A NEW strategy and action plan that will help looked after children in Wales to fulfil their potential at school and beyond has been launched by the Welsh Government.
Raising the ambitions and educational attainment of children who are looked after in Wales’, which is jointly led by Education Minister, Huw Lewis and Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford, identifies key areas in which the Welsh Government and its partners will work to better support children in care in achieving better academic success.
While the primary focus is on supporting looked after children of compulsory school age, the strategy also looks at supporting children as they make the often tricky transition from school to further education, higher education and employment.
The strategy sets out how the Welsh Government and its partners will:
- Raise educational aspirations and attainment of looked after children and the ability of those who care for them (i.e. foster carers) to support their educational development;
- Reinforce collective accountability for looked after children and effective leadership across the Welsh Government, regional education consortia, local authorities, schools and further and higher education institutions;
- Make education a priority and point of focus and stability for looked after children, especially during periods of upheaval and uncertainty
- Ensure necessary support is in place to enable positive life and career choices and reduce the chances of looked after children entering the youth justice system;
- Identify data to aid practice, policy making and monitoring of educational outcomes,
- Ensure excellent practice is identified, promoted and shared wherever it exists.
The strategy is supported by a detailed action plan and the Welsh Government will monitor delivery against the plan on an annual basis.
Education Minister, Huw Lewis said: “Every single child in Wales – including those who are looked after – has the right to expect an excellent education.
“We know that good educational attainment can provide the gateway to future stability and can help to secure an independent and fulfilling life, however we also know that outcomes for looked after children rarely compare favourably with other children.
“In developing this strategy we have worked closely with partners such as the Fostering Network, Voices From Care, and Cardiff University’s Research Centre, Cascade to ensure it reflects the views and experiences of both children in care and foster carers.
“Their input has been invaluable and I would like to thank them for their hard work and contribution.
“The publication of this strategy is just the first step in our work to ensure sustained improvements in outcomes for looked after children and we will continue to work closely with our partners to make this ambition a reality.”
Minister for Health and Social Services Mark Drakeford said: “We are determined as a government to do all we can to support looked-after children and care leavers to reach their full potential.
“This strategy is the first step in a concerted effort by the Welsh Government to ensure sustained improvements in all outcomes for looked-after children, which will impact positively on all aspects of their lives. We are developing a national approach for looked-after children which will help reduce the number of children entering care, improve outcomes for children already in care and provide better opportunities for care leavers.
“A good education with successful exam results may not prevent children who are looked after from making the wrong life choices but having a flying start in life and a strong foundation in education will stand them in good stead for the demands of modern life. It will also help open up opportunities and inform better life choices.”
Canned Food UK & Tata Steel launch package design challenge
Canned Food UK (CFUK) and Tata Steel in Europe launch the Packaging Design Challenge this week on April 24 2020.
The challenge encourages children aged 15 and under to design and create their own pack which demonstrates packaging’s important role in protecting our food and drink.
To take part entrants first create their ‘product’, a sponge in a freezer bag with 200ml of water and secondly, a pack for their product using materials otherwise destined for the recycling bin which have been cleaned such as cereal boxes, milk cartons or loo roll holders.
Entrants are invited to send photos or a video to CFUK by tagging Instagram posts with @cannedfooduk or #packagingdesignchallenge or emailing email@example.com.
Entries should show how their packs are decorated, which parts are recyclable and if their pack survives the drop test – dropping their pack from head height to see if the product leaks.
A winner will be selected by a panel of experts for a chance to win £100 in Amazon vouchers and the closing date is midnight on Monday 22 May 2020.
The challenge launches with a live session on Canned Food UK’s Facebook page at 11am on Friday 24 April with Nicola Jones, Tata Steel’s Packaging Recycling Education manager, who normally visits schools nationwide delivering interactive workshops that showcase the benefits of packaging.
“Lots of families would have been returning from the Easter break this week and I would have been in classrooms talking about how steel is made and why we use packaging. I wanted to continue to share these resources and the Packaging Design Challenge was the perfect opportunity,” comments Nicola.
“It’s a straightforward activity that children can do with minimal adult supervision, that’s away from a computer screen, and at the same time, learn about how packaging protects our food and drink, reduces waste and how it’s recycled.”
