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Education

Coleg Sir Gar students triumph at World Skills

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Flying the flag: Elizabeth Forkuoh

TEAM UK retained its top-10 position at WorldSkills this year, after competitors won one gold, three silvers, three bronzes, and 13 medallions of excellence in Abu Dhabi.

And for the Welsh contingent, there was well-deserved success with chef-de-rang Elizabeth Forkuoh from Carmarthenshire representing Coleg Sir Gâr, who won a medal of excellence for her world-class skills in restaurant services at WorldSkills, Abu Dhabi.

Around 10,000 competitors, skills experts, officials and supporters from 60 countries and regions around the world looked on as the 44th WorldSkills competition – the first to take place in the Middle East – was opened.

UWTSD’s Gareth Evans, who is the centre co-ordinator at Construction Wales Innovation Centre, was the appointed WorldSkills UK expert for carpentry at the prestigious competition. This highly coveted role enabled Gareth join the WorldSkills UK training team for WorldSkills, the world’s largest international skills competition. Gareth undertook this appointment alongside his role at the Construction Wales Innovation Centre, which is funded by the CITB and is part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Gareth had responsibility for training Cameron Nutt, an apprentice from Northern Ireland who represented the UK in carpentry at WorldSkills. During the event, Gareth was also an international judge for the carpentry competition, which saw over 20 apprentices compete from many countries including Australia, South Korea and Germany.

To qualify for this position, Gareth, who himself won many national and international accolades as a competitor, had to demonstrate his knowledge and experience of teaching standards in construction both in the UK and internationally.

Backing Team UK and the Welsh contingency was Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion principal Barry Liles who in his role as Skills Champion for Wales and in partnership with the Welsh Government-funded Inspiring Skills Excellence project, ensured the Welsh contingency was supported throughout their competition journey.

Barry Liles said: “WorldSkills is an extravaganza of an event which replicates the Olympic Games, showcasing the very best of skills from young people around the world who have been through a rigorous competition journey.

“For me, being part of WorldSkills is crucial in not only raising aspirations of our young people but raising their skills levels, for Wales to take a competitive stand in a global economy.

“I was thrilled to see Elizabeth win a medal of excellence as she’s trained phenomenally hard, as have all our competitors.

“Witnessing Team UK, the Welsh squad and Coleg Sir Gâr competitors on the world stage will always be a very proud moment for me.”

Gareth Evans said: “Attending the WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi is an excellent experience for any individual. To watch over 1300 competitors from 59 member countries in action during the week was incredible. The commitment and dedication displayed by the competitors in all 51 Skills was amazing. WorldSkills Competitions allow these young people to showcase how skills initially honed through Further and Higher Education courses make such an impact to their lives. Two years ago, my competitor Cameron Nutt from North West Regional College in Northern Ireland completed his Level 3 Diploma in Site Carpentry. Who would have thought that sometime later he would be competing on the world stage, mixing it against 22 other competitors?”

Elizabeth Forkuoh, a hospitality, supervision and leadership student at Coleg Sir Gâr and former pupil of Coedcae Comprehensive School, represented the college within Team UK at the largest international skills Olympics.

The journey towards Team UK selection has been a life-changing experience for Elizabeth and also for Alfie Hopkin who represented the college competing in the web design competition.

Elizabeth steadily rose through the competition ranks whilst at college and made such significant headway in UKSkills competitions, she received employment offers from some of the top restaurants in the country. As a result, she now works for Gleneagles in Scotland, one of the best restaurants in the UK for customer care and food service. She also underwent professional training at The Ritz, completed a wine appreciation course in London and attended a training event in Taiwan. She also won a British Education award when she was at college and working part-time at the Stradey Park Hotel.

Alfie Hopkin, a former Ysgol Glan y Mor student, is studying a computing and IT level three diploma at Coleg Sir Gâr. Throughout his competition journey, Alfie received significant training from the college and UKSkills to prepare him for the Abu Dhabi event including design training at James Good, JavaScript and Clientside training in Norway and pressure testing in Brazil.

Elizabeth and Alfie were two out of four competitors representing Wales within Team UK.

Elizabeth said: “It’s been hard work over the last few years but with the support of my employer and trainer, I have given my best and I definitely know that fine dining is where I belong.”

Speaking about the UK team, Gareth added: “By competing at the event, the UK team showcased the great level of excellence and technical knowledge displayed by young people in the UK. Furthermore, it also showcases the excellent level of training provided by UK’s Education Establishments. We at the Construction Wales Innovation Centre and The University of Wales Trinity Saint David are proud to have played a part in the World-Class training required by Team UK competitors in the run-up to WorldSkills Abu Dhabi. We are also looking forward to support the Team further in the run up to WorldSkills Kazan 2019.”

