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Education

New ALN Bill introduced

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Alun Davies: ‘Bill part of a whole system improvement’

Alun Davies: ‘Bill part of a whole system improvement’

THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has introduced a new law aimed at supporting learners with additional learning needs (ALN).

If passed, the Additional Learning Needs and Educational Tribunal (ALNET) Bill will completely overhaul the system for supporting pupils with ALN, affecting every classroom in Wales.

The Bill will place the learner at the heart of that process and will make the system far simpler and less adversarial for those involved, a common complaint of the current system.

It is part of a wider programme aimed at transforming the additional learning needs system to secure successful futures for all learners.

Nearly a quarter of learners in Wales will experience some form of additional learning need during their early years or education. The current legislative framework for supporting them is based on a model introduced more than 30 years ago, which is widely recognised to no longer be fit for purpose.

Alun Davies, Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, said: “I believe that everyone in Wales should be able to access education that meets their needs and enables them to participate in, benefit from and, hopefully, enjoy the learning experience.

“Last year, just 23% of learners with ALN achieved five good GCSEs including Maths and Welsh or English compared to 59% of all pupils. We must improve on this.

“The current system is simply no longer fit for purpose and this Bill will bring the entire legislative framework into the 21st century, enabling us to effectively support learners with ALN throughout their educational journey.

“This is a landmark moment for Welsh education and is the result of months and months of work with our partners, including teachers, parents, local government, the NHS, and third sector. I am grateful to them all for their help in getting us to this stage. Their valuable contribution has given us a far greater understanding of the challenges we face and the need to be flexible as we manage change.

“It is important to remember that this is far from a peripheral issue; it affects a quarter of learners in Wales and the improvements we are proposing here can lead to better educational outcomes for all of our learners. Getting things right for our ALN learners will mean getting it right for all learners, so it’s about whole system improvement and, therefore, is a cornerstone of our ambitious programme of education reform in Wales.”

The Minister also said that while wholesale reform is necessary, we have worked closely with others to ensure these important changes are operationally sound and can be delivered in partnership within a reasonable time frame. Significant support, including £2.1m recently announced to fund innovation and partnership working across Wales, will be put in place to assist delivery partners to transition from the current to new systems.

“The ALNET Bill is only one aspect, albeit a fundamental one, of the wider package of reforms necessary in Wales. Our ALN Transformation Programme also focuses on skills development for the education workforce, to deliver effective support to learners with ALN in the classroom, as well as more effective access to specialist support, information and advice. At the heart of all of our reforms is a focus on inclusion; putting children and young people at the centre, and ensuring they are supported to reach their full potential.”

Wales’ teaching union, UCAC welcomed the Bill.

“Nevertheless, we have some concerns regarding the new Bill,” said Ywain Myfyr, Policy Officer with the union. “We need certainty that the funding level for ALN will be sufficient and that local authorities will be prevented from cutting ALN budgets.

“UCAC has grave concerns that the new measures may add significantly to the workload of Additional Learning Needs Coordinators. The role of the Coordinator must be assessed and considered and we must ensure that the workload is effectively managed.

“UCAC believes that Welsh language ALN provision should be available to everyone. We believe that the Bill should include a statement that sets out the expectations regarding Welsh medium provision – not only in terms of educational provision but also the right to follow the whole process through the medium of Welsh,” said Ywain Myfyr.

“Accessing the provision or administration of the process in Welsh must not delay, or in any way be inferior to the user.”

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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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