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Ammanford: School categorisation system questioned



  • William Powell: Categorisation needs a radical shake-up

POLITICIANS from across the political spectrum have responded strongly to an article that appeared in last week’s Carmarthenshire Herald.

In our edition​ published​ on April 8, we reported on how Ysgol Bro Banw in Ammanford had been found to have unsatisfactory prospects for improvement in its leadership.

An Estyn report into the school, which was inspected shortly after its Green Banding in the Welsh Government’s School Categorisation Scheme, found that school leaders have failed to check the accuracy of teacher assessment enough or consider assessment outcomes rigorously alongside the evidence of standards in pupils’ books. More tellingly, the school’s self-evaluation report does not present an accurate and honest picture of the school’s strengths and weaknesses.

The Estyn report also stated that the school’s governors did not exercise sufficient oversight as they did not understand performance data presented to them.

Bearing in mind the gulf between the Estyn report and the School Categorisation outcome, The Herald contacted the Welsh Government, Wales’s opposition parties from the last Assembly, and the Association of Directors of Education Wales (ADEW) for their comments on the situation and what it said about the Welsh Government’s School Categorisation Programme generally.

As the Welsh Government has entered its pre-election purdah period, we were directed to Welsh Labour’s press office for a comment.

Our efforts to contact Welsh Labour went without reply, as did our request for a comment from ADEW, which is responsible for drawing up the scheme in the first place. When we contacted ADEW to follow up our initial inquiry, we were told out query was being dealt with by the WLGA’s press office.

Kate Evans-Hughes, Director of Education at Pembrokeshire County Council, told us: “As part of the agreed National Model for Regional Working, Welsh Government, local government, regional education consortia and the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) have worked together to ensure a national and consistent approach to the categorisation of schools.

“It is my belief that questions regarding the robustness of the system should be addressed to Welsh Government.”

Angela Burns, the Welsh Conservative’s shadow spokesperson on education told The Herald: “I am entirely unsurprised by the issues brought to light by the conflicting opinions over the school in Ammanford, this reflects concerns brought to me by head teachers and Unions alike.

“​The Welsh Labour Education Minister keeps getting this wrong, there is no one size fits all approach possible in ascertaining whether a school is on track or not and these endless iterations of school performance systems are simply lazy government.

“​Schools were first subjected to the much discredited banding system, now it’s this colour coded nonsense that takes no account of a school’s local community environment, of how many children with additional learning needs are on the roll and at what level nor whether the school has sufficient funding for the staff required for the task at hand.

“So it can be of no surprise that we have a workforce with a high stress related absence rate and over 100 head teacher vacancies. It’s a tough job made even more so by contradictory and arbitrary sets of measures.

“My proposals for a College of Teachers where standards are set by educators and Government, where teachers and parents work within the context of their school and local community and where pupils are treated, and measured, as individuals will produce better outcomes, more sensible data and has the support of the profession.”

Welsh Liberal Democrat William Powell, who is contesting Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, in which Ysgol Bro Banw is located, said: “As a qualified teacher, school governor and crucially as a parent, monitoring school performance is a high priority.

“Welsh Liberal Democrats believe that the Welsh Government’s School Categorisation system needs a radical shake up. Although it does represent an improvement on the discredited School Banding policy, it is far too reliant on statistical information and teacher assessment in providing a snapshot of a school’s performance.

“This can lead to the kind of rogue results and anomalies that we see in the Ysgol Bro Banw.

“Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to delivering a system which places more emphasis on individual pupil profiling, with appropriate support delivered where necessary.

“In addition, we think there must be more emphasis on stretching talented and able pupils – and this sometimes gets lost in the morass of data associated with school categorisation. Similarly, sometimes the particular situation of pupils with additional learning needs such as autism are not properly taken into account. This has to change.<

“Estyn Inspection, with the delivery of a post inspection action plan, is a much more sophisticated and accurate system, which takes account of many external factors potentially lost or under-represented in the Welsh Government categorisation.

“I have come across other situations in Mid and west Wales where a potentially adverse rogue result from school categorisation can lead to a blight on a school, sometimes provoking a pupil exodus and unleashing a completely unnecessary spiral of decline.

