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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

Parents warned to look out for respiratory illness in children

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RSV is a common respiratory illness which is usually picked up by children during the winter season

RESPIRATORY Syncytial Virus (RSV) is circulating amongst children and toddlers in the Hywel Dda area (Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire)  

Hywel Dda UHB Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive Dr Philip Kloer said: “Because of the COVID restrictions, there have been few cases of RSV during the pandemic, but this virus has returned and in higher numbers now people are mixing more.

“RSV is a common respiratory illness which is usually picked up by children during the winter season, and causes very few problems to the majority of children.  However, very young babies, particularly those born prematurely, and children with heart or lung conditions, can be seriously affected and it’s important that parents are aware of the actions to take.”

Parents are being encouraged to look out for symptoms of severe infection in at-risk children, including:

*a high temperature of 37.8°C or above (fever)

*a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).

The best way to prevent RSV is to wash hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser regularly, dispose of used tissues correctly, and to keep surfaces clean and sanitised.

Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious and clear up within 2 to 3 weeks, but you should contact your GP or call NHS 111 if:

  • You are worried about your child.
  • Your child has taken less than half their usual amount during the last two or three feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more.
  • Your child has a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above.
  • Your child seems very tired or irritable.

Dial 999 for an ambulance if:

  • your baby is having difficulty breathing
  • your baby’s tongue or lips are blue
  • there are long pauses in your baby’s breathing
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Business

University to host industry summit online

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SUPPORTING industry’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic is a key priority for the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

The University has a track record for working with industry through knowledge transfer, research innovation, workforce development and by providing a ready pipeline of skilled students and graduates, in partnership with employers.

In addition, UWTSD’s MADE Cymru initiative was established to support manufacturing industries in Wales to adapt to the challenges of Industry 4.0.

The initiative, funded by the EU via the Welsh Government, aims to support the economic recovery of manufacturers in Wales by offering part and fully funded training to businesses to upskill staff, as well as research and development that improves processes and products to reduce waste and costs.

In addition, UWTSD and MADE Cymru have organised an Industry Summit to be held online between June 8-10 to inform, engage and inspire businesses during this critical period of post-Covid recovery.

Expert speakers will be sharing their insights including James Davies from Industry Wales, Carol Hall, Regional Investment Manager, Development Bank of Wales, Chris Probert, Innovation Specialist, Welsh Government and Geraint Jones, Knowledge Transfer Adviser at KTN.

The line-up also includes Welsh manufacturers who will be sharing their own experiences, including Tim Hawkins, Managing Director, Markes International, Julia Chesney-Roberts, Commercial Manager, Riversimple, Angus Grahame, Founder of Splosh and Jacques Bonfrer, Co-Founder and Team Lead, Bot-Hive.

There will be guest talks from circular economy expert Eoin Bailey and lean author Daryl Powell and an opportunity to find out about the range of services offered by the University.

Graham Howe, Executive Head of the MADE Cymru project at UWTSD says: “This Industry Summit aims to explore issues and challenges facing manufacturing in Wales so that we can work together with employers to find solutions. 

“We always start with asking a manufacturer what their biggest problem is today and look at how we can help them with it.

“We aim to unravel potentially confusing challenges like these. Our approach begins by looking at what companies need to increase their productivity and competitiveness.

“We aim to lead the businesses we work with through a journey of continuous improvement – a journey that makes the most of Industry 4.0 technologies and their ever-growing digital capabilities to help solve the specific problems faced by each company.

“All of the feedback we receive from businesses shapes our curriculum – we want to produce employable, digitally literate graduates who can contribute to their workplace from day one”.

Alison Orrells is CEO and Managing Director of Safety Letterbox and has been one of the organisations participating in the MADE Cymru initiative.

She said: “It was important to keep innovating and investing to set us apart and come out stronger. It’s been intense but we had a game plan – now it is all about business future-proofing, being agile, collaborations and being adaptable.”

Covid-19 has affected every part of a business and shifted the focus from production to survival.

UWTSD recently led a round table discussion with Welsh manufacturers about the future of manufacturing in Wales.

That discussion found that their outlook is positive about the future.

Manufacturers accelerated their adoption of new technologies to enhance and optimise production.

With many employees on furlough, managers took the opportunity to rethink and invest in better IT, particularly communications, training and diversified into new product areas. They looked to local colleges and universities to help shift perceptions of jobs in manufacturing and demonstrated the career opportunities and pathways available.

They also loosened their reliance on overseas imports and looked for suppliers in the UK to minimise future risk of disruption.

All sessions of the Industry Summit are free to attend and places can be booked on the UWTSD website: https://uwtsd.ac.uk/made/made-cymru-industry-summit/

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Education

A long road back for education

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EVEN before schools find out what the new normal will be, the pressure is already on the education system to deliver significantly more.

