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Education

West Wales schools perform above average

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tasker1AS THE EDUCATION consultation period comes to a close, with a vote due on July 16, figures this week show that Pembrokeshire has a huge problem with pupil retention rates.

Though the County Council may feel this is a justification for change, what will be of concern to parents and educators alike is the form that change will take and whether or not it will be change for the better.

What those figures did not show, is that Sir Thomas Picton (STP), whose 6th form is under threat to Pembrokeshire College, had a significantly better retention rate than the Pembrokeshire average suggests, and indeed, when various factors are taken into consideration, appears to have a better retention statistic for its year 12 pupils than the college itself, which has its own in-house career advisory team. In fact, Tasker Milward, had an even better retention rate at a whopping 87%.

Dr Poole, of STP, explained in an email to The Herald, that his school’s official retention figure, listed as 84%, did not take into account pupils who had, in year 12, switched to other courses, taken employment or moved to other centres to study vocational courses, or indeed some pupils who re-started year 12 for a different course, rather than go on to year 13, and he believed his school’s retention figure was nearer a massive 90%, which is well above the Welsh average. The data also does not say what the official retention figures are for Pembrokeshire College. This is a view that it seems is backed up by the Welsh Labour government, with a spokesperson saying: “The Year 12 data needs to be read with caution as it only tells part of the picture. The data provides information on the retention rates in schools, it does not take account of those Year 12 students who go on to attend a FE college or in to Work Based Learning.”

The figures were delivered and explained by Rob Hillier, 14- 19 education system leader, in a children and families overview and scrutiny committee meeting last week. Given a series of graphs, committee members were shown figures for both those young people not in education employment or training (NEET) and the retention figures in full time education at school for 2014. Mr Hillier, explained that Pembrokeshire schools retained only 78% of their Year 12 leavers, a reflection of a significant percentage of early leavers from their AS provision, and a reduction from 80% in 2013. He went on to explain that the 2014 data was significantly below the Welsh average and Pembrokeshire was the 18th ranked Local Authority.

At the meeting there was much discussion as to how the figure could be improved. Cllr Pat Davies stated: “It is an ongoing problem – pupils not receiving correct advice. Pupils that sometimes don’t have the academic qualifications to continue that course (that they start in year 12). I am convinced for some years now that in the 14-19s we are not getting the learning pathways right. School reorganisation is addressing this problem.” Though she was not able to elaborate as to how this re-organisation would address the problem, specifically, or indeed that a significant cut in the Careers Wales service could be having an adverse affect on the schools, given the vote on July 16 on schools reorganisation, for which she did not wish to prejudice herself.

Cllr Ken Rowlands was also keen to question the courses pupils are taking: “Are we providing the right vocational courses? Children want to progress, but have found themselves on the wrong course and dropped out. We must address the needs of the young people of Pembrokeshire, and not look at vested interests.”

The report made a number of suggestions as to how this problem could be resolved:

– Year 11 Information Advice and Guidance

Young people in Year 11 receive assemblies from Job Centre Plus staff that provides them with information about the local labour market. These are timed to coincide with them beginning their post-16 options choices. This compliments the work undertaken by Careers Wales.

– “Choices Events”- all Year 11 young people meet the full range of Pembrokeshire Post-16 education providers face to face in their Secondary Schools in the “Choices Events”. This enables them to get a better understanding of their potential learning pathways; they are further signposted onto options evenings.

– Year 12 AS level entry requirements have been reviewed and each school has revised its Year 12 entry requirements to ensure that learners have the appropriate ability to complete their courses.

Common Area Prospectus and Application Process (CAP). All Year 11 learners will apply for their post-16 education and training through the Welsh Government’s new CAP system from September 2015. This system will allow learners to view the full range of educational opportunities in the county, and will greatly contribute to tracking their progression through the post-16 transition process. This is similar to the UCAS university application process.

Speaking about finding solutions was Education Director, Kate Evans Hughes, who said: “It’s not the data itself but the conversations that follow. We are starting to work with parents too. If the parents’ aspiration is for higher education there are lots of pathways to higher education. This protects the children who are not high flyers.”

