IN A much-trailed intervention into the debate on the cost of higher education to those participating in it, PM Theresa May has announced that the UK Government is to reconsider the operation of tuition fee loans taken up by students to fund their degrees.
Mrs May made her move in an effort to recapture some of the youth vote lost by the Conservatives in 2017’s General Election; particularly in those marginal seats containing university towns, where students voted in significant numbers, reduced Conservative majorities, and unseated some sitting MPs.
Among suggestions trailed by the UK’s Education Department is ensuring Universities do not charge the maximum tuition fees for every course, with a differential being proposed between STEM subjects and the Arts and Social Sciences. Such a move would suggest that the government acknowledges the abject failure of the supposed ‘internal market’ for higher education it anticipated would be created when it trebled the maximum tuition fee payable by students during the Conservative/Liberal coalition led by David Cameron.
While the changes suggested affect only English students, any change would almost inevitably impact upon student finance in Wales, where the government has adopted a significantly different approach under Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, Welsh Liberal Democrats reminded the UK Government that they only need to look to Wales to find what they says is ‘a fair and effective student finance system’.
In 2016 the Diamond Review recommended replacing tuition fee grants in favour of support for students’ living costs. This recognised the fact that living costs are a greater financial concern than tuition fees for students and reflected Welsh Liberal Democrat policy.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams has since implemented Professor Diamond’s recommendations and created the most generous student finance system in the UK.
Whilst the UK Government ended maintenance grants in England, the Welsh Government have created a system that gives students the equivalent of the National Living Wage through a combination of grants and loans. The system is also the first in Europe to provide equivalent support for part-time and postgraduate learners.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Fair Wales Rhys Taylor commented: “Thanks to Kirsty Williams and the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Wales now has the most generous and progressive student finance system in the UK. This effective and sensible approach to student finance is backed by students and universities alike.
“Whilst the UK Government preoccupied themselves with ending maintenance grants, Kirsty Williams has been busy ensuring that for every student in Wales it is your academic ability and not your ability to pay that determines whether you can study at University. If the UK Government want a better and fairer student finance system they don’t need a new review, they just need to look to Wales.”
St. Michaels School celebrates excellent A-Level results
ST. MICHAEL’S School, Llanelli, is extremely pleased to announce another year of successful A-Level results, with 80.2% of all grades awarded either an A* or A grade.
The vast majority of pupils have earned a place at their chosen university to study courses such as Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Economics.
This is the first year that traditional exams have resumed since the Covid-19 pandemic began with the majority of lessons in the first part of the A-Level being delivered online rather than in a classroom environment. This makes the results even more of an achievement considering the circumstances.
Headmaster Mr Benson Ferrari said: “We offer our sincere congratulations to our outgoing Year 13 class on the publication of their A-Level results, demonstrating that our pupils have worked so hard despite the challenges of returning to a conventional assessment approach.
“They approached the situation with resilience and dedication, which has resulted in grades that are truly representative of their ability. I am confident that they will all go onto achieve great things at university and in their working lives.
“We wish them the best as they move to this new and exciting stage of their education. The preparation which St. Michael’s has provided will be built upon, along with our values and principles providing a lasting framework to tackle the challenges ahead.”
In 2020, St. Michael’s School was awarded The Sunday Times Welsh Independent School of the Decade and this was in part due to the excellent exam results that the school receives each year.
St. Michael’s was also ranked 13th in The Times 2019 Co Ed League Table for UK Independent Schools, which was the last time that the results were published. The school hopes that this year’s results will continue to secure their place in the 2022 league table which will be published later this year.
Funding for music education trebled to the tune of £13.5m
EVERY child will have the opportunity to benefit from music education as part of the Welsh Government’s plans for a national music service, which will help ensure no child misses out due to a lack of means.
As the National Plan for Music Education is published, the Minister for Education has confirmed funding will be trebled, with £13.5m being invested over the next three years.
The plan will make access to music education fairer and more consistent across Wales, with a particular focus on learners from low-income households and those with Additional Learning Needs. Support will be available for children and young people to access and progress with music tuition, with learners from disadvantaged and under-represented groups supported to join music ensembles.
The plan includes a number of key work programmes such as:
A review on music tutors’ terms and conditions, to ensure they are treated equitably and are recognised properly.
