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Education

Minister announces ‘New Deal’

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WELSH ASSEMBLY Education Minister, Huw Lewis, announced this week what he has labelled a ‘New Deal’ for teachers. It comes after the recent Donaldson report that suggested far reaching changes for a new Welsh Curriculum, and from last week’s Furlong report that was heavily critical of current teacher training.

Speaking about the New Deal, Mr. Lewis said: “The New Deal is both an offer of support for the professional, but also an expectation that professionals will continually update their skills. It’s about building capacity so our teachers and support staff are given structured learning opportunities throughout their careers, so they can keep developing their practice and ultimately, so they continue to be equipped to deliver for learners and can meet the challenges ahead.”

The Welsh Government released details of what would be in the New Deal and what it would mean :

A Professional learning passport for practitioners, developed by the Education Workforce Council for September 2015, that will enable teachers to identify and record appropriate learning opportunities and encourage them to develop their practice throughout their career

Revised professional standards for the education workforce that set out the professional skills and knowledge required of practitioners to deliver a future curriculum and embed initial qualification standards in a career long framework

Welsh Government guidance and support to ensure professional development is a central aspect of new School Development Plans, highlighting individual and collective learning priorities for all staff.

Support for teachers to study the new Masters in education practice to ensure the latest academic research on effective teaching practice reaches the heart of the Welsh classroom.

Early next term the Welsh Government will be working with practitioners to exemplify a range of career development pathways and to identify the support they would value to support their progression through these pathways.

Support for teachers to access high quality learning opportunities through quality assured professional development.

A focus on leadership with the Welsh Government working in partnership with Consortia to develop new and innovative approaches to leadership development

Commenting on the announcement was Owen Hathway, NUT Cymru Policy Officer, who said: “We know that access to professional development for teachers has been a significant problem for some time in the education sector. Key reviews into the system have continually highlighted this as a deficiency in our approach and so it is very welcome that the Welsh Government are seeking to address this concern. It is positive to see training being placed on the agenda and that the Education Minister recognises that he has to get this right if we are to see long-term and sustainable improvements. However, while this is a step in the right direction, the reality is that for professional development to really get to the level it needs to be at in supporting teachers there does have to be a financial investment. At present it is unclear exactly how, if at all, that is going to happen through the New Deal project.”

Angela Burns AM, Shadow Minister for Education, said of the New Deal: “Welsh Conservatives support any actions to improve the professional development of teachers, but should be accompanied by moves to cut teacher paperwork and direct more money to the classroom. However well-meaning these passports may be, unless they are backed up by measures to give teachers the time and resources to undertake more training, they will not make a practical difference. We would directly fund schools to end the annual scandal where a fifth of the Welsh Government’s £2.5billion schools budget never reaches the classroom. We cannot expect teachers to be able to nurture talent and inspire their students to strive, if we don’t allow teachers to do the same by developing their careers. Continuous learning is a rewarding activity, which can help everyone, regardless of their profession, to develop skills to benefit themselves, their families and our society.”

Mid and West AM, Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Education, Simon Thomas said: “We have had Labour Education Ministers since 1997 responsible for the education of our children and the First Minister himself has admitted they took their eyes off the ball. We (Plaid) will 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. Teaching should become a Masters level profession with a focus on classroom techniques. We will develop one professional-led body to deal with Continuous Professional Development to take politics out of education. Plaid believes through excellent teaching and strong leadership from head teachers we can raise standards in the classroom. The high level of bureaucracy and micro-management faced by teachers’ means there is little time to innovate in the classroom and head teachers cannot take the lead in raising standards in our schools. A Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would set the learning outcomes to be achieved by schools but would allow schools to determine how to achieve those outcomes. There would be on-the-spot Estyn inspections for schools that have not yet achieved the learning outcomes set by the Government. This would achieve a more even playing field.”

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Education

Young people from across Wales come together to debate climate change at the National Assembly

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Young people from Bryngwyn school in Llanelli gathered at the Senedd in Cardiff to debate climate change in front of Ministers, Assembly Members and representatives from the Future Generations Commissioner’s Office.

