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Education

Updated guidance published for schools’ return

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ON MONDAY, July 13, the Welsh Government published updated guidance to support schools before the return of all pupils in September.
Last Thursday, the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, announced that all learners would be able to return to schools in the autumn.
The guidance will supports schools, local authorities and settings to implement full operations in the autumn, including new guidance on contact groups.
The Welsh Government will make £29 million available to ‘recruit, recover and raise standards’, in response to the pandemic.
Kirsty Williams, the Minister for Education, said: “This updated guidance reflects the latest medical and scientific advice, striking a balance between structured national guidance and local flexibility.
“We have learned this year that we must be prepared for a range of scenarios. This guidance sets out what learning priorities should remain constant, regardless of where learning takes place.
“It will support our schools and education settings in ensuring learners continue to access a broad and balanced curriculum and continue to make progress in their learning.
“I would like to thank our local authorities and the trade unions for their input into this guidance, and of course our school staff for their dedication, professionalism and hard work over the last few months, which has set us in good stead for a full return in September.”
Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said: “We welcome the fact that schools now have a degree of clarity about what the September return will look like. Schools can now begin to put plans in place to welcome all pupils back next term. However, we should not underestimate the scale of the logistical challenges this guidance will pose school leaders in particular. We should make no mistake, this is not a return to ‘business as usual’ and there is a great deal of work that now needs to be done.
“There are some specific areas where we still need clarity from the Welsh government. These include their recommendations around the use of face coverings, and how they expect wrap-around care to operate.
“It is essential the Welsh government continues to engage with us on these and other matters too so that schools and parents alike have full confidence in the government’s plan for a full return in September.
“Education Minister Kirsty Williams and Co-chair of TAC Fliss Bennee are joining our NAHT Cymru webinar tomorrow evening where school leaders will have the opportunity to put their questions to them directly and we welcome the willingness and transparency of Welsh Government to engage with the profession.”
David Evans, Wales secretary for the National Education Union Cymru said: “Our members, as well as learners and their parents and carers, want to see as many children as possible going back to school, but only if it is safe to do so.
“We note the plans for a wider return to school in September, with priority given to certain year groups and more disadvantaged children. We will be working with our members to try and make the return as safe as possible for everyone involved. The two weeks at the start of term to plan for the safest return possible is therefore very welcome.
“We believe having a blended learning approach as ‘back-up’ is sensible. Even when schools open fully, they may have to close again if there is a further outbreak as happened in Leicester recently, therefore having blended learning ready to use is sensible. For this blended learning approach to be successful, children will need help to get online, with access to a computer and internet, which, as we understand, some children currently do not have. Parents may need some extra training, to help support their children when learning at home.
“An increase in the education workforce is welcome. We believe that supply staff and those new to the profession will welcome the opportunity to provide extra support for those pupils who need it at this challenging time.
“We do believe that as more children will be welcomed back to school, Local Authorities should consider the use of public buildings, such as libraries, to ensure greater capacity for social distancing and focus on everyone’s wellbeing. More space would allow education professionals and learners better opportunities to keep safe and we look forward to seeing more guidance around this. This would also allow education professionals who are shielding to support learners at home, whilst keeping safe – and avoiding pressure on our precious NHS resources.
“We support the proposal not to impose fines for parents of children who don’t attend.
“Many education staff have been in school since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, and we are very aware that, like the young people, they need to have a break ahead of another busy term in September. The two weeks at the start of term to plan for the safest return possible is therefore very welcome.”

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Education

Funding for music education trebled to the tune of £13.5m

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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.”

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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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