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Education

Unions respond to PISA results

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Not the time for panic: Rachel Curley, ATL

Not the time for panic: Rachel Curley, ATL

AFTER last week’s PISA results, those responsible for delivering children’s education have spoken out about what the results do and do not mean.

Rob Williams, Director of Policy for NAHT Cymru, the school leaders’ union for Wales, said:

“The publication of the PISA results is often a time to look at how the Welsh education is performing compared to other countries.

“However, it is important to look beyond the league table if we are to truly make use of the data, including what good education systems offer.

“High performing systems invest in teachers, reject continual restructures and reforms, and put forward clear long-term visions for education policy. We would urge the Welsh Government to now stick to the current policy path for curriculum reform and investment in the profession.

“Convenient as it is to compare countries, it is important to note that other factors that have an impact on educational disadvantage, such as poverty, do not form part of the judgements on education systems.

“Government tinkering can often be a distraction from what we know works – good quality teaching and leadership. PISA can be a useful indicator but, like all data, we need to use it intelligently and understand its limitations.”

David Evans, NUT Cymru Secretary, said: “Too often in Wales, frequently in reaction to PISA, we have seen knee jerk reactions which have actually hindered educational progress. Indeed, the OECD itself has criticised the Welsh Government in the past for establishing and creating ‘reform fatigue’ in Wales. With the proposals around the new curriculum, new qualifications and potential changes to the way we train teachers and utilise the supply sector, there are already big reforms on the horizon which will have positive impacts.

“Significantly these are changes that the profession itself has welcomed and is prepared to embrace. We now need to create a settled system and get the implementation of these initiatives right. If we do that there is no reason why progress cannot be made across all indicators, including PISA.”

“Although PISA is an international measure, it is none the less a very narrow indicator. It is essential that that we all look very carefully at these results and put them in the proper context,” said Ywain Myfyr, Policy Officer with UCAC.

“We certainly shouldn’t let them distract us from the crucial reforms that are already in progress.

“PISA is perhaps, above all else, a tool for policy makers and there seems to be a consensus in Wales that, policy wise, we’re now moving in the right direction.”

“Although disappointing, these results shouldn’t lead to yet another new initiative or change in policy direction.”

Those views were echoed by Rachel Curley of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, who said: “This is not the time for hand wringing or panic in response to the PISA results. It would have been naïve to expect major improvements since the last set of results four years ago.

“PISA is an important measure, but it is only one measure of Wales’ education system.”

NASUWT Cymru’s Rex Phillips was forthright: “Leighton Andrews turned PISA into a disaster zone for the Welsh Government when he created an artificial crisis in 2010 around the 2009 outcomes.

“Huw Lewis attempted to repair the damage caused by his predecessor by acknowledging that moving to a curriculum fit for PISA was going to take some time.

“Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams AM would do well to just note the PISA outcomes and decide whether to continue in the quest for a curriculum fit for PISA or stand up for a curriculum that is fit for purpose for Wales.”

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Education

Support staff outnumber teachers

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NEW data published by the Education Workforce Council (EWC) has revealed that there are now more learning support staff than teachers registered to work in maintained schools in Wales.

Of the over 80,000 people eligible to work in schools, further education, work-based learning and youth work settings in Wales, over 37,325 are registered for school support roles compared to 35,545 for school teacher roles. This highlights the changing nature of Welsh classrooms and how our children are educated.

Statistics also show that the education workforce in Wales is mainly female, with over 80% of school staff and over 60% in other settings being women.

The age profile of the school and youth work workforce is balanced, with around three-quarters of staff under the age of 50. In contrast, further education and work-based learning workforce is older, with 45% of registered college lecturers aged 50 and over.

The ability of school teachers (33.3%) to speak Welsh exceeds census figures (19%). However, figures in further education colleges and work-based learning are below the census. This shows the challenges ahead if Wales is to meet its aspiration of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

EWC Chief Executive, Hayden Llewellyn said:
“This is the first time such extensive intelligence has been available about the whole of the education workforce in Wales. The data raises interesting questions for policymakers and workforce planning as we move towards a new curriculum, a greater focus on the Welsh language and other major reforms”.