He added: “Having been a competitor myself in Team UK, and winning Gold in Carpentry at two National Competitions. I know how the preparation and the experience of competing enables apprentices to gain the high level employability skills that will drive the construction industry forward. I’m so pleased to have supported these young people to achieve their goals and strive for excellence.”

Emphasising the importance of promoting skills excellence at all levels Gerald Naylor, the Director of the Construction Wales Innovation Centre said the Centre will continue to support Gareth in his competition work. Gerald is also keen to see the Coleg Sir Gar development of the new construction technical & professional skills competition supported by UWTSD, the Construction industry Training Board and the Chartered Institution of Building.

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Education

Carmarthenshire Council offers career opportunities through new Care Academi 

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Cllr Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for Social Care

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has launched a new Care Academi which offers exciting opportunities to those looking for a career in social work or social care.

Open to all ages, the Academi will provide training, support and guidance to successful applicants, enabling them to earn while they learn and choose a career path that suits them best.

With a blend of on-the-job training and education, there are various opportunities to explore the variety of social care and social work roles on offer.

All applicants must have a minimum of two GCSEs (grade A* – D) or equivalent in English, Welsh or Maths.

Cllr Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for Social Care said: “Our new Care Academi offers fantastic opportunities to those looking for a career in social work or care.

“Successful applicants could achieve a degree in social work or a level five management qualification, but there are also opportunities throughout the programme to find an alternative role that suits you best if completing a degree isn’t for you.

“If you are motivated, have a positive attitude and are looking for the first exciting step in a new career then we want to hear from you and welcome your application.”

For more information or to apply please visit www.Carmarthenshire.gov.wales/careacademi 

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Education

Funding for music education trebled to the tune of £13.5m

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EVERY child will have the opportunity to benefit from music education as part of the Welsh Government’s plans for a national music service, which will help ensure no child misses out due to a lack of means.

As the National Plan for Music Education is published, the Minister for Education has confirmed funding will be trebled, with £13.5m being invested over the next three years.

The plan will make access to music education fairer and more consistent across Wales, with a particular focus on learners from low-income households and those with Additional Learning Needs. Support will be available for children and young people to access and progress with music tuition, with learners from disadvantaged and under-represented groups supported to join music ensembles.

The plan includes a number of key work programmes such as:

A review on music tutors’ terms and conditions, to ensure they are treated equitably and are recognised properly.
A ‘First Experiences’ programme to offer children in primary schools a minimum of half a term of musical instrument taster sessions, delivered by trained and skilled music practitioners.
A ‘Making Music with Others’ initiative, including opportunities for children and young people in secondary schools to gain industry experience through working alongside musicians and creative industries
A new national instrument and equipment library to support access to a resource bank to be shared across Wales.
These programmes will be rolled out from September 2022, supporting schools and settings to give all children and young people from the ages of 3 to 16 the opportunity to learn to play an instrument as well as singing and making music in our schools and our communities.

The National Music Service will operate as a ‘hub’, with the Welsh Local Government Association co-ordinating the Music Service’s programmes with a wide range of organisations. It will help schools and settings in their delivery of the Curriculum for Wales and provide more diverse opportunities for children and young people to experience music outside schools and settings.

First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford and the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, visited St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea to see a cluster of primary school children taking part in a ‘Play Along’ session led by Swansea Music Service.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“The establishment of a National Music Service for Wales is an important commitment in our Programme for Government and I’m delighted that we are delivering on this pledge.

“Learning an instrument was a formative part of my upbringing and a lack of money should not be a barrier to any young person who wants to learn to play music. We are fortunate in Wales to have a strong tradition of school, county and national ensembles, and we want to make sure that our children and young people are able to play a full part in these. This funding will support music services in schools and within the community to help nurture our young musical talent.”

The Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:

“Our vision is for all children and young people across Wales, regardless of background, to have the chance to learn to play an instrument. The plan we are publishing today, backed by funding, will help deliver that vision.

“For too long, the chance to learn an instrument and develop musical skills has been for those few whose families and carers who can afford tuition. I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to access music tuition, and that’s why we’re making this significant investment to deliver a range of activities for our children and young people to learn and experience the joy of music.

“The development of the National Music Service will ensure that we nurture our next generation and continue to produce new talent and showcase Wales to the world.”

WLGA Chief Executive Chris Llewelyn said:

“We are proud to work with the Welsh Government on delivering this vital service to children across Wales. Many families in Wales can’t afford an instrument, and this funding will go a long way to opening doors to children across Wales to have the opportunity of learning an instrument.

