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Education

Minister announces ‘New Deal’

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WELSH ASSEMBLY Education Minister, Huw Lewis, announced this week what he has labelled a ‘New Deal’ for teachers. It comes after the recent Donaldson report that suggested far reaching changes for a new Welsh Curriculum, and from last week’s Furlong report that was heavily critical of current teacher training.

Speaking about the New Deal, Mr. Lewis said: “The New Deal is both an offer of support for the professional, but also an expectation that professionals will continually update their skills. It’s about building capacity so our teachers and support staff are given structured learning opportunities throughout their careers, so they can keep developing their practice and ultimately, so they continue to be equipped to deliver for learners and can meet the challenges ahead.”

The Welsh Government released details of what would be in the New Deal and what it would mean :

A Professional learning passport for practitioners, developed by the Education Workforce Council for September 2015, that will enable teachers to identify and record appropriate learning opportunities and encourage them to develop their practice throughout their career

Revised professional standards for the education workforce that set out the professional skills and knowledge required of practitioners to deliver a future curriculum and embed initial qualification standards in a career long framework

Welsh Government guidance and support to ensure professional development is a central aspect of new School Development Plans, highlighting individual and collective learning priorities for all staff.

Support for teachers to study the new Masters in education practice to ensure the latest academic research on effective teaching practice reaches the heart of the Welsh classroom.

Early next term the Welsh Government will be working with practitioners to exemplify a range of career development pathways and to identify the support they would value to support their progression through these pathways.

Support for teachers to access high quality learning opportunities through quality assured professional development.

A focus on leadership with the Welsh Government working in partnership with Consortia to develop new and innovative approaches to leadership development

Commenting on the announcement was Owen Hathway, NUT Cymru Policy Officer, who said: “We know that access to professional development for teachers has been a significant problem for some time in the education sector. Key reviews into the system have continually highlighted this as a deficiency in our approach and so it is very welcome that the Welsh Government are seeking to address this concern. It is positive to see training being placed on the agenda and that the Education Minister recognises that he has to get this right if we are to see long-term and sustainable improvements. However, while this is a step in the right direction, the reality is that for professional development to really get to the level it needs to be at in supporting teachers there does have to be a financial investment. At present it is unclear exactly how, if at all, that is going to happen through the New Deal project.”

Angela Burns AM, Shadow Minister for Education, said of the New Deal: “Welsh Conservatives support any actions to improve the professional development of teachers, but should be accompanied by moves to cut teacher paperwork and direct more money to the classroom. However well-meaning these passports may be, unless they are backed up by measures to give teachers the time and resources to undertake more training, they will not make a practical difference. We would directly fund schools to end the annual scandal where a fifth of the Welsh Government’s £2.5billion schools budget never reaches the classroom. We cannot expect teachers to be able to nurture talent and inspire their students to strive, if we don’t allow teachers to do the same by developing their careers. Continuous learning is a rewarding activity, which can help everyone, regardless of their profession, to develop skills to benefit themselves, their families and our society.”

Mid and West AM, Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Education, Simon Thomas said: “We have had Labour Education Ministers since 1997 responsible for the education of our children and the First Minister himself has admitted they took their eyes off the ball. We (Plaid) will 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. Teaching should become a Masters level profession with a focus on classroom techniques. We will develop one professional-led body to deal with Continuous Professional Development to take politics out of education. Plaid believes through excellent teaching and strong leadership from head teachers we can raise standards in the classroom. The high level of bureaucracy and micro-management faced by teachers’ means there is little time to innovate in the classroom and head teachers cannot take the lead in raising standards in our schools. A Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would set the learning outcomes to be achieved by schools but would allow schools to determine how to achieve those outcomes. There would be on-the-spot Estyn inspections for schools that have not yet achieved the learning outcomes set by the Government. This would achieve a more even playing field.”

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Education

Commitment to reducing single-use plastics in schools  

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has committed to working with its suppliers to reduce the amount of single use plastic used in schools.

Councillors debated the issue at Full Council, following a motion by Cllr Bill Thomas which called for action to identify ways of moving away from plastic milk bottles in schools.