“MockCOP” was an event modelled on the UN’s Conference of the Parties (COP), where representatives from countries all over the world meet to negotiate resolutions to tackle climate change. Run jointly by Cardiff based climate change charity Size of Wales and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA), MockCOP was an interactive opportunity for young people aged 14-18 to learn about the UN, the annual climate change talks and develop their understanding of international relations  by standing in the shoes of other nations and role playing those nations in the model conference.

Regional events have been held across Wales since June, which then culminated in this final event held at the Senedd in Cardiff.

As part of the programme, Size of Wales and WCIA were looking to develop and support young climate change champions across Wales.  

 Size of Wales Director Elspeth Jones said:

“MockCOP develops young people’s skills, knowledge and confidence on the topic of climate change and encourages them to think about how climate change is affecting people now as well as future generations. This year we have been able to reach even more young people across Wales and support the new curriculum in developing ethical informed citizens with the kind support of the ScottishPower Foundation. Climate Change is a subject many students feel motivated to act upon, and we want to empower young people to feel that they can be part of the solution.” 

Eluned Morgan, Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language,

opened debate procedures on the 21st November:

“MockCOP is a fantastic platform for young people to engage with the serious issue of climate change and consider their views from a global perspective. Young people need to be allowed to be creative, put in place their own ideas, develop and experiment with them. MockCOP provides this opportunity to young people to become more informed and engaged about the global challenges and gives them a great opportunity to develop debating and negotiating skills.”

The expansion of the programme has been supported by the ScottishPower Foundation.

Melanie Hill, Executive Officer and Trustee at the ScottishPower Foundation, said: 

“It’s fantastic to see so many young people, who have been engaged with the wider Climate Change Champions project throughout Wales this year, come together at the MockCOP conference here in Cardiff.  The ScottishPower Foundation aims to support talented young people who will be at the forefront of the next generation of experts tasked with developing new solutions to the challenge of climate change.

“It is so inspiring to see these young people being empowered to make their voices heard and being encouraged to share their great ideas for the future.”

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs added:

“Since we declared a climate emergency, earlier this year, young people from across Wales have been at the centre of our national conversation on what urgent action is required to address climate change.

“I was determined young people should be involved in our first ever Wales Climate Conference last month and MockCop will give them another opportunity to have their voices heard at the very highest level. 

“I know from speaking with young people across Wales just how engaged and passionate they are about the future our planet. This event will ensure the momentum generated by the Climate Conference is maintained and will provide young people with valuable experience of debating and negotiating resolutions to tackle climate change and benefit future generations.”

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Education

University staff to strike

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SIXTY UK universities will be hit with eight days of strike action from Monday, November 25 to Wednesday, December 4, the UCU has announced.

Three of Wales’ universities, Bangor, Cardiff and UWTSD, will be affected by the dispute.

Last week UCU members backed strike action in two separate legal disputes, one on pensions and one on pay and working conditions. Overall, 79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions. In the ballot on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads, 74% of members polled backed strike action.

The union said universities had to respond positively and quickly if they wanted to avoid disruption this year. The disputes centre on changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and universities’ failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

The overall turnout in the USS ballot was 53% and on pay and conditions it was 49%. The union disaggregated the ballots so branches who secured a 50% turnout can take action in this first wave. The union’s higher education committee has now set out the timetable for the action.

As well as eight strike days from 25 November to Wednesday 4 December, union members will begin ‘action short of a strike’. This involves things like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘The first wave of strikes will hit universities later this month unless the employers start talking to us seriously about how they are going to deal with rising pension costs and declining pay and conditions.

‘Any general election candidate would be over the moon with a result along the lines of what we achieved last week. Universities can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling on these issues and we will be consulting branches whose desire to strike was frustrated by anti-union laws about re-balloting.’

