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Minister calls time on Initial Teacher Training

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Huw Lewis: 'We must deliver improvements'

Huw Lewis: ‘We must deliver improvements’

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.”

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Education

Children become ‘Wild World Heroes’ in Summer Reading Challenge

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BOOKWORMS across Carmarthenshire are being challenged to enjoy stories and help save the world over the school summer holidays.

Carmarthenshire libraries take part in the Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge, and bookshelves and reading spaces are being transformed into jungles and rainforests as staff get on board with this year’s wildlife theme.

This year’s challenge is being run in partnership with WWF with award-winning writer and broadcaster Dara McAnulty and award-winning explorer, presenter, and writer Steve Backshall, as ambassadors for the scheme.

Children aged four to 11 can visit any of the Carmarthenshire County Council run libraries to become a ‘Wild World Hero’ for free.

They will be given a collector poster to keep a record of their Summer Reading Challenge journey and receive special stickers, games and more as they read more books.

Library teams are also hosting various activities, events and film shows throughout the summer.

By taking part children will not only improve their reading skills but gain knowledge about environmental issues, from plastic pollution and deforestation to wildlife decline and nature loss, joining story characters to help solve some of these threats.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, the council’s  Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “The Summer Reading Challenge is free and fun and will help inspire children to read over the holidays, making use of our fantastic libraries and mobile library vans that travel to rural parts of Carmarthenshire.

“We are committed to supporting children and families to improve their literacy, and this year’s theme ties in well with our mission to tackle climate change. We hope to see as many children as possible signing up and becoming ambassadors for environmental issues whilst enjoying books over the summer.”

Steve Backshall, Summer Reading Challenge ambassador, added: “Wild World Heroes will spark conversations about the issues facing our planet, from plastic pollution to wildlife decline, and will show how we can all work together to look after our world. By taking part in the challenge, children will unlock the benefits of reading for pleasure – it’s never been more important for young people to keep up their reading skills and confidence over the summer holidays.”

For more information on the Summer Reading Challenge and Carmarthenshire’s library services, visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/libraries

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Education

Education Minister praises Llanelli school for pupil wellbeing

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YSGOL Gymraeg Brynsierfel in Llanelli has been praised for putting pupil wellbeing at the heart of everything it does.

Minister for Education and the Welsh Language Jeremy Miles visited the school to observe good practice in healthy, positive relationships.

The visit coincided with RSE Day (which stands for Relationships and Sex Education), an annual event which encourages parents, teachers, carers and educators to talk openly about relationships with their children.

Pupils at Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel are taught about the importance of kindness, empathy, respect, healthy relationships and boundaries from an early age in order to help them recognise the signs of unhealthy or abusive relationships later on.

During his visit, the Minister observed a yoga session in a Foundation Phase class and also visited a KS2 class where he observed the use of a new wellbeing app to reduce anxiety in learners. The school was recently invited to participate in efficacy trials for the Sleeping Lions app in partnership with Gwylan and the University of Wales.

He also heard all about the outstanding work that has been undertaken by the school’s Global Goalkeepers to promote peace and strong partnerships in the school’s peace garden ‘Hafan Heddychlon’.

The Minister said: “It was great to visit Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel today and see all the activities the school is doing to keep the children here fit and healthy. I even learned a bit of yoga myself, so it’s done me some good too!

“It was really interesting to hear what the children are learning about relationships, ahead of the introduction of the new curriculum for Wales from next year.

“I’m really grateful to all the staff and pupils for showing me around the school. Diolch yn fawr pawb!”

Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies, who was also in attendance, congratulated the school for the excellent work that is being carried out to support pupils’ wellbeing.

Cllr Davies said: “It has now become more important than ever for schools to focus on health and wellbeing as our children and young people will have probably experienced a lot of ups and downs and mixed emotions over the past year due to Covid-19.

“It ensures that children and young people develop the knowledge and understanding, skills, capabilities and attributes which they need for mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing now and in the future.”

Headteacher Jayne Davies said it was an honour for the school to receive a visit from the new Welsh Education Minister and local dignitaries on RSE Day.

She said: “The wellbeing and self-esteem of all staff and pupils is at the heart of everything undertaken at the school.

“By talking to learners about relationships, this gives them the opportunity to share any concerns they might have, and they are then given the appropriate support,” she added.

