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Education

Senedd approves Wales’ National Curriculum

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MEMBERS of the Senedd voted to pass the National Curriculum Bill’s final text, meaning the Curriculum for Wales will now be introduced in 2022.

Throughout the debate on its final stage, which took place on Tuesday (March 9), opposition members praised Wales’ Education Minister, Kirsty Williams. Members from all sides saluted her patience and diligence in guiding a significant piece of legislation onto the statute book.

Even members who disagreed with the Bill’s content and opposed its passage highlighted the Minister’s personal contribution and commitment to creating Wales’ first national Curriculum.

A NATIONAL MISSION

The Bill was the subject of intensive scrutiny and broad consultation.

Speaking in the Senedd, Mrs Williams said the Bill’s passage was ’a national mission’.

“It would have been simpler to cook up plans in Cathays Park in a back office and issue a ‘take it or leave it’ offer,” the Education Minister said.

She continued: “But our combined efforts with teachers, academics, parents, and many organisations here and abroad is worth so much more because of that ‘national mission’ spirit.”

Kirsty Williams paid a personal tribute to Labour MS Lynn Neagle, Chair of the Children’s and Young Persons’ Committee.

Under Lynn Neagle’s leadership, the Committee rigorously scrutinised the Bill and made a series of recommendations in its text.

Of the Labour backbencher, Kirsty Williams said: “I conclude by thanking Lynne Neagle for her tough, astute, tenacious, sometimes bloody-mindedness in her approach to this legislation. I mean that as a compliment, Lynne. 

“As I said earlier, the results of the committee’s work have made this a better Bill.”

She had similarly warm words for her Conservative opposite number, Suzy Davies.

Mrs Williams acknowledged: “She has worked incredibly hard on this Bill, and I know that she’s been fully committed to the scrutiny process. As I said in opening my comments today, I think we have a better Bill due to the CYPE committee’s efforts. I have gone to great lengths to try and respond positively to the cross-party report that the Committee published to try and meet those aspirations.”

Like Mrs Williams, Suzy Davies steps down as an MS in May. She was unable to attend the debate.

CURRICULUM CONTROVERSY

Despite the Minister’s warm words, the new Curriculum’s journey to the statute book has not been without controversy.

Activists railed against the Curriculum’s Religion Values and Ethics element and its focus on Welsh language teaching’s importance to all of Wales’ pupils. The inclusion of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in the Curriculum provoked vituperative responses from a small group of parents. They opposed children receiving what they’ve claimed will be inappropriately explicit sexual education.

Senior Policy Researcher for NSPCC Cymru/Wales, Dr Sarah Witcombe-Hayes says: “The strength of support for mandatory relationships and sexuality education to be included in the new Curriculum for Wales by leading child protection experts and charities highlights what a game-changer this is.

“The changes are long overdue, but in passing this Bill Senedd members are helping to protect children and young people from abuse – making sure every child and young person in Wales can access high quality RSE that is relevant, sensitive and appropriate to their own capacities and needs.

“It will help all learners understand their rights to safe, healthy and fulfilling relationships throughout their lives, and schools must now be supported and fully resourced to deliver inclusive and high quality RSE from September 2022.”

Regarding Welsh Language teaching and RSE, those with genuine concerns had those worries preyed upon to grandstanding political effect by fringe political movements, such as Ukip and Abolish the Assembly (sic.)

Speaking for the latter group, Gareth Bennett said: “The downgrading of English teaching in the interest of immersion in Welsh is a sinister development. It will surely disadvantage Welsh schoolchildren who are not from a background of speaking Welsh at home.”

Dr Felix Aubel, a noted controversialist, said: “UKIP would divert millions of pounds by abolishing the legal requirement to forcibly impose the Welsh language on people.”

Like Abolish, UKIP will campaign on a platform of abolishing Welsh parliamentary democracy.

Those organisations’ concerns on Welsh language education ignore the fact Welsh is the national language of Wales. Every credible educational study underlines how children benefit from bilingual education.

HISTORY TEACHING CONCERNS PLAID

On Tuesday, further and concerted criticism of the new Curriculum came from Plaid Cymru.

Perturbed by the absence of Welsh history’s teaching, Plaid’s Sian Gwenllian announced the party would vote against the Bill in its final stage.