“For all these reasons, fundamental review of school categorisation will be a priority for Welsh Liberal Democrats in government. Equally important is proper resourcing and training support for school governors, whose work is critical – and sometimes not fully appreciated.”

Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister Simon Thomas, Carmarthen west and south Pembrokeshire candidate said: “School categorisation is mainly self-regulating, set by the regional consortium and schools themselves. It is not surprising, therefore, that it throws up anomalies such as this.

“We need to improve the professional development of the teaching profession and ensure rigorous self-evaluation. If we don’t do this then the proposed new national curriculum which relies on self-analysis will fail from the start.

“Plaid Cymru opposed school banding from the beginning. Although categorisation is an improvement, it is important that we retain the independent role of Estyn and extend that role to include on the spot inspections.”

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Council’s plan to expand bilingual education will be a gradual journey over 10 years



Carmarthenshire County Council

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s vision to increase bilingual education in Carmarthenshire will be a gradual journey over 10 years.

The Cabinet met yesterday (Monday, July 4) to discuss the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP), and emphasised that it was important to give all children and young people the opportunity to develop their Welsh language skills.

However, members stressed that families will still have a choice on the language in which their children will be taught over the next decade and after 2032.

The plan sets out how the council will develop Welsh language provision in schools based on the outcomes and targets set by the Welsh Government.

All councils across Wales have to submit 10-year Welsh language education plans to the Welsh Government in order to meet its target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

The outcomes include more nursery and reception children being taught through the medium of Welsh; more young people studying for qualifications in Welsh as a subject, and subjects through the medium of Welsh; increasing provision for learners with Additional Learning Needs; and increasing the number of teachers able to teach Welsh and through the medium of Welsh – with continuing support to develop staff through a comprehensive and flexible training programme.

The Cabinet said it was important for the council to provide more opportunities to be bilingual and referred to the various benefits it brings – from educational attainment to employability and health.

Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language, Cllr Glynog Davies said the aim was to meet and exceed the target set by Welsh Government on the percentage of Carmarthenshire pupils receiving their education through the medium of Welsh by 3032 (10-14%).

It included changing the language provision at 10 schools over the next 10 years creating an opportunity for a further 300 learners to be educated in Welsh.

He said: “We want to build on the progress made in early years education provision, and my ambition is clear – equal opportunities across the county.

“It is worth noting that we have the largest percentage 57.5 percent of nursery age children taught through the medium of Welsh. Immersion education is key to the strategy, and it is important that we continue to see an increase in the percentage of children transferring from the Meithrin groups to Welsh-medium education in the Foundation Phase.

“These early years are so important, the children are like sponges, absorbing information and absorbing a new language.

“We must then continue to see an increase in numbers in our reception classes, we say this even though we are the authority with the largest percentage (62.5 percent) of children receiving their education through the medium of Welsh.

“Children must continue to improve their Welsh when going from one school phase to another, and we need to make sure all children have the opportunity to pursue their secondary education through the medium of Welsh.

“At the same time, we need to give children and young people the confidence to use Welsh, in school and in the community. That’s what we want to see isn’t it, more and more using Welsh, hearing Welsh on the street. We need to develop and build on skills and confidence.”

Cabinet Member for Rural Affairs and Planning Policy, Cllr Ann Davies said: “I am extremely pleased to see this document and have a pleasure in supporting it. Working with young children, that is children under three-years-old, I can say that children pick up language very quickly, they absorb it, and the process is very different to learning a language. As they get older the process in the brain is completely different. I am pleased to see that there is an emphasis on early years, that is when we need to start.”

Cabinet Member for Resources, Cllr Alun Lenny said: “It is very important to state that there are many advantages to learning a language, obviously for careers, especially in health and social care where patients and clients must have a choice of language, it’s important particularly for older people, and young children, and people with dementia.

“The Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police has stated he is keen for all his staff to speak a certain level of Welsh, so we have a duty here to support that.

“The advantages of being bilingual are multiple, socially and in the world of work, and this strategy is very much welcomed.”

The WESP has come back to the cabinet for discussion following feedback from the Welsh Government, mainly to include some additional data and detail. It will now be submitted to the Welsh Government for final approval. A public consultation was held last year.

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Carmarthenshire Council offers career opportunities through new Care Academi 



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 

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



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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