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Education

Report criticises teacher training

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A MAJOR investigation into the standard of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in Wales has uncovered huge insufficiencies in its provision.

Professor John Furlong carried out the report having been commissioned in 2014. The report starts by stating that: ‘Initial teacher training in Wales needs to change and for two quite different reasons. Firstly, it needs to change because despite some strengths in current provision there is a widespread consensus that overall, it is not of sufficient high quality to serve the needs of Wales either now or in the future. But there is a second and perhaps even more important reason that reform is needed and that is to do with the changing nature of schooling in the 21st century’.

The report goes on to point out that ITT is not as strong as it should be, and that current requirements in key aspects fall well short of what the international evidence suggests is best practice. Professor Furlong added: “As a consequence, newly qualified teachers are not conceptualised nor is there a requirement that they are prepared to be active professionals, with their own judgements to make and with their own responsibilities as leaders of children’s learning.”

He goes on to criticise the link between the university teaching and what is required in the classroom, saying: “Given that there is no reference whatsoever in the Standards to research or the need to develop student teachers as critical consumers of or participants in research, there is little requirement on the part of universities to help their staff develop as research active university lecturers. Again, in other jurisdictions, standards set out a very different vision for the contribution of universities.”

He continued by saying: “At present it seems that most schools have only a small role in professional education, often with very small numbers of students. Teacher education is undertaken primarily on a voluntary basis – an ‘add on’ to schools’ normal work. Internationally however, there is strong evidence that in the most effective systems, universities work with much smaller numbers of schools which take larger numbers of students. Moreover, schools themselves are encouraged to take leading responsibility in key aspects of the training programme. One particular difficulty in encouraging schools to work in closer partnership with universities on a regular basis is that it is indeed voluntary. As a result, it is widely reported that few schools are willing to make long term commitments, often withdrawing, sometimes at the last minute, particularly if they are facing an Estyn inspection.”

Criticising university provision he also stated: “The fact that teacher education remains very much a university led process in Wales does not necessarily mean that the sector has been well served by contemporary universities. On a number of key indices, teacher educators themselves seem less well supported than their colleagues in other disciplines and in other parts of the UK.”

The report made 7 key recommendations:

That the Welsh Government, as a matter of priority, revises the standards for Newly Qualified Teachers

  • That the Welsh Government establishes a revised accreditation process for providers of initial teacher education.
  • That the Welsh Government establishes a teacher education accreditation board
  • That the role of Estyn within initial teacher education be reviewed once a revised accreditation process is fully in place.
  • That Estyn’s ‘Guidance for Inspection’ for schools be revised to include specific recognition of the contribution of a school to initial teacher education.
  • That the Primary BA (Hons) QTS, in its current form, be phased out and replaced by a four year degree with 50% of students’ time spent in main subject departments.
  • That the Welsh Government monitors closely the impact of financial incentives on recruitment, particularly taking into account different funding levels in comparison with those available in England.

Responding to the report and its contents, Education Minister, Huw Lewis said: “I very much welcome this report and its recommendations and would like to thank Professor Furlong for his commitment, impartiality and professionalism. The case for change is compelling. It is clear that if we want to raise standards, we must produce newly qualified, reflective practitioners with the appropriate qualifications, skills and resilience to support the sort of curriculum change recommended by Professor Donaldson in his recent report. In principle, I would disagree with nothing contained in Professor Furlong’s report. We must now move to consider the reform options and implementation methods in greater detail and this is something that will require full engagement with the teacher training sector. We will also work to ensure the sector remains viable while we make what needs to be a smooth transition to a new model of teacher training.”

Angela Burns, AM and Shadow Minister for Education, said: “There is a consensus that teacher training in Wales is not sufficiently robust to drive up standards and enable young people to compete in the global race. How can we possibly expect teachers to nurture the potential of their class and stretch every child to realise their talents if we don’t do the same for teachers? Learning is a rewarding lifelong activity, which everyone, regardless of their profession, can find enriching, but it is especially important that teachers who instil a thirst for learning, should be able to take advantage of it themselves. Labour Ministers must consider these recommendations and act to improve initial teacher training, invest in continuous professional development and cut out bureaucracy to free up teachers to spend more time learning.”