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Education

Carmarthen’s Canolfan Elfed honoured in UK teaching awards

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A CARMARTHEN school has been honoured in the 2021 Pearson National Teaching Awards for its outstanding commitment to changing the lives of the children they work with every day.

The Canolfan Elfed Inclusion Centre at Queen Elizabeth High School has won the Silver Award in The Lockdown Hero Award for Learner and Community Support, and has been shortlisted to win one of just 15 Gold Awards later in the year, in a programme which will be broadcast on the BBC.

The Silver Award winners are being honoured as part of the wider celebrations for ‘Thank a Teacher Day’, a national campaign to honour and recognise school staff for their incredible work.

The Canolfan Elfed has a highly skilled and dedicated staff that provide a person-centred approach so that pupils and their parents/carers can be an integral part in planning their learning and school experiences. Pupils have an individualised programme of study that provides specialist teaching and access to mainstream teaching where appropriate. This allows pupils to benefit from the advantages of specialist and mainstream provision whilst working towards achieving their future aspirations.

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To celebrate the fantastic achievement, Minister for Education and the Welsh Language Jeremy Miles visited the centre to congratulate staff and pupils and see first-hand the excellent work that is being carried out.

The Minister said: “I am delighted to see the efforts and commitment of teachers and staff at QE High School recognised by this award. I have been especially pleased to learn more about how the school have adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic while continuing to provide incredible support to pupils, parents and the local community through the Canolfan Elfed.”

The Pearson National Teaching Awards is an annual celebration of excellence in education, founded in 1998 by Lord Puttnam to recognise the life-changing impact an inspirational teacher can have on the lives of the young people they work with.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Education Cllr Glynog Davies said: “This award recognises the excellent work that is being carried out at the Canolfan Elfed by the staff, the learners and their families. There has never been a better time to appreciate our exceptional staff and the vital work they do, having worked so incredibly hard during an extraordinarily challenging time for us all.

“I would like to offer my congratulations to everyone involved, you really are an inspiration to us all and it has been a privilege to visit the centre and see for myself the wonderful work that is being carried out.”

Manager of the Canolfan Elfed Lisa Thomas said: “On behalf of Canolfan Elfed I’d like to thank Pearsons for this award. It is recognition of the work carried out during the last 16 months to support pupils, parents, families and each other as staff. We are delighted to accept this award on behalf of all other professionals in mainstream and ALN settings who have strived to maintain strong links within their communities. In our eyes, we are all stars.”

Headteacher Dave Williams said: “We were very privileged to have a visit to the school from the new Minister for Education and Welsh Language in Wales Jeremy Miles. This was his first visit to a school in Carmarthenshire, and one of his first visits to a secondary school in Wales.

“During the visit we were able to share with him some of our recent successes, including our orchestra winning first place in the Urdd Eisteddfod and Canolfan Elfed’s Silver Award in the Pearson National Teacher’s Awards.

“Mr Miles was able to meet with staff, pupils from Year 10 and students from Year 12. We shared with him our experiences of lockdown and the pupils and students were able to ask Mr Miles, often searching questions, regarding the future direction that education and qualifications would be taking in Wales, as well as asking about Mr Miles’ personal journey and career path and any advice that he could offer to them.

“Mr Miles concluded his visit with a tour of Canolfan Elfed to congratulate staff on their Pearson’s Teaching Award.

“Accompanying Mr Miles was Diane Pritchard, ALN Legislation Manager at Welsh Government, who took the opportunity to talk to staff in our ALN department and to tour Canolfan Elfed. She took a keen interest in the experiences of staff and pupils during lockdown and to discuss with members of the leadership as regards the forthcoming reforms in ALN education.

“This was a really rewarding day for all involved and we would like to thank the minister for taking a personal interest in our school and our community.”

Helen Starkey, Chair of Governors of Queen Elizabeth High School, said: “As Chair of Governors I am fortunate to have regular opportunity to witness first-hand the excellent practice within Canolfan Elfed, so I am not surprised by this prestigious acknowledgement of good work, however I am delighted for our learners, their families, the centre staff, QE High School and the community we serve.

“As a Governing Body we are proud of the inclusion centre and its contribution to establishment of the inclusive ethos and community spirit of our school. Many congratulations to our dedicated team!”

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