A ‘First Experiences’ programme to offer children in primary schools a minimum of half a term of musical instrument taster sessions, delivered by trained and skilled music practitioners.
A ‘Making Music with Others’ initiative, including opportunities for children and young people in secondary schools to gain industry experience through working alongside musicians and creative industries
A new national instrument and equipment library to support access to a resource bank to be shared across Wales.
These programmes will be rolled out from September 2022, supporting schools and settings to give all children and young people from the ages of 3 to 16 the opportunity to learn to play an instrument as well as singing and making music in our schools and our communities.
The National Music Service will operate as a ‘hub’, with the Welsh Local Government Association co-ordinating the Music Service’s programmes with a wide range of organisations. It will help schools and settings in their delivery of the Curriculum for Wales and provide more diverse opportunities for children and young people to experience music outside schools and settings.
First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford and the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, visited St Joseph’s Cathedral Primary School in Swansea to see a cluster of primary school children taking part in a ‘Play Along’ session led by Swansea Music Service.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“The establishment of a National Music Service for Wales is an important commitment in our Programme for Government and I’m delighted that we are delivering on this pledge.
“Learning an instrument was a formative part of my upbringing and a lack of money should not be a barrier to any young person who wants to learn to play music. We are fortunate in Wales to have a strong tradition of school, county and national ensembles, and we want to make sure that our children and young people are able to play a full part in these. This funding will support music services in schools and within the community to help nurture our young musical talent.”
The Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:
“Our vision is for all children and young people across Wales, regardless of background, to have the chance to learn to play an instrument. The plan we are publishing today, backed by funding, will help deliver that vision.
“For too long, the chance to learn an instrument and develop musical skills has been for those few whose families and carers who can afford tuition. I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to access music tuition, and that’s why we’re making this significant investment to deliver a range of activities for our children and young people to learn and experience the joy of music.
“The development of the National Music Service will ensure that we nurture our next generation and continue to produce new talent and showcase Wales to the world.”
WLGA Chief Executive Chris Llewelyn said:
“We are proud to work with the Welsh Government on delivering this vital service to children across Wales. Many families in Wales can’t afford an instrument, and this funding will go a long way to opening doors to children across Wales to have the opportunity of learning an instrument.
“Playing an instrument and reading music is a very important skill for a child, and music brings enormous joy to children. Local authorities believe that children across Wales will have better access to instruments, and this plan will develop many future talented musicians, and support pupils to develop their musical skills.”
Work starts on new £8.25m primary school for Pembrey
WORK has started on building a new £8.25million primary school for Pembrey.
The new school building is being constructed on the recreation ground/playing field immediately adjacent to the existing school site on Ashburnham Road.
It will provide high-quality teaching facilities to improve the overall learning experience for learners, as well as benefitting the local community.
The new school will have capacity for 270 primary pupils, 30 nursery pupils and will incorporate a Flying Start facility which is currently located in a mobile classroom on the current school site.
Headteacher Helen Jacob said: “We are looking forward to having our brand-new school building at Pembrey where we can continue to provide quality educational opportunities and experiences for our children.
“Everyone is excited at the prospect of learning in a modern purpose-built school that will be at the heart of the community.”
The project is part of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme which aims to give every child in the county access to first class accommodation and facilities.
It is being jointly funded by Welsh Government through its 21st Century Schools initiative.
The new school building has been designed by the council’s own architects and the work is being carried out by local contractor TRJ Ltd.
The estimated completion date is the autumn term of 2023.
Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “I am delighted that building work has started on the new school for the community of Pembrey. Building it on the adjacent recreation ground means that we can reduce disruption as much as possible.
“The council is committed to investing in our children’s futures, and the new school building will provide the very best educational facilities for both pupils and staff and accommodation fit for 21st century teaching and learning.”
Local member Cllr Hugh Shepardson said: “I am delighted that we are making a start on the new Pembrey Primary School. The facility, which I understand will be completed next year, will provide state-of-the-art teaching facilities for our children at Pembrey and will allow our children to be taught in a modern and welcoming environment.
To date, the Modernising Education Programme has invested more than £300million in Carmarthenshire schools, including the building of 12 new primary schools, two new secondary schools, and 48 major refurbishments and extensions.