Plaid’s Shadow Education Minister said that, although her party supported the Bill’s direction of travel: “Plaid Cymru argued for the inclusion of two other mandatory elements that could also contribute towards creating that social, far-reaching transformation that we want to see, namely the history of Wales in all of its diversity, including black and people of colour history, and environmental education, including climate change.

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Education

Work to start on new £7.4m primary school for Pembrey

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WORK will start on building a new £7.4million primary school for Pembrey before the end of the summer term.

The new school building will be constructed on recreation ground/playing field immediately adjacent to the existing school site on Ashburnham Road.

It will provide high-quality teaching facilities to improve the overall learning experience, as well as benefitting the local community.

The school will have capacity for 270 primary pupils, 30 nursery pupils and incorporate a Flying Start facility which is currently located in a mobile classroom on the current school site.

Headteacher Helen Jacob said: “We are looking forward to having our brand-new school building at Pembrey where we can continue to provide quality educational opportunities and experiences for our children.

“Everyone is excited at the prospect of learning in a modern purpose-built school that will be at the heart of the community.”

The project is part of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme, and will be jointly funded by Welsh Government through its 21st Century Schools initiative.

It has been designed by the council’s own architects and the work will be carried out by local contractor TRJ Ltd.

The estimated completion date is the summer term of 2023.

Director of Education and Children’s Services Gareth Morgans said: “We are delighted that work will soon start to build a new school for Pembrey which will provide state-of-the-art facilities and accommodation fit for 21st century learning.

“Building the new school on the adjacent recreation ground means that we can reduce disruption as much as possible and at the same time extend the school site to provide the facilities that the pupils and staff deserve.”

The recreation ground is currently held in trust by the council, but will be transferred to Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council, in order to secure the use of the land for the new school.

Local residents and other interested parties in the community have been consulted as part of the process.

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Education

Older learners return to school

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OLDER learners in primaries and secondaries across Carmarthenshire have returned to school.

All primary school year groups are now back in the classroom for face-to-face learning.

Headteacher at Ysgol Y Bryn in Llanelli Stephen Thomas said it had been a pleasure to see all pupils return to school.

“Our pupils came back to school with beaming smiles and these have continued throughout the week,” he said. “After speaking with many of the children, they are expressing how happy they are to be back with their friends, to be back in the classroom with the teachers, off devices and how nice it is to be able to get out of the house and find some routine again.

“The focus for us now is reconnecting pupils with their friendship groups, promoting physical exercise daily following long periods of a lack of activity and simply allowing time for pupils to build their self-esteem and be happy again.

“We will continue our planned learning journey with the pupils, and I must say they have been fantastic getting back down to business. They have shown a real appetite for learning since returning to school and we are looking forward to seeing the progress they make for the remainder of the academic year.”

Secondary schools have welcomed back learners in years 11 and 13, as well as offering some flexibility for learners in years 10 and 12.

Pupils in years 7, 8 and 9 are also being given the opportunity to check-in with their teachers ready for a full return after the Easter holidays, as long as coronavirus rates continue to fall.

Headteacher at Ysgol Dyffryn Aman Nerys Nicholas said the school has welcomed back learners in a phased return which would help them to prepare for the summer term.

She said: “It has been lovely to welcome back our older pupils onto the school site in a phased return programme since March 15 which has promoted increased confidence in all stakeholders.

“This period before the Easter break has allowed us to rekindle those positive relationships onsite which form the heart of the school community here at Ysgol Dyffryn Aman. Seeing familiar friendly faces, even behind the face coverings, has been wonderful.

“Both staff and pupils have been eager to re-familiarise themselves with health and safety strategies and to re-focus on the challenges ahead. I thank everyone for their continued co-operation, and we all look forward with hope to a full re-opening of schools in the summer term.”

The safety measures in place in all schools have been reviewed in line with Welsh Government’s latest operational guidance. Face coverings, social distancing, classroom bubbles and frequent handwashing/sanitising are now part of the new normal, along with lateral flow testing.

The testing is being offered to learners in years 10 to 13, along with all school staff to carry out at home twice a week; and the aim is to quickly identify those who are unknowingly carrying the virus so that they can self-isolate to prevent more people from catching it.

However, it is important to remember that the purpose of the testing is to complement the safety measures that have already been put in place in schools, and a negative test result should not be read as a means to relax or ignore social distancing or other measures to help reduce transmission.