What is not certain, is whether the figures are merely a blip for one year, and many people in academia will hope that a cautious approach is taken to any school re-organisation based on such figures. As Jonathan Nutting of the Pembrokeshire Alliance said, when speaking about the figures: “I feel there could be several reasons. Maybe it’s just one of those blips that happen once in a while. I am confident that Kate Evans Hughes took note and will already be finding out more if she does not already have a handle upon it. Perhaps there is major economic pressure on schools, or a large number of year 12s became disaffected. They saw no job prospects at the end of their courses and they did not feel carrying on was worth it. This is possible.”

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Education

Vital support for job seekers and employers in West Wales

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TO MATCH job seekers with employers and career agencies across West Wales, a virtual jobs fair is taking place on Wednesday 9 September.

The free online event will be hosted by Working Wales, which is delivered by Careers Wales, and is in partnership with Job Centre Plus teams across West Wales and the south west and mid Wales Regional Learning and Skills Partnership.

Now, more than ever, job seekers and employers are relying on online support to find jobs and fill vacancies.

The event will run through Working Wales’ Facebook channels and will be split into two regional events covering West Wales mid and south. 10am-11amis for job seekers and employers in Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Powys and Neath Port Talbot. 2pm-3pm will focus on Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Swansea.

Attendees for the free event will have access to a wide variety of job vacancies from many sectors across West Wales as well as expert careers advice to support with job applications.

Working Wales isfunded by the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund and was launched by the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skatesin May 2019.

Within the first year the service has directly assisted over 37,000 people across Wales. Careers Wales chief executive, Nikki Lawrence said “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the west to deliver a virtual jobs fair. Our careers advice and guidance is a vital part of supporting the economy during this pandemic, and these online events allow us to effectively and safely continue reaching and supporting our customers during these challenging times.”

To register your interest in these events, follow Working Wales on Facebook @WorkingWales. If you are an employer with vacancies to fill please also get in touch.

Available to anyone over the age of 16,Working Wales provides a one-to-one, tailored employability advice and guidance service, supporting people across Wales with job searching, CV writing, interview preparation, training and upskilling as well as with redundancy support.

For more information on Working Wales visit: www.workingwales.gov.wales or call 0800 028 4844

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Education

Virtual graduation for Class of 2020

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UWTSD is looking forward to hosting a series of online events to celebrate the academic success of the ‘Class of 2020’.
With formal degree ceremonies due to be held at a later date, UWTSD organised a series of digital celebrations that will take place on Tuesday, July 21, Wednesday, July 22, and Thursday, July 2.
Providing students with an opportinuty to celebrate their academic and personal achievements, the digital events included video messages from the Vice Chancellor, the Provosts, Universty Fellows as well as staff and fellow students.
“The Class of 2020 digital celebrations allowed us to come together – as family, friends and members of the University community – to mark our students’ academic achievements,” says Professor Medwin Hughes DL, UWTSD Vice Chancellor.
“These have been very difficult times for us all and yet students have succeeded, and these digital events help us to celebrate that academic achievement. Indeed, I would like to thank our students for the way in which they’ve responded to this pandemic and the way in which they’ve worked with the University. These celebrations were an opportunity for us to wish our students well for the future and to celebrate their hard work and success.”
Gwilym Dyfri Jones, Provost of the University’s Carmarthen and Lampeter campuses, said: “These virtual celebrations were an opportunity for the University to congratulate its Class of 2020 and to show that it is thinking of each and every one of the graduates at these unprecedented time,.
“It is also an opportunity for us to share our gratitude with the students for their valued contributions to the life of the university and its various campuses during these last few years,” he adds.
“We are proud of our graduates’ achievements and relished celebrating their successes with them in a virtual environment next week.”
Professor Ian Walsh, Provost of UWTSD’s Swansea and Cardiff campuses is immensely proud of the graduates’ achievements.
“During this difficult final term, the students of UWTSD have demonstrated the true meaning of the phrase ‘the best of us’,” says Professor Walsh. “It is fitting that the University takes a moment to celebrate the striking success of the class of 2020.
“Their hard won achievements demonstrate that this generation of UWTSD graduates possess all the necessary resourcefulness, resilience and determination to overcome the most challenging circumstances. In the process they have made their families, friends and lecturers extremely proud.”
James Mills, Group President of the Students’ Union at UWTSD also acknowledges the unprecedented challenges faced by the Class of 2020 and echoes the pride felt by all at UWTSD: “On behalf of everyone here at your Students’ Union we are incredibly proud of the hard work and success of our students over the past few months under incredibly difficult and challenging circumstances and adapted well to online learning.
“We also look forward to welcoming our students back in the next year for their graduation ceremonies on their respective campuses,” he adds.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, UWTSD – like all other Universities – had to respond swiftly to the lockdown restrictions with teaching moving on-line and celebrations such as graduation, being postponed.
However, UWTSD has already announced that its campuses will be open and ready to start teaching at the beginning of the new academic year, subject to government guidelines. The University is planning a blended delivery pattern for its programmes in Wales which means a combination of online delivery and on-campus teaching, when it is appropriate to do so.
The University is working to a detailed plan which anticipates various scenarios around the coronavirus context and government directives, much in keeping with the Welsh Government’s traffic light system.
It aims to ensure the safe return of students and staff to the campuses whilst also enabling as much face-to-face teaching as possible in order to ensure that students can enjoy an academic and social programme.

