November, including those leading on current ITET and will be clear that I am calling time on the current system of initial teacher education training in Wales and moving to a focussed improvement plan, designed and delivered across the education system.
“Going forward, participation in genuine collaboration will be a requirement for any institution who wishes to play a part in the initial training of teachers.
“We know it is possible to deliver radical change in a short time frame – the recent news about the progress of the South East Wales Centre for Teacher Education and Training proves that.
“But improvements cannot stop there. We simply must deliver systematic improvements, with more effective collaboration between ITET centres in Wales, more partnership with Consortia, local authorities and schools, more learning from the best from elsewhere and more challenge.”
In 2009, following a report by Professor John Furlong, the Welsh Government reorganised Initial Teacher Training in Wales into three centres: one based in North Wales, one serving South-East Wales and the other Mid and West Wales.
At the time the Welsh Government claimed that concentrating teacher training and education into fewer centres would drive up standards of training and produce consistency of results.
Critical reports have, however, followed into both South East Wales’ provision and that of North Wales.
While a recent report from Estyn demonstrated some improvement in South East Wales’ centre, the same report concluded that ‘the centre was “not able to show the impact of the systems on trainees’ outcomes’
Huw Lewis has suggested that further radical reform is required to change the system again: “The landscape of ITET in Wales will be different. For those ITET centres that genuinely want to work with us to improve and provide genuinely sector leading practice then the door is open but – if you are not prepared to raise your game then you will not be part of our future vision for Wales.”
The Minister announced that he and Professor John Furlong would be holding two summits in December and January to engage the ITET sector in challenging reform.
This complements the task and finish group that Professor John Furlong is already leading to revise current ITET statutory criteria for accreditation and to implement change so the ITET system is more robust and fit for purpose.
The reform of ITET in Wales, the effective delivery of the New Deal and the implementation of a new curriculum for Wales are key parts of the Welsh Government’s ongoing programme for Education reform.
The Minister’s announcement has received short-shrift from opposition AMs, who have pointed out that the Welsh Government appears only now to be seeking to remedy flaws in the system of teacher training to which its own 2009 reorganisation of the sector has contributed.
Focusing on the challenges of equipping teachers to deliver a new curriculum, Aled Roberts AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister said: “There is a widespread consensus that the Labour Government in Wales has failed to address the fact that teacher training has not been of a high enough standard to serve the needs of Wales either now or in the future.
“The Estyn report into the North and Mid Wales centres at Bangor and Aberystwyth is extremely disappointing and is the most recent example of reports raising concerns with regard to the quality of training provision in Wales.
“There are major curriculum reforms on the horizon in Wales and we need a profession that is properly equipped for such change and which is in receipt of ongoing support through continuing professional development following qualification.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe in empowering teachers to be able to take a lead so they have more responsibility in innovation and are able to work collaboratively with other teachers in the development of their practice. We would also look to attract and increase the quality of new entrants to the teaching profession.”
Making concrete proposals for the future of teacher training, Mid and West AM Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Education, Skills and the Welsh Language Simon Thomas, a Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire candidate said: “We have had Labour Education Ministers since 1997 responsible for the education of our children. This unsatisfactory report into the North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education is another example of a culture of complacency in Cardiff Bay.
“A Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would give our teachers and classroom assistants the time to teach so that they can focus on ensuring the development of core skills in schools.
“By working with teaching unions and staff, Plaid Cymru will reduce red tape and bureaucracy so that head-teachers can lead their schools and more time is spent teaching children, rather than completing paperwork. The best way to spread good teaching practice is between schools, peer to peer.
“We will consider for all teachers to be educated at a Masters Level with a focus on classroom techniques. We will look to establish one professional-led body to deal with Continuous Professional Development to take politics out of education as happened in Scotland.”
“We need the powers over pay, terms and conditions to facilitate the best allocation of resources – it is only a Plaid Cymru Welsh Government that can deliver this.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Education, Angela Burns AM, told us: “We’ve long said teacher training in Labour-run Wales needs urgent improvement.
“It’s clear significant failings persist and I am extremely unhappy to read of another poor Estyn report on the North and Mid Wales Centre.
“Changes are not happening quickly enough and it’s our pupils and hard-working staff who are taking the brunt of it.
“While Labour’s minister is taking some steps to address the clear problems, it’s simply not fast enough.