“I think the challenge will showcase the effectiveness of packaging, just like the can which has great shelf appeal, durability and of course, is infinitely recyclable,” adds Robert Fell, director at CFUK and competition judge. “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s entries, especially if they survive the drop test.”
Strictly Cymru brings dancing a-plenty to 2020
Disabled people from all over Wales have waltzed into 2020 for Strictly Cymru – the country’s renowned inclusive dance competition.
Run by charity Leonard Cheshire, in partnership with the national governing body Paradance UK, the competition has seen dancers in both inclusive and wheelchair-specific categories compete in six heats across South Wales, in preparation for the grand final on 6 June. Strictly Cymru is now in its third year.
Winning in the inclusive categories at the Carmarthen heat on 17 January were Coleg Sir Gar students Kieron, Toby, Thomas, and Max, as well as Richard, who came independently from Coleshill Day Centre in Llanelli and wowed the judges with his Michael Jackson inspired fast feet and moonwalk. A few days later, Rebecca, Chloe, and Anesha from Heronsbridge School lifted the trophy at the Bridgend heat on 21 January.
Gower College students Daniel and Carys wowed the judges with their synchronised dancing at the Cardiff heat, while Coleg Gwent student Matthew secured a place on the final in the inclusive heat held in Newport last week.
Meanwhile, in the wheelchair dance category, dancers Chad and Ben took gold in Carmarthen and Bridgend respectively. The Carmarthen heat rang with the sound of Chad’s catchphrase of “Absolutely fantastic!”
Then, the fifth heat in Cardiff saw the youngest person to take part in Strictly to date, five-year-old Inga, win in the wheelchair category, before Robin John won the final wheelchair heat in Newport after being inspired by his partner Dianne, who was highly commended in last year’s competition grand final.
Dance instructors from Paradance UK also took the participants, who came from schools the community and Leonard Cheshire services in the area, through their paces ahead of each dance-off to give everyone the best chance at reaching the final.
Chad said: “It has been a really great two days and I’ve enjoyed getting to know new people and learn tango. I’m looking forward to the final.”
Robin John, winning at Newport, said: “It’s absolutely wonderful, I’ve tried before and lost, but it feels on a whole different planet to win a heat! I’m looking forward to the final and don’t mind which genre of dance I get, I can adapt to most things.”
Ruth Jones, MP for Newport West, was a judge at the heat there. Ruth said: “I wasn’t sure what to expect beforehand, but it was amazing. As you walked into the room the enthusiasm hit you like a wave. It was so hard to choose a winner because they were all brilliant in their own way, everybody did the maximum they could possibly do.”
Alan Dear, Head of Theatre and Arts at Newport Live, helped support the Newport heat and said: “It is the most joyful thing I have done in years.”
The heats were open to people of all ages and abilities and the overall winners of the competition will be crowned in the Ffwrnes theatre in Llanelli on 6 June 2020. There they will receive the coveted Strictly glitter ball trophy.
Lee Waters in School Council Summit
LOCAL Member of the Senedd, Lee Waters has held the third Llanelli School Council Summit in the Welsh Parliament for secondary school pupils from across the constituency.
Over 70 pupils from schools right across the area visited the Senedd to learn how the Welsh Parliament works and take part in debates in the old Assembly debating chamber.
Pupils chose to debate lowering the voting age and banning diesel cars. They also had the opportunity to question the Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething about their concerns and on his experiences as a Minister in the Welsh Government.
Lee Waters MS said
“Every year since becoming elected I’ve invited the school councils from the secondary schools across Llanelli to the Senedd for a School Council Summit. I’m really pleased that the event has grown and grown.”
“The pupils enthusiasm and grasp of the issues was really impressive, and it was great to hear their thoughts on some really important issues.”
“I was delighted to give pupils a chance to discuss their ideas with the Health Minister Vaughan Gething, debate issues that are important to them, and get practical careers advice learn from past pupils at their schools who now work in Welsh public life.”
“I want to show that pupils from Llanelli can succeed at whatever they choose in life, and get them involved in Welsh democracy.”
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