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.
Carmarthenshire students celebrate A Level and A.S. results
CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council wishes to congratulate all of the county’s students that are receiving their A-Level and A.S. results today, Thursday 18th August 2022.
Whilst this year has seen a return to exam-based results, following two years of assessment-based grading during the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers have still had to contend with the ongoing impact of the last 2 years.
A total of 98.6% of A Level students in Carmarthenshire achieved A*-E, which is higher than the 97.3% in 2019 when exams were last sat.
Across Carmarthenshire, a total of 40.1% of A level students have received A or A* this year, which is vastly higher than the 24.9% when exams were last sat in 2019.
After 2 years without examinations, students at AS Level also had the opportunity this year to show what knowledge they had learned and skills they had developed, through a combination of exams and assessments, applicable to different courses. 91.8 % of AS students in Carmarthenshire achieved A-E grades which, again, is higher than in 2019.
Cllr. Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language said: “Congratulations to every single student receiving their A-Level and A.S. results today. These young people and their teachers have worked extremely hard, within the uncertain climate that exists due to the pandemic, and they should be very proud, as am I, of their fantastic achievements.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the students, teachers and support staff of Carmarthenshire as well as their families for their hard work over the last two years.”
In a joint statement, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Wendy Walters and Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gareth Morgans added: “Congratulations to our A-Level and A.S. students for their, well deserved, excellent results. The last two years have been very challenging for students, teachers, support staff, families and friends and we are grateful to everyone for their commitment and support to each other during this period.
“These young people are a credit to their schools and our county, and we wish them every success for the future.”
St. Michaels School celebrates excellent A-Level results
ST. MICHAEL’S School, Llanelli, is extremely pleased to announce another year of successful A-Level results, with 80.2% of all grades awarded either an A* or A grade.
The vast majority of pupils have earned a place at their chosen university to study courses such as Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Economics.
This is the first year that traditional exams have resumed since the Covid-19 pandemic began with the majority of lessons in the first part of the A-Level being delivered online rather than in a classroom environment. This makes the results even more of an achievement considering the circumstances.
Headmaster Mr Benson Ferrari said: “We offer our sincere congratulations to our outgoing Year 13 class on the publication of their A-Level results, demonstrating that our pupils have worked so hard despite the challenges of returning to a conventional assessment approach.
“They approached the situation with resilience and dedication, which has resulted in grades that are truly representative of their ability. I am confident that they will all go onto achieve great things at university and in their working lives.
“We wish them the best as they move to this new and exciting stage of their education. The preparation which St. Michael’s has provided will be built upon, along with our values and principles providing a lasting framework to tackle the challenges ahead.”
In 2020, St. Michael’s School was awarded The Sunday Times Welsh Independent School of the Decade and this was in part due to the excellent exam results that the school receives each year.
St. Michael’s was also ranked 13th in The Times 2019 Co Ed League Table for UK Independent Schools, which was the last time that the results were published. The school hopes that this year’s results will continue to secure their place in the 2022 league table which will be published later this year.
Children at Richmond Park Primary in Carmarthen receive enterprise education programme
CHILDREN at Richmond Park Primary in Carmarthen have embarked on an enterprise education programme provided to the school by VINCI Building, the UK construction division of VINCI Construction, which is delivering upgrades and infrastructure works at Withybush General Hospital under the joint venture IHP, the alliance between VINCI Construction UK and Sir Robert McAlpine.
VINCI Building has partnered with 2B Enterprising to provide the children with an innovative enterprise skills programme called The Bumbles of Honeywood. This programme is exclusively focussed on primary education and is delivered in collaboration with commercial business partners through the 2B Enterprising Corporate Engagement Partner programme. To date this unique model has partnered 70 businesses with 170 schools across the country educating over 10,000 children.
The aim is to help children develop enterprise skills from an early age and to boost awareness of the careers available in construction. As well as supplying the package, VINCI Building’s team have visited the school to talk about their work and have arranged for pupils to visit VINCI Building at work.
The Bumbles of Honeywood programme has been developed by entrepreneurial business leaders and experienced educators with extensive input from teachers. Cultivating entrepreneurship and enterprise skills from a young age shows huge value in equipping pupils for their future lives and careers. Lesson plans have been created to ensure teachers can map the learning to their curriculum – not only hitting entrepreneurial skills criteria but supporting other areas of learning such as Oracy, Literacy, Numeracy and Modern and Foreign Languages.
The programme is built around a series of beautifully illustrated books and interactive extension activities that explore the enterprising nature of honeybees and other characters to help children develop skills such as resilience, problem solving, leadership, communication, and teamwork.
Russell Flowers, regional director for VINCI Building, said: “This is an exciting programme that raises awareness about careers and supports the communities we work in. We want to encourage more young people, in particular more young women, to consider careers in construction, and this programme will help us to achieve that. Our teams really enjoy their visits to the schools and are impressed by the children’s energy and enthusiasm. This is a great investment in our future generations.”
Helen Wyn Luff, Headteacher at Richmond Park Primary said: “As a Carmarthen school, very local to Glangwili Hospital, we have been thrilled to be able to welcome VINCI Building and The Bumbles of Honeywood into our school.
“The children adore the characters in The Bumbles of Honeywood programme which is thoughtfully devised and provides the children with stories and activities which are both fun and informative.
“VINCI Building have also supported us in our Maths Week – a week where all classes focussed fully on developing both practical and reasoning skills. A visit from staff at VINCI Building really helped bring aspects of this week to life. The children were very enthusiastic about this project and about meeting people from VINCI Building to find out more about their work. This programme not only gives the pupils vital skills for their future lives; it also gets them thinking about what career they could aspire to.
“We look forward to exploring the Bumbles of Honeywood further and working closely with VINCI Building.”
Jayne Brewer, 2B Enterprising CEO, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with VINCI Building to bring The Bumbles of Honeywood into five more schools. Enterprise education is increasingly being recognised as a key requirement, and something that should start from a young age. Our Corporate Engagement Partners play a vital part in this, helping to inspire and educate pupils by giving them real life examples of enterprise in action. As well as helping the pupils gain valuable life skills, VINCI Building are introducing them to the wide array of job opportunities that exist in construction and raising awareness of the exciting building projects happening in their area.”
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