He said he was aware of children in local schools that want to see change, citing particular examples in Ysgol y Felin and Five Roads School, where eco committee members are demanding action.

He said: “In April last year, Carmarthenshire County Council unanimously passed a motion that included a call for the council to reduce single-use plastics in Council buildings and offices. That motion also called on the council to encourage schools to stop using single-use plastics and to start to use sustainable materials.

“Pupils in schools across our county have taken up this challenge. At the June governors meeting at Ysgol Y Felin, we were told that the school’s Eco Committee had requested non-plastic containers for their milk. When the school contacted the council they were told that the milk contract couldn’t be changed and that they had received no other interest in providing glass bottles.

“To support a campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastic in their school, Five Roads School has created a poster showing pupils drowning in plastic.”

Cllr Thomas was supported by Cllr Glynog Davies, Executive Board Member for Education.

“This underlines our opinion as a council,” he said. “Steps are already in place to reduce single use plastics in our buildings. We are aware of the damage plastic is doing to our environment. I would like to praise the excellent work that’s done in our Eco School Councils, and we are proud that our children are taking such interest in this.”

He added: “The solution is a complicated one, but we as a council can continue to encourage and support our schools as much as possible whilst we evaluate the alternative options, and full financial and environmental benefits. We have to do what we can to protect the environment.”

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Education

Pupil Language Ambassadors’ key role

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EACH year Pupil Language Ambassadors (PLAs) from schools across the ERW region work hard to increase awareness of the skills and opportunities, which come from studying a language amongst their peers. They speak in assemblies and to groups of their peers at school events. Their ambassadorial role is wide and varied and each year they work with their teachers to increase the number of pupils studying language at GCSE.

This year, the focus has been to utilise the skills of language ambassadors to work with primary school children where these committed linguists go into their nearby primaries and speak to key stage 2 pupils about the benefits of learning an additional language. This has helped to fulfil a crucial element of the national and regional priorities as set out in the work of Global Futures, a Welsh Government funded scheme to promote language learning for all.

In addition to their fantastic and creative work and projects, in March these motivated ambassadors attended the annual ERW Pupil Language Ambassador training at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. They met with other ambassadors from across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Swansea to discuss their role and heaR from some inspirational speakers.

The purpose of the day was to help the pupils understand their role, to develop ideas for events they could run in their schools, to take part in language tasters and create a plan of action for supporting language learning in their school and their cluster.

The day began with a fantastic presentation from the Pupil Language Ambassadors from Ysgol Dyffryn Taf in Whitland. They spoke to the new PLAs about their achievements last year. They addressed the audience in many languages and set the tone for the day perfectly. The keynote speaker was Rhodri Bendle, Chief Consultant at Snowstyle Travel Company in Austria that specialises in Ski and Snowboarding holidays and tuition. He shared his own story about learning a German and how it has helped him to develop his own business.

Pupils then went into a series of workshops delivered by Routes Cymru, a team of professionals and student language ambassadors from Cardiff University who facilitated idea sharing and discussion about how to set up a language club and other ways of getting the message across about language learning.

Diane Evans, ERW, helped pupils to draw out their knowledge of the role of the ambassador across Wales and internationally. Pupils learned how to get their voices heard and how to make an impact in their time as language ambassadors in their community.

Alex Pickering represented the Goethe Institute at the event speaking with ambassadors about the importance of language in business. Ariane Laumonier, a consultant with the Institut Français ran a brilliant workshop on language and the world of work. Both Ariane and Alex used their own languages to convey the importance of learning a language and the benefits of developing multilingual learners.

Another aim of the day was to build confidence in ambassadors in learning and speaking an additional language. The language taster sessions from staff and postgraduate students at Swansea University all ran tasters that strengthen the priorities across Wales to learn and speak a new language. These were extremely well-received as always, pupils tried out languages that many of them had not learnt before including Polish, Italian, German and Mandarin.

Mererid Hopwood, Professor of Language at University of Wales Trinity Saint David inspired staff and students alike with her talk on the importance of striving for a Multi-lingual society in Wales with children and adults using their newly acquired language at every opportunity.

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Education

Local students shine at skills competition

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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.”

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