Director of Education and Children’s Services Gareth Morgans said: “It is wonderful to see so many of our learners back in the classroom with their teachers and friends.

“We will be supporting our schools to help pupils with their learning, and to focus on their wellbeing which is equally as important. It has been an extremely difficult year for everyone, but our young people have been affected by the pandemic in a number of ways, and we must not forget how hard it has been for them, not seeing their friends and teachers, and unable to take part in the various activities they enjoy both in and out of school.

“I would like to thank all our schools and teaching staff for all their hard work this past 12 months, the dedication and resilience they have shown has been extraordinary. And I would also like to thank parents too for all their support and co-operation, having to juggle work with helping their children with home learning and all the other family pressures I know has not been easy.

“By working together we can keep our schools safe and open, and we can welcome back even more children after the Easter holidays.”

For further information on schools during the pandemic including further information on lateral flow testing please visit the Carmarthenshire County Council website: carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education

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Education

Older learners return to school

Published

on

OLDER learners in primaries and secondaries across Carmarthenshire have returned to school.

All primary school year groups are now back in the classroom for face-to-face learning.

Headteacher at Ysgol Y Bryn in Llanelli Stephen Thomas said it had been a pleasure to see all pupils return to school.

“Our pupils came back to school with beaming smiles and these have continued throughout the week,” he said. “After speaking with many of the children, they are expressing how happy they are to be back with their friends, to be back in the classroom with the teachers, off devices and how nice it is to be able to get out of the house and find some routine again.

“The focus for us now is reconnecting pupils with their friendship groups, promoting physical exercise daily following long periods of a lack of activity and simply allowing time for pupils to build their self-esteem and be happy again.

“We will continue our planned learning journey with the pupils, and I must say they have been fantastic getting back down to business. They have shown a real appetite for learning since returning to school and we are looking forward to seeing the progress they make for the remainder of the academic year.”

Secondary schools have welcomed back learners in years 11 and 13, as well as offering some flexibility for learners in years 10 and 12.

Pupils in years 7, 8 and 9 are also being given the opportunity to check-in with their teachers ready for a full return after the Easter holidays, as long as coronavirus rates continue to fall.

Headteacher at Ysgol Dyffryn Aman Nerys Nicholas said the school has welcomed back learners in a phased return which would help them to prepare for the summer term.

She said: “It has been lovely to welcome back our older pupils onto the school site in a phased return programme since March 15 which has promoted increased confidence in all stakeholders.

“This period before the Easter break has allowed us to rekindle those positive relationships onsite which form the heart of the school community here at Ysgol Dyffryn Aman. Seeing familiar friendly faces, even behind the face coverings, has been wonderful.

“Both staff and pupils have been eager to re-familiarise themselves with health and safety strategies and to re-focus on the challenges ahead. I thank everyone for their continued co-operation, and we all look forward with hope to a full re-opening of schools in the summer term.”

The safety measures in place in all schools have been reviewed in line with Welsh Government’s latest operational guidance. Face coverings, social distancing, classroom bubbles and frequent handwashing/sanitising are now part of the new normal, along with lateral flow testing.

The testing is being offered to learners in years 10 to 13, along with all school staff to carry out at home twice a week; and the aim is to quickly identify those who are unknowingly carrying the virus so that they can self-isolate to prevent more people from catching it.

However, it is important to remember that the purpose of the testing is to complement the safety measures that have already been put in place in schools, and a negative test result should not be read as a means to relax or ignore social distancing or other measures to help reduce transmission.

Director of Education and Children’s Services Gareth Morgans said: “It is wonderful to see so many of our learners back in the classroom with their teachers and friends.

“We will be supporting our schools to help pupils with their learning, and to focus on their wellbeing which is equally as important. It has been an extremely difficult year for everyone, but our young people have been affected by the pandemic in a number of ways, and we must not forget how hard it has been for them, not seeing their friends and teachers, and unable to take part in the various activities they enjoy both in and out of school.

“I would like to thank all our schools and teaching staff for all their hard work this past 12 months, the dedication and resilience they have shown has been extraordinary. And I would also like to thank parents too for all their support and co-operation, having to juggle work with helping their children with home learning and all the other family pressures I know has not been easy.

“By working together we can keep our schools safe and open, and we can welcome back even more children after the Easter holidays.”

For further information on schools during the pandemic including further information on lateral flow testing please visit the Carmarthenshire County Council website: carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education

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