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Education

BAME advisor appointed to education post

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PROFESSOR Charlotte Williams OBE has been appointed by the Welsh Government to lead a new working group to advise on and improve the teaching of themes relating to Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and experiences across all parts of the school curriculum.
Professor Williams accepted an invitation from the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, to chair the new ‘Communities, contributions and cynefin: BAME experiences and the new curriculum’ working group.
In 2007, Professor Williams was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for services to ethnic minorities and equal opportunities in Wales.
Professor Williams said: “I’m delighted and honoured to be leading the working group in advancing this step-change towards integrating Black and minority ethnic history, identity and culture into the everyday learning of every child in Wales. The goal is that the new curriculum will become a shining example of resourcing and enabling broad engagement in learning and teaching with BAME contributions past and present.
“The challenge is to ensure that Black and minority ethnic peoples have a presence across the new Welsh curriculum so that within all of the Areas of Learning and Experience we can hear the sound of their voices, know of their experience, history and contributions, past and present.
“This requires appropriate resourcing because we want all teachers in Wales to be able to rethink their materials and feel confident in the ways of delivering them to reflect this presence. It’s a very exciting prospect. In this way, our curriculum in Wales will ultimately be reflective of our common experience of a vibrant, inclusive, multicultural society.
“We have a rich history in Wales, built on difference and diversity.
“This isn’t about adding an element of Black and minority ethnic history here and there in the new curriculum, but about reimagining learning and teaching across all the elements of the curriculum so that it reflects a Wales that is, and always has been, ethnically diverse, internationalist in its outlook and progressive in its aspirations.”
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Our diversity is one of our strengths as a nation and our many histories have combined to shape Wales today.
“I’m delighted Professor Williams will be leading this important piece of work and I look forward to seeing the group’s recommendations.
“The working group will complete a review of learning resources currently available to support the teaching of themes relating to BAME communities and ‘cynefin’ across all parts of the curriculum. The group will also review associated professional learning opportunities and resources. The group will be closely aligned to the review of Welsh history by Estyn, the education inspectorate.
“The Welsh word ‘cynefin’ loosely translates as ‘habitat’ or ‘place’, but also conveys a sense that all human interactions are strongly influenced and determined by both personal and collective experiences, such as through stories or music.”
The group will present their initial findings in the autumn, and a full report in the spring.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “I’m very pleased Professor Williams has agreed to chair the working group.
“I look forward to receiving the group’s recommendations on learning resources to support the teaching of themes relating to BAME communities.
“Wales is made up of a multitude of stories. We must understand and analyse our own cynefin, and make those connections across our communities, nation and the world. It isn’t just about history as a subject, it’s language, literature, geography, and so much more.”
The group will oversee the development of new learning resources in advance of the phased introduction of the new Curriculum for Wales in 2022.

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