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Education

Professor highlights achievement gap

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AN EDUCATION advisor has accused Welsh Government education initiatives of failing, as he says a huge gap has developed between poor and well off areas in Wales.

The issue was investigated in a BBC programme this week, with Professor Egan saying: “There is a huge gap between those parts of Wales where deprivation is at a high level and those parts of Wales where that’s not the case. There’s a significant gap and we’re not narrowing that gap at the moment. It’s a particular concern in some areas of Wales – not just the Valleys. We’ve just kept on bolting on one initiative after another and we’re now beginning to see that that’s been a significant problem. We didn’t have an implementation plan that avoided just having another initiative, another policy, something else. And so the clarity, as it were, was lost.”

The programme exposed 5 areas of Wales that consistently scored the lowest results in last year’s english language reading and numeracy tests: Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen. In a 2010 in a National Survey of Adult Skills in Wales it was shown that in excess of 900,000 people have maths skills equivalent to year 5 and 6 primary school pupils. Indeed, in Blaenau Gwent, Wales’ worst performing area, more than 27% of the adult population were shown in a UK Government 2011 census to have no qualifications whatsoever.

Commenting on this was a Welsh Government spokesperson, who said: “We are making important progress in closing the attainment gap between those young people from deprived backgrounds and the rest of the school population. The latest figures show that the performance of Free School Meal pupils has improved at all levels and we have reduced the gap in attainment between these pupils and their counterparts at the Foundation Phase as well as, Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3. Whilst we very much welcome this progress, we have more work to do. Our National Literacy and Numeracy Framework is designed to help teachers embed literacy and numeracy into all subjects for learners aged 5 to 14; our Schools Challenge Cymru programme is seeing 40 of our most challenged schools being supported by up to £20m of additional funding and the Pupil Deprivation Grant is being raised to £1,150 by 2016. We have also recently published Professor Graham Donaldson’s ‘Successful Futures’ report which proposes a set of radical and exciting proposals for a new curriculum in Wales.”

From the leading teaching union, Owen Hathway, NUT Cymru Policy Officer, said: “We know that there has been historic challenges facing schools in the most deprived communities in Wales, none more so than the funding problems they face. There are serious issues in education attainment there that are increasingly more difficult to tackle at a time of shrinking budgets. It is possibly a case that there has been numerous initiatives, many of which are well meaning and important, but perhaps do not work as part of an overarching vision. That was one criticism of the education system in Wales that came out of the OECD report. Closing the attainment gap between our most deprived areas and others is a complex issue that simply won’t have a magic bullet solution. It is very much the case that this is a community and society issue not simply and education one. However there is no doubt that teachers working in those schools are working above and beyond expectations to try and ensure that all pupils, regardless of their backgrounds, have the best opportunity to fulfil their potentials.”

Also commenting on these statistics was Mid and West AM, and Shadow Minister for Education, Simon Thomas, who stated: “Plaid believes closing the gap between economically disadvantaged children and the better-off should be a priority for the Welsh Government. The gap at GCSE increased between 2013 and 2014 and now stands at 33.8 percentage points. International reports have identified the problems and it is now up to the Welsh Government to deliver on solutions. The Labour party has failed in its attempts to raise educational standards in Wales.”

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Education

Work starts on new £8.25m primary school for Pembrey

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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.

“I am grateful to the Education department’s Modernising Education Programme team and the authority’s Cabinet for their diligence and hard work in making the completion of the new school a reality.”

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.

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Education

£18m to support children and young people with additional learning needs

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NEW funding to support children and young people with Additional Learning Needs has been announced by Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language.

£18m will be made available to provide extra support for children and young people with ALN who’ve been affected by the pandemic and to help educational settings as learners move to the new ALN system from this month.

£10m of the funding will be used to support learners with ALN affected by the pandemic and to improve their wellbeing. During the pandemic, many disabled children and young people, including learners with ALN, continue to experience a negative impact on their mental health and difficulties accessing education.

The funding will add to existing support for ALN learners, such as intensive learning support and speech and language therapy. The funding can also be used to provide extra resources to target the impacts of the pandemic, such as mental health support and tailored support to help with attendance.

£8m will be allocated to schools, nurseries, local authorities and Pupil Referral Units to move learners from the old Special Educational Needs (SEN) system to the new ALN system, as the roll-out of the Additional Learning Needs Act continues.

The new ALN system, being rolled out over three years, will ensure children and young people with ALN are identified quickly and their needs are met. The Act makes provision for new individual development plans, designed to put the views of learners at the heart of the decision-making process, alongside those of their parents or carers.

Minister for Education and Welsh Language Jeremy Miles said:

“We are determined to deliver a fully inclusive education system in Wales – a system where additional needs are identified early and addressed quickly, and where all children and young people are supported to thrive in their education.

“Schools and nurseries are already doing a fantastic job of supporting their learners, but we know they need more resources to do this. That’s why I’m announcing this additional investment to support learners to overcome the effects of the pandemic and prevent the entrenchment of inequalities on their education, employment opportunities, their health and wellbeing.”

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Education

Over £100m of new funding will help make schools and colleges Covid-secure

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Schools and colleges to receive additional funding

SCHOOLS and colleges will receive £103 million in Welsh Government funding, as learners return for the January term.

£50m will be provided via local authorities through the Sustainable Communities for Learning programme. The funding will help schools carry out capital repair and improvement work, with a focus on health and safety measures, such as improving ventilation. The funding will also be used to support decarbonisation.

£45m of revenue funding will also help support school budgets, assisting schools as they continue to deal with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and to prepare for the requirements of the new curriculum.

An additional £8m will be provided to further education colleges, to ensure learning can continue safely and ensure the most disadvantaged learners are not further impacted by the pandemic.

Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, said:

“I know schools and colleges have faced a very difficult time and everyone across the workforce has worked incredibly hard to meet the challenges of the pandemic. This funding will further support our schools and colleges to keep settings as Covid-secure as possible.

“While we want to support the sector in recovering from the pandemic, we also have to make sure we continue to plan for the future, and help all education settings across Wales fulfil our collective goals of making Wales a net-zero nation.

“The funding announced today will help us to ensure sustainability across the sector – be that the environmental sustainability achieved through decarbonisation, or sustainability in provision.”

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