Some talk about a ‘lost generation’ needing to ’catch-up’ amid concerns those comments stigmatise children. However, the reality is that children have missed months of face-to-face teaching, and that has inescapable consequences.

DISADVANTAGED SLIP FURTHER BEHIND

Wales’s learners have been part of the pandemic’s ‘collateral damage.’

Although, for now, there are more questions than answers, solutions to repair that ‘damage’ will need to be carefully considered and delivered during the Welsh Parliament’s sixth term.

Even before the pandemic, Wales already faced an uphill struggle to secure good educational outcomes for all its learners.

The most disadvantaged learners have extra challenges which can prevent them from achieving their full potential.

Even though the previous Welsh Government invested £585 million since 2012 through the Pupil Development Grant (PDG), the attainment gap it was seeking to close, didn’t narrow.

It also typically widens as learners get older.

There’s a stark difference between children eligible for free school meals and their peers at Key Stage 4, the two years where learners usually take GCSEs and other examinations.

Children and young people themselves are well placed to give their verdict.

A 2021 Children’s Commissioner survey of 20,000 children found that 35% didn’t feel confident about their learning, compared to 25% in May 2020. 

63% of 12–18-year-olds were worried about falling behind.

There are countless reports setting out adults’ views about how missing more than half a year of ‘face-to-face’ schooling has affected learners.

One of the major concerns is the variation between what schools have delivered to pupils.

There’s a long list of potential impacts:

·        ‘Lost learning’ meaning pupils could underperform academically and have their long-term prospects affected.

·        A loss of confidence in the examination and assessment system.

·        Long-term reductions in school attendance, a factor known to be key to educational outcomes.

·        Difficult transitions between school years and from primary to secondary.

·        Challenges in re-engaging learners and addressing low motivation.

·        An unhelpful ‘catch up’ narrative about lost learning placing unnecessary psychological pressure on children and young people; and

·        A negative effect on learners’ ability and confidence to communicate in Welsh where they haven’t been able to do so at home.

WIDER EFFECTS

As well as these obvious educational issues, there are wider predicted effects.

Current learners could earn less, with one estimate of up to £40,000 in a lifetime.

The harm to children’s physical health and a higher prevalence of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, are also serious concerns.

 The pandemic’s wider economic impact is also likely to increase the number of children living in low-income families.

Again, it’s the most disadvantaged learners who are predicted to bear the brunt in the longer term.

For example, in March 2021, the Child Poverty Action Group found that 35% of low-income families responding to its UK wide survey were still without essential resources for learning, with laptops and devices most commonly missing.

The Fifth Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education (CYPE) Committee heard that there is “plenty of evidence” that” there are striking differences between families in terms of their ability to support young people in their learning: the resources they have around them, the enthusiasm, the engagement, the commitment”.

REBUILDING TRUST

There must be work to rebuild relationships that have been under significant strain during the past 12 months.

Those between teaching unions and the decision-makers within the education system; between parents/carers and schools; and perhaps, most importantly, re-establishing the relationship between learners and their teachers.

Some of the immediate solutions which are already on the table or up for discussion are: more money, including the ‘Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards funding’; more teachers and learning assistants on the ground; changing term times; and setting up summer schools, holiday clubs and home tuition.

However, the longer-term problems are far harder to solve.

One estimate puts the cost of Wales’s journey back from COVID-19 at £1.4 bn to meet the challenges to the education system alone.

The opportunity exists for major reform and an examination of the whole approach to and aim of education.

Children and young people’s return to the classroom has been heralded as a big chance to put their well-being at the heart of education. As well as having a positive impact on well-being, put, mentally healthy children are much more likely to learn.

Following pressure from the Fifth Senedd’s CYPE Committee and its stakeholders, Wales has already made a significant shift towards establishing a ‘Whole School Approach to Mental Health’. The challenge during the Sixth Senedd will be to deliver it.

PERMANENT CHANGE

The potential sting in the tail is that, at the same time, the education system is getting children back to school, it also contends with major legislative reform.

This is in the form of wholesale changes to both the school curriculum and support for learners with Additional Learning Needs.

Some may argue that there’s been no better time to have such significant changes.

If the education system can successfully implement these three major reforms, arguably Wales will complete significant leg work and be on a firmer footing to meet the challenges presented by Covid-19.

At this stage there may be many more questions than answers for the education system.

The world into which learners will move has changed forever.

Not only has the pandemic interrupted their schooling, but the future journeys they were expected to make into the workplace or further and higher education could be unrecognisable.

The skills and aptitudes needed in the ‘new normal’ are only now beginning to be identified and are likely to be different from those needed before the pandemic began.   

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