“Playing an instrument and reading music is a very important skill for a child, and music brings enormous joy to children. Local authorities believe that children across Wales will have better access to instruments, and this plan will develop many future talented musicians, and support pupils to develop their musical skills.”

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Carmarthen headteacher struck off for telling staff to falsify pupil attendance figures

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A HEADTEACHER who told staff to fiddle his school’s attendance figures to log pupils as present when they were not in classes and then tried to influence an official investigation, has been banned from the classroom.
Peter Andrew Spencer began the five year long deception at Queen Elizabeth High in Carmarthen, after an Estyn inspection recommended attendance was improved, a professional standards hearing was told.

Schools get more funding and rank better on national performance measures the higher attendance is.
More than 28,000 pupil absences at the bilingual school were changed to showing as present between 2014 and 2019 before a member of staff reported it, an Education Workforce Council Wales panel heard.

Mr Spencer, who left the 1,500-pupil school with a financial settlement from Camarthenshire Council in 2020 after nine years in post, told members of staff to falsify attendance data on the School Information Management System, witnesses told the hearing.
Luke Lambourne, presenting officer for the EWC said one member of staff identified only as “Person A” was drawn into the head’s “web of deceit” out of misguided loyalty while others felt “under pressure” to join in the deception.
One senior member of staff told the committee he was among those asked by the headteacher to alter codes “n” for not present and “i” for ill to a symbol showing those pupils as present.

The man, who gave evidence to the remote hearing held on May 11 and 12, but was identified only as “Person D” said he had felt anxious the whole time he was involved.
He admitted he had been “weak” in doing so, but denied, when questioned, that he had instigated the deception which he said was masterminded by the head.

“Person D” told the panel he was asked by Mr Spencer to make “illegitimate amendments” to attendance data” to “show the school in a good light” and that this “dishonest practice” continued with other staff. “It was difficult to say no to the headteacher’s decision,” he told the panel.

Mr Spencer, who now works as head of an international school abroad, was not at the hearing or represented. He did not formally respond to the four allegations against him in person but did so in a written statement of mitigation to the hearing.
In his the statement, Mr Spencer denied ever instructing any staff to alter the absence data. Blaming “Person D” for the changing the attendance figures he admitted that he, as head, then failed to report it.
The headteacher said he kept quiet about the deception because he understood the pressure staff were under from agencies outside the school including Estyn, the local education authority and school consortia.
“I have never instructed any employee to falsely inflate attendance data,” Mr Spencer’s written statement said, “I accept fully that being aware of malpractice and in not acting I condoned the malpractice.”
And he went on: “I did not instigate the programme of attendance inflation. The action was started by my colleague (Person D) unbeknown (sic) to me.” Mr Spencer added that schools were under so much pressure at the time that “anecdotally it was believed data manipulation was widespread”.
The deception was finally reported to school governors by another member of staff in autumn 2018. The committee was told that the “whistle blower” reported being told by someone involved that data was being “fiddled”.

The allegations against Mr Spencer included:

That he was guilty of unacceptable professional conduct in that between, or around January 2014 and February 2019, he instructed employee(s) at Queen Elizabeth High School to amend pupil attendance data on the School’s School Management Information System (SIMS) in a way that falsely inflated the data.

That the conduct was dishonest and/or lacked integrity.

That he discussed details of the disciplinary investigation in respect of allegation 1 above with staff identified as Person A and/or Person D, when he knew that he should not discuss the investigation with school employees; and/or they were, or were likely to be witnesses to the investigation.

The conduct as outlined in allegation 3 was inappropriate in that it: a) breached confidentiality; and/or b) had the potential to influence the progress/outcome of the investigation; and/or c) was intended to influence the progress and/or outcome of the investigation.

In relation to allegation 1, Mr Spencer denied ever instructing any employee to falsify data, but admitted when he became aware did not report it, which he said was tantamount to condoning it. Mr Spencer accepted in writing allegations 2, 3a and 3b, 4a and 4b but not 4c.
Finding all allegations proved the committee found that taken together they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct.
“I fully accept my actions fall below the standards expected of a headteacher,” Mr Spencer admitted in his written statement.
Striking him off the teaching register in Wales, committee chair Peter Owen said: “In the committee’s view this was a protracted, serious instance of misconduct over many years.”
Mr Owen said Mr Spencer’s “extent of regret and remorse is limited and not where it should be.”

He added that when the deception came to light the headteacher had tried to influence, rather than accept the investigation. He said the committee took into account Mr Spencer’s former unblemished record and the good testimony from his current school employer overseas. But the matters were so serious, protracted and dishonest that there was no option but to strike him off.
Mr Spencer may not apply to re-join the register in less than five years. He has 28 days to appeal to the High Court.

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