From a leading teaching union, Owen Hathway, NUT Wales Policy Officer, said: “We will obviously have to examine the full recommendations in detail, however, we do welcome the general thrust of some of the content. It is important that any changes to teachers training programmes fit with the vision for the future of the profession articulated in the Donaldson Review of the Curriculum – teachers will need to be confident, creative designers of learning and curriculum that is built on developing the whole child to be a flexible, confident learner, rather than being merely deliverers of subject knowledge or curricula devised elsewhere. It is important that current inconsistencies in initial teacher training provisions, reported by ESTYN and highlighted by Tabberer in his review, are addressed so that regardless of where in Wales teachers train they can benefit from high quality academic and pedagogical experiences. Moving forward we will be discussing the implications of the review with the Welsh Government and working closely with them to ensure the best system possible for our teaching profession and the pupils they support.”

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) sent The Herald a detailed response to the report, stating: ‘We welcome Professor John Furlong’s recommendations on the future of initial teacher education in Wales in his Teaching Tomorrow’s Teachers report. The partnership between the university and schools, as part of the South West Wales Centre of Teacher Education, means that we are in a strong position to work collaboratively to implement the changes required to the current system, to attract the best candidates to the profession and to ensure the continued professional learning and development of teachers throughout their careers. UWTSD is committed to and highly values its role in the initial education of those entering the teaching profession as well as its role in supporting members of the education workforce in their career-long professional learning. The South West Wales Centre of Teacher Education, located within UWTSD, has been working hard to build on the strengths noted in the most recent monitoring report from Estyn (July 2014) and is well placed to work collaboratively within the education sector to support the processes of change and improvement on the horizon. UWTSD is working pro-actively to build and develop the research capacity of staff involved in both initial and continuing professional teacher education, many of whom have a strong track record of leadership within the school education sector. The value of applied and policy-focused research is one of the University’s underpinning values and is well evidenced through the work of the Wales Centre of Equity in Education, established as a partnership between University of Wales and UWTSD in 2013, under the directorship of Professor David Egan, who is himself an adviser to the Welsh Government on education policy. The opportunity to further develop pedagogically-focused research with our partners is welcomed’.

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Education

U-turn on compulsory lifesaving lessons in Welsh secondary education

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SCHOOLS in Wales will now teach first aid and lifesaving skills as part of the new curriculum.

Wales will join England and Scotland by introducing first aid and lifesaving kills to their national secondary education curriculum.

Kirsty Williams, Education Minister had previously rejected the calls for emergency resuscitation skills to be compulsory in school.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was introduced in the secondary school curriculum in England in September 2020.

Local authorities in Scotland have also committed to introduce lifesaving skills to their secondary education curriculum.

The British Heart Foundation had backed the campaign for CPR to be taught in schools.

In a long fought battle, Suzy Davies, a Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, secured the commitment from the Welsh Education Minister in the course of debating amendments to the new Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, which will make sweeping changes to the way Welsh children are educated.

The new curriculum for Wales is planned to come into force from 2022.

Children, parents, families and medics have long argued that regular teaching of CPR in particular will raise our children to have the skills and confidence to step in and save the life of someone in cardiac arrest if they encounter them outside a hospital setting.

The commitment was included in the Welsh Conservative manifesto for the Assembly election in 2016, and Suzy Davies, the Shadow Education Minister, said:

“After 10 years campaigning for this, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen.

“From securing cross-party support for this in my early days as an Assembly Member, through several debates and pitches to different Ministers, on to my own proposed legislation which found favour among Senedd Members, it was difficult to understand why Welsh Government was so resistant.

“In this country, our chances of surviving a cardiac arrest outside hospital are as poor as 10%. In countries around the world where teaching CPR and defibrillator use is compulsory, those odds improve dramatically. These skills are quick and easy to learn and easy to remember.

“ Alun Davies MS – himself a cardiac arrest survivor – has rightly argued that we should be able to learn these skills at any time in our lives and that defibrillators should be a commonplace feature of our public landscape. I couldn’t agree more – but how simple it is to ingrain these skills from an early age and raise generation after generation of lifesavers.”

Under the new curriculum, teachers must follow statutory guidance made by Ministers to support various aspects of the new way of teaching. After changes guaranteed by the Education Minister, this guidance will now instruct teachers that they should teach lifesaving skills and first aid: It is no longer optional.