“16 years of Labour rule have left our education system in tatters. That requires fresh thinking and a new approach.”
Local students shine at skills competition
KATIE WAITE and Ben Thomas, from Pembrokeshire and Llanelli, have won a gold medal in the photography and coaching final of a national skills competition.
Backed by the Welsh Government through the European Social Fund, Skills Competition Wales is a series of events held in colleges across the country, designed to celebrate vocational skills and create highly skilled, talented employees for the Welsh workforce.
Katie, 18, who is studying foundation art, competed against 18 other students from across Wales in a photography challenge. The competitors were tasked with creating photography that focused on the theme discovering Wales.
Katie said: “I am over the moon to have won the photography competition.
“’Discovering Wales’ was the theme of the competition and we had to base our photography around the great outdoors, adventure and culture.
“I focused on the cultural aspect of the brief by looking at how the landscape of Wales reflects its culture.
“It was fascinating to see other people’s work at the competition and see how different people can interpret a brief and show their creativity in other aspects.
“I love photography as it can capture a moment in a unique way and shows another way of seeing things.”
Ben, 21, who is studying level two fitness instructing, competed against 17 other students from across Wales in a series of coaching challenges in within one hour. The competitors were tasked with coaching a one on one strength training session, warm up and circuit session.
Ben said: “Competing in the coach competition was a big success for me that has brought me closer to achieving my goal in making a real difference to people.
“Last year I was struggling with both my physical and mental health and turned to fitness. I got a personal trainer, Zak Hearne, who helped me lose three stone in three months which had a hugely positive impact on my mental health.
“Being able to make the same difference with other people is something I want to achieve in the future through personal training.
“For me, it’s all about pushing people to achieve great things and showing people that they can do anything if they put their mind to it and aim high.”
More than 40 competitions are taking place this year, across a wide range of different vocations from forensic science and fashion technology to 3D game and food preparation.
Those who are successful may then go on to be shortlisted for the UK Squad, competing against the world’s most talented young people at the WorldSkills international final in Shanghai, China in 2021.
Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates said: “Skills Competition Wales is such an important event, allowing multi-talented young people the length and breadth of Wales to put their skills to the test, building on their excellence and experiences across various fields with the opportunity to then progress and compete at UK national and international level.
“It’s also an opportunity to show the breadth of talent we have here in Wales and to celebrate the Welsh companies who are nurturing and reaping the rewards of such highly skilled, talented employees. Ensuring Wales has the skills needed for economic success has long been a priority for me personally and for the Welsh Government more broadly and it’s fantastic to see skills acknowledged in this way.
“I would like to say well done to everyone who has competed this year and add my congratulations to Katie and Ben on their brilliant achievement. Best of luck to them in the next stage of the competition and I look forward to seeing them prosper in their future careers.”
Vocational qualifications importance emphasised
THE IMPORTANCE of vocational qualifications to the Welsh economy was emphasised at the launch of this year’s VQ Awards in Wales at the Senedd in Cardiff.
Speakers called for vocational qualifications to have parity of esteem with academic qualifications and for the Welsh Government to continue prioritising investment in the sector.
Iestyn Davies, chief executive of ColegauCymru/CollegesWales, said Wales was one of the remaining parts of the world where there had been a reluctance to recognise the value of vocational qualifications.
Academic qualifications had hogged the limelight when young people were considering a career path. However, he believed a significant change was underway with politicians now accepting the key importance of vocational qualifications to the economy of Wales.
He called on the people assembled at the launch event to spread the word about the success of vocational qualifications and lifelong learning in Wales to ensure that the Welsh Government continued to prioritise investment in the sector.
Vikki Howells, AM for Cynon Valley, who sponsored the launch event, said during her 16-year teaching career she had wished that there was a greater vocational offer for her students.
There remained a challenge to make young people and their parents, who played a crucial role in directing their children, embrace everything that vocational qualifications had to offer.
She praised the Welsh Government for the work it had already done and continued to do to promote vocational qualifications.
The VQ Awards are jointly organised by the Welsh Government, the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW), ColegauCymru/CollegesWales, Qualifications Wales and the Education Workforce Council. The Welsh Government’s funding has support from the European Social Fund.
The Education Workforce Council’s chair Angela Jardine said it was exciting to be a new partner in the high-profile awards which celebrated the success and high standards achieved in vocational education to create the Wales of the future.