Last year, university campuses were brought to a standstill by unprecedented levels of strike action. UCU said it was frustrated that members had to be balloted again, but that universities’ refusal to deal with their concerns had left them with no choice.

Last month, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner called on both sides to get round the table for urgent talks. She said she fully supported UCU members fighting for fair pay and decent pensions and called on both sides to work together to find solutions to the disputes.

The University and Colleges Employers’ Association dismissed the strike ballot results.

It claims, in all seriousness, the low turnouts in the unions’ ballots of their members is a clear indication that the great majority of university union members as well as wider HE employees understand the financial realities for their institution.

Extending that logic to a general election or other poll would create some rather interesting results and would, for example, overturn the outcome of the 2016 Referendum.

UCU has just 55 results from their 147 separate ballots supporting a national dispute over the outcome of the 2019-20 JNCHES pay round. While UCU members in these 55 institutions could technically be asked to strike against their individual institution, this would be causing damage to both union members and to students in an unrealistic attempt to force all 147 employers to reopen the concluded 2019-20 national pay round and improve on an outcome that is for most of these institutions already at the very limit of what is affordable. 

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Education

Youth Parliament wants life skills education

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IN ITS first major piece of work from the body representing the views of young people in Wales, the Welsh Youth Parliament found huge inconsistencies in how life skills are currently taught, with almost half of those surveyed saying they received lessons once a year or even less.
In their second full session at the Senedd, members of the Welsh Youth Parliament today heard the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams’ response to their report on Life Skills in the Curriculum.
The Welsh Youth Parliament published its report earlier this week in its first major piece of work, having consulted with over 2,500 young people, parents and teachers across Wales. It found huge inconsistencies in how life skills are currently taught with members voicing concerns about leaving school as ‘A* robots with no knowledge of the real world’.
The report said: ‘We currently leave school with a handful of skills but no knowledge on how to speak in public, clean, maintain healthy relationships, buy cars, apply for mortgages, road safety, and many other skills that are needed to succeed in life.
‘We can’t survive adulthood or any part of our life if we leave school as A* robots with no knowledge of the real world. We’re going through this education system, our siblings and our kids will go through this system. We want them to feel equipped and able to function as productive adults, who don’t feel as though their worth is based on their exam results. We are worth more than this.
‘If life skills are correctly implemented into the curriculum, the next generation of students will leave school with not only the correct qualifications to succeed in life but also other abilities and knowledge to make life easier’.
The principal recommendations within the report were:
• A consistent, nationwide Life Skills Specification containing all core life skills mapped out across appropriate key stages and taking in to account all learning needs.
• The core life skills within the specification should be agreed upon by young people and education professionals – their focus shouldn’t be solely on teaching young people how to exist, but how to lead a full and healthy life.
• A life skills coordinator should be appointed within every school. The coordinator would be responsible for mapping the core life skills across the school’s curriculum, ensuring that each pupil’s experience is consistent and in line with the Life Skills Specification.
As she faced Welsh Youth Parliament members in the chamber, the Minister noted their report’s main recommendations including the call for the Welsh Government to be doing more to support teachers and to work with the Welsh Youth Parliament to create resources to support the teaching of life skills.
Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, said: “It is absolutely clear to me from your report that, as a government, we need to be doing more to support our teachers – we need to invest in their development to ensure they have the right tools to deliver life skills education effectively.
“Within government, we are currently in discussion over future budgets. I can assure you today that investment for professional learning for our workforce will be a priority of mine as I recognise the points that you make.”
The Minister also acknowledged members’ clear message in the report about leaving education uninformed about real-world skills. Kirsty Williams argued that educational reforms, including the new curriculum being developed by the Welsh Government, would help address some of those concerns.
Children’s Commissioner, Sally Holland, and the Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, Lynne Neagle AM also addressed the Members and gave their response to the report.
During the session, members who form committees looking at Youth Parliament’s other priorities, Emotional and Mental Health in Young People and Littering and Plastic Waste, also gave updates on their work which will continue over the next few months.

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