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Education

New exhibition reveals changing the landscape

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SATELLITE images that reveal how the global environment has changed over the past 35 years and the impacts on the Welsh landscape are at the heart of a new exhibition at Aberystwyth University’s Old College.

The ‘Living Wales’ exhibition has been developed by Professor Richard Lucas and the Earth Observation and Ecosystem Dynamics Research Group at the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences in collaboration with the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) and Welsh Government.

Using a combination of cutting edge satellite observation, computer analysis and input from the public on the ground, Professor Lucas’ team has captured incredible details and information on the states and dynamics of the Welsh landscape.

In a series of fascinating interactive displays at Old College, the exhibition places these changes in the context of those observed globally.

Professor Lucas said: “Living Wales is a dynamic exhibition that is providing new perspectives of the impact of mankind on the global environment over the past 35 years but also how these have contributed to the changes we are now seeing and hearing about every day, including climatic variability and biodiversity loss.”

“This exhibition is very timely, given the recent Climate Strike and the United Nations’ Climate Summit in the United States, with both addressing the issue of climate change and the need to take greater action.”

“We want to give the public an understanding of our changing environment but also convey how we can all make a contribution to making a better place for ourselves and future generations, in Wales but also globally”, he added.

The exhibition was opened by Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor at Aberystwyth and runs until Friday 20 December 2019.

Professor Treasure said: “I am delighted to be opening the new Living Wales exhibition at the Old College and I encourage everyone to see for themselves how our world is changing. Our planet faces many challenges associated with climate change and loss of biodiversity and it gives me great pleasure to see Aberystwyth University taking a proactive role in addressing many of these challenges. As a University, we pride ourselves on the excellence of our teaching and research, and Living Wales is just one example of how Aberystwyth is leading the world in terms of quality, innovation and outreach.”

Professor Lucas is one of two Sêr Cymru Chairs at Aberystwyth University and a leading member of an international team that is using satellite technology to monitor changes to the natural environment around the world.
He established the concepts behind Living Wales, a Welsh Government and European Regional Development Fund funded research project.

The aim is to capture the state and dynamics of Wales’ landscape in near real-time, historically and into the future.
Living Wales builds on extensive and long-established research in Australia and other countries that have focused on quantifying the state and changes over several decades to vegetation at local to continental scales using satellite data.

A permanent sister Living Wales exhibition opened to the public at CAT at the end of July 2019.
The exhibition has been supported by the Sêr Cymru programme funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Welsh Government and the Joy Welch Foundation (Aberystwyth University) as well as CAT.

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Education

Seren and Sbarc kick off new series of books with a story to coincide with Rugby World Cup

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WELSH Government and WRU announced a partnership to encourage more school children to use Welsh.

They have been inspiring school children to use Welsh in and out of the classroom for a while, but Siarter Iaith mascots Seren a Sbarc have now moved on to the next level with their very own book. Released as part of a partnership, the book will be issued to all primary schools in Wales to encourage children to read more Welsh and to cheer Wales on in Welsh.

The book, Seren a Sbarc yn Achub (Cwpan) y Bydysawd (Seren a Sbarc Save the Universe (Cup)), written by Elidir Jones and illustrated by Huw Aaron, tells the tale of the heroic characters fighting off monsters and villains using the skills they have learnt through rugby and speaking Welsh.

The book gives children and parents fun way of learning and using Welsh through rugby, as the nation eagerly watches Wales on their World Cup journey.

All primary schools in Wales will receive copies of the book to help inspire the next generation of Welsh speakers as part of the Siarter Iaith.

Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan, said: “As rugby fever grips the country, children right across Wales will be reading about the heroic antics of Seren and Sbarc as they fight off monsters with their fantastic Welsh and sport skills! This exciting project with the WRU is a great way of inspiring the next generation of Welsh speakers, and future rugby players. Rugby is a sport that brings the nation together and the Welsh language is a big part of that.”

To launch the book, Seren and Sbarc joined pupils of Ysgol Bro Allta in Ystrad Mynach for a busy day of rugby practice and sending good luck messages to the Wales team. Dragons players Aaron Jarvis and James Benjamin also joined the Year 5 and 6 pupils as they carried out tasks from the WRU Digital Classroom resource, launched to inspire pupils to achieve in all areas through rugby.

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