By maintaining a Register of Education Practitioners, the council aimed to contribute to improving the standards of teaching and the quality of learning in Wales. The register would provide the professional evidence to achieve parity of esteem between vocational and academic qualifications, she added.
Sarah John, chair of the NTfW, said: “The VQ Awards provide a great opportunity for learners, employers and their trainers to celebrate and publicise the positive impact that vocational qualifications have on the lives of individuals and the productivity of businesses in Wales. Upskilling in the changing vocational skills needed by businesses to be competitive is critical as they continue to evolve.”
Cassy Taylor, Associate Director for Vocational Qualifications with Qualifications Wales, said: “Vocational qualifications are the gateway to a rewarding career and we are delighted to be sponsoring the VQ Awards again this year.
“The awards are a perfect way to showcase the talent of learners and the commitment of tutors and employers to develop the skills in our workforce that are the bedrock of the economy.”
Stacey Davies, Human Resources Manager at Gestamp Tallent Ltd, an automotive manufacturer from Llanelli, spoke about the company winning the VQ Employer of the Year Award last year.
“Winning this prestigious award was an immensely proud moment for the plant,” she said. “To be recognised for the early accomplishments of an ambitious but exciting learning and development strategy continues to be very encouraging for all the stakeholders.”
Vocational qualifications play a key role in the Gestamp Tallent Growth Programme, which aims to upskill the entire workforce by creating tailor-made, individual development plans, revamping an apprenticeship programme and introducing leadership and management solutions and a programme for high potential employees.
The VQ Awards are designed to recognise and celebrate star learners, trainers and employers in every part of Wales who have used technical, practical and vocational qualifications to achieve success.
Nominations are now sought in four categories: VQ Intermediate Learner of the Year, VQ Higher Learner of the Year, VQ Trainer of the Year and VQ Employer of the Year. It’s easy to enter the awards. Just download a nomination form at https://www.vqday.wales which has full details about the awards. The closing date is noon on March 8.
From the entries, a panel of judges will select the category finalists for a high-profile awards ceremony to be held at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff on May 15 to coincide with VQ Day.
Big leap in part-time students
THERE has been a massive 35% increase in part-time undergraduates from Wales, thanks to the Welsh Government’s radical new student support package.
The statistics report on the new student support system for the first time, also showing a 58% increase in the number of postgraduates supported. Welsh post-grads were eligible for dedicated bursaries and support from Welsh universities this year, thanks to Welsh Government funding. Means-tested grants and loans will be introduced from September.
There is no Government-backed living costs grant funding for part-time undergraduates or post-graduate students elsewhere in the UK. Last year, the Education Minister set a goal of a 10% increase in the number of Welsh post-graduate students by the end of this Government’s term.
The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, said: “This is fantastic news and a real vote of confidence in our student support package, the first of its kind in the UK or Europe.
“We have always said that high living costs are the main barrier for students when thinking about university. Our package of support was specifically designed to address these concerns, making it easier for people to study part-time, especially if they have work or family commitments.
“Our radical approach to supporting part-time study is essential to improving social mobility, employment outcomes, access to the professions and delivering on our commitment to lifelong learning.”
Louise Casella, Director of The Open University in Wales, said: “The OU in Wales saw a 49% increase in our October student recruitment last year. This represents hundreds of more people embarking on learning that will transform the lives of their families and communities. We’ve had a 67% increase in students from Wales’ most economically disadvantaged areas, a 57% increase in disabled students and a 30% increase in BME learners.
“I am pleased the Welsh Government is highlighting the impact the new funding system is having on part-time study in Wales. With maintenance grants now available for part-time distance learners as well, flexible study has never been more affordable. This is helping The OU in Wales make studying for a degree a reality for those who may not have considered it in the past.”
Julie Lydon, Chair of Universities Wales, said: “We are delighted to see this increase in the number of students choosing to study part-time in Wales, clearly demonstrating that the new student support and higher education funding package in Wales is working.
“In the coming decade, Wales will face many challenges from the changing workplace and advancements in technology. These changes will mean that Wales will need a more highly skilled workforce.
Flexible learning, such as part-time study, will play a key role in preparing the people, places and businesses of Wales for the future.
“This increase in part-time and postgraduate study shows that, with the new student support and higher education funding package in Wales, we are on the right path to providing people of all ages and backgrounds with opportunities to benefit from higher education.”
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