The mandatory teaching of life saving skills and first aid (not just CPR) has been supported by the medical profession, including paramedics and fire service co-responders, as well as charities like St. John’s Cymru, British Heart Foundation, Calon Defibrillators, Cariad and the Red Cross.

It is taught through many youth groups, including Torfaen Sea Cadets who trained Aneurin Metcalfe, the young man who saved someone’s life only this week.

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Education

Styling their way to the top

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FOUR hairdressing learners: Holly Mathias, Jenna Kilgallon, Helaina Thomas and Leah Rees, recently earned themselves a place in the next stage of the Concept Hair Magazine Learner of the Year Competition.

The candidates were invited into the College to show their fully presented entries as evidence and then submitted them remotely to the Concept Hair Magazine judges in December.

The categories for the competition were: Festival Hair, Red Carpet, Old School Barbershop, Celebration of Colour and Safari.

The unique styles allowed the learners to show off their creative hair styling skills from plaits to updos, to bold colour creations.

Charlotte Jones, Hairdressing lecturer was over the moon with the learners’ success; “We were all so impressed with the creativity, dedication and enthusiasm of all the students who took part in the competition. Also, the students who supported the entries during the day and the models who gave up their time to be involved. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved. The results were amazing!”

The students worked to COVID regulations ensuring all the correct PPE and procedures were followed.

Finalist, Holly Mathias entered three categories which included; Styling Level 2 – Festival Theme, Hair Up Level 2 – Red Carpet and Avant Garde – Safari.

Holly shared her experience; “Taking part in the Concept Hair competition, has really boosted my confidence and proved that hard work really does pay off. The support from the staff at Pembrokeshire College is outstanding. I would recommend everyone to take part in this competition as not only is it an amazing experience, but it really allows you to think outside the box and be as creative as you can! I would 100% take part in this competition again.”

Holly plans to go into full-time employment when she completes her course and hopes to one day work on cruise ships or even own her own salon.

The next stage involves the candidates submitting photographic entries on the 12th March where six will be shortlisted for the national finals which is set to take place virtually in April.

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Education

Senedd approves Wales’ National Curriculum

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MEMBERS of the Senedd voted to pass the National Curriculum Bill’s final text, meaning the Curriculum for Wales will now be introduced in 2022.

Throughout the debate on its final stage, which took place on Tuesday (March 9), opposition members praised Wales’ Education Minister, Kirsty Williams. Members from all sides saluted her patience and diligence in guiding a significant piece of legislation onto the statute book.

Even members who disagreed with the Bill’s content and opposed its passage highlighted the Minister’s personal contribution and commitment to creating Wales’ first national Curriculum.

A NATIONAL MISSION

The Bill was the subject of intensive scrutiny and broad consultation.

Speaking in the Senedd, Mrs Williams said the Bill’s passage was ’a national mission’.

“It would have been simpler to cook up plans in Cathays Park in a back office and issue a ‘take it or leave it’ offer,” the Education Minister said.

She continued: “But our combined efforts with teachers, academics, parents, and many organisations here and abroad is worth so much more because of that ‘national mission’ spirit.”

Kirsty Williams paid a personal tribute to Labour MS Lynn Neagle, Chair of the Children’s and Young Persons’ Committee.

Under Lynn Neagle’s leadership, the Committee rigorously scrutinised the Bill and made a series of recommendations in its text.

Of the Labour backbencher, Kirsty Williams said: “I conclude by thanking Lynne Neagle for her tough, astute, tenacious, sometimes bloody-mindedness in her approach to this legislation. I mean that as a compliment, Lynne. 

“As I said earlier, the results of the committee’s work have made this a better Bill.”

She had similarly warm words for her Conservative opposite number, Suzy Davies.

Mrs Williams acknowledged: “She has worked incredibly hard on this Bill, and I know that she’s been fully committed to the scrutiny process. As I said in opening my comments today, I think we have a better Bill due to the CYPE committee’s efforts. I have gone to great lengths to try and respond positively to the cross-party report that the Committee published to try and meet those aspirations.”

Like Mrs Williams, Suzy Davies steps down as an MS in May. She was unable to attend the debate.

CURRICULUM CONTROVERSY

Despite the Minister’s warm words, the new Curriculum’s journey to the statute book has not been without controversy.

Activists railed against the Curriculum’s Religion Values and Ethics element and its focus on Welsh language teaching’s importance to all of Wales’ pupils. The inclusion of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in the Curriculum provoked vituperative responses from a small group of parents. They opposed children receiving what they’ve claimed will be inappropriately explicit sexual education.

Senior Policy Researcher for NSPCC Cymru/Wales, Dr Sarah Witcombe-Hayes says: “The strength of support for mandatory relationships and sexuality education to be included in the new Curriculum for Wales by leading child protection experts and charities highlights what a game-changer this is.

“The changes are long overdue, but in passing this Bill Senedd members are helping to protect children and young people from abuse – making sure every child and young person in Wales can access high quality RSE that is relevant, sensitive and appropriate to their own capacities and needs.

“It will help all learners understand their rights to safe, healthy and fulfilling relationships throughout their lives, and schools must now be supported and fully resourced to deliver inclusive and high quality RSE from September 2022.”

Regarding Welsh Language teaching and RSE, those with genuine concerns had those worries preyed upon to grandstanding political effect by fringe political movements, such as Ukip and Abolish the Assembly (sic.)

Speaking for the latter group, Gareth Bennett said: “The downgrading of English teaching in the interest of immersion in Welsh is a sinister development. It will surely disadvantage Welsh schoolchildren who are not from a background of speaking Welsh at home.”

Dr Felix Aubel, a noted controversialist, said: “UKIP would divert millions of pounds by abolishing the legal requirement to forcibly impose the Welsh language on people.”

Like Abolish, UKIP will campaign on a platform of abolishing Welsh parliamentary democracy.

Those organisations’ concerns on Welsh language education ignore the fact Welsh is the national language of Wales. Every credible educational study underlines how children benefit from bilingual education.

HISTORY TEACHING CONCERNS PLAID

On Tuesday, further and concerted criticism of the new Curriculum came from Plaid Cymru.

Perturbed by the absence of Welsh history’s teaching, Plaid’s Sian Gwenllian announced the party would vote against the Bill in its final stage.

Plaid’s Shadow Education Minister said that, although her party supported the Bill’s direction of travel: “Plaid Cymru argued for the inclusion of two other mandatory elements that could also contribute towards creating that social, far-reaching transformation that we want to see, namely the history of Wales in all of its diversity, including black and people of colour history, and environmental education, including climate change.

“There is no assurance [these subjects] will be given due attention, and for me, that is a fundamental flaw within the Bill. Guidance simply isn’t enough. It’s easy to scrap guidance or change it, unlike issues that have a statutory basis and are included on the face of the Bill.

“We will, therefore, vote against the legislation today.”

In response, Kirsty Williams said: “For the absolute avoidance of any doubt, Welsh histories and the story of Wales will be a compulsory part of this Curriculum. It is included in the statutory guidance that has already been issued and will have a statutory underpinning. 

“There will be no way a school cannot teach the history of Wales. Indeed, every single area of learning and experience must have a golden thread of a celebration of Welsh identity in all its diversity in every area.”

The Minister observed acidly: “I accept it’s election time, and there are petitions and e-mails to be sent, but it’s regrettable, as I said, on this historic day, with the opportunity for the first time in our nation’s history to have our own curriculum, that The Party of Wales will choose to vote against.”

SCHOOLS GIVEN

TIME TO PREPARE

The Bill passed by 32 votes to 18 with one abstention. Four Conservative Senedd Members voted with the Government, including Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies.

Following Royal Assent, which is anticipated in April, the Bill will become the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021.

Last year, the Minister published an updated action plan setting out the next steps in Wales’ reform journey, ahead of the new Curriculum’s introduction.

Alongside the updated ‘Our National Mission’ action plan, the Welsh Government also published a document setting out shared expectations of what curriculum realisation means for practitioners and schools from 2022. Curriculum for Wales. 

The journey to 2022 has been created to help schools prepare for designing and implementing their Curriculum. In January, the Welsh Government published the Curriculum Implementation Plan, which will steer its work with partners to deliver the Curriculum for Wales.

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