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West Wales schools perform above average



tasker1AS THE EDUCATION consultation period comes to a close, with a vote due on July 16, figures this week show that Pembrokeshire has a huge problem with pupil retention rates.

Though the County Council may feel this is a justification for change, what will be of concern to parents and educators alike is the form that change will take and whether or not it will be change for the better.

What those figures did not show, is that Sir Thomas Picton (STP), whose 6th form is under threat to Pembrokeshire College, had a significantly better retention rate than the Pembrokeshire average suggests, and indeed, when various factors are taken into consideration, appears to have a better retention statistic for its year 12 pupils than the college itself, which has its own in-house career advisory team. In fact, Tasker Milward, had an even better retention rate at a whopping 87%.

Dr Poole, of STP, explained in an email to The Herald, that his school’s official retention figure, listed as 84%, did not take into account pupils who had, in year 12, switched to other courses, taken employment or moved to other centres to study vocational courses, or indeed some pupils who re-started year 12 for a different course, rather than go on to year 13, and he believed his school’s retention figure was nearer a massive 90%, which is well above the Welsh average. The data also does not say what the official retention figures are for Pembrokeshire College. This is a view that it seems is backed up by the Welsh Labour government, with a spokesperson saying: “The Year 12 data needs to be read with caution as it only tells part of the picture. The data provides information on the retention rates in schools, it does not take account of those Year 12 students who go on to attend a FE college or in to Work Based Learning.”

The figures were delivered and explained by Rob Hillier, 14- 19 education system leader, in a children and families overview and scrutiny committee meeting last week. Given a series of graphs, committee members were shown figures for both those young people not in education employment or training (NEET) and the retention figures in full time education at school for 2014. Mr Hillier, explained that Pembrokeshire schools retained only 78% of their Year 12 leavers, a reflection of a significant percentage of early leavers from their AS provision, and a reduction from 80% in 2013. He went on to explain that the 2014 data was significantly below the Welsh average and Pembrokeshire was the 18th ranked Local Authority.

At the meeting there was much discussion as to how the figure could be improved. Cllr Pat Davies stated: “It is an ongoing problem – pupils not receiving correct advice. Pupils that sometimes don’t have the academic qualifications to continue that course (that they start in year 12). I am convinced for some years now that in the 14-19s we are not getting the learning pathways right. School reorganisation is addressing this problem.” Though she was not able to elaborate as to how this re-organisation would address the problem, specifically, or indeed that a significant cut in the Careers Wales service could be having an adverse affect on the schools, given the vote on July 16 on schools reorganisation, for which she did not wish to prejudice herself.

Cllr Ken Rowlands was also keen to question the courses pupils are taking: “Are we providing the right vocational courses? Children want to progress, but have found themselves on the wrong course and dropped out. We must address the needs of the young people of Pembrokeshire, and not look at vested interests.”

The report made a number of suggestions as to how this problem could be resolved:

– Year 11 Information Advice and Guidance

Young people in Year 11 receive assemblies from Job Centre Plus staff that provides them with information about the local labour market. These are timed to coincide with them beginning their post-16 options choices. This compliments the work undertaken by Careers Wales.

– “Choices Events”- all Year 11 young people meet the full range of Pembrokeshire Post-16 education providers face to face in their Secondary Schools in the “Choices Events”. This enables them to get a better understanding of their potential learning pathways; they are further signposted onto options evenings.

– Year 12 AS level entry requirements have been reviewed and each school has revised its Year 12 entry requirements to ensure that learners have the appropriate ability to complete their courses.

Common Area Prospectus and Application Process (CAP). All Year 11 learners will apply for their post-16 education and training through the Welsh Government’s new CAP system from September 2015. This system will allow learners to view the full range of educational opportunities in the county, and will greatly contribute to tracking their progression through the post-16 transition process. This is similar to the UCAS university application process.

Speaking about finding solutions was Education Director, Kate Evans Hughes, who said: “It’s not the data itself but the conversations that follow. We are starting to work with parents too. If the parents’ aspiration is for higher education there are lots of pathways to higher education. This protects the children who are not high flyers.”

What is not certain, is whether the figures are merely a blip for one year, and many people in academia will hope that a cautious approach is taken to any school re-organisation based on such figures. As Jonathan Nutting of the Pembrokeshire Alliance said, when speaking about the figures: “I feel there could be several reasons. Maybe it’s just one of those blips that happen once in a while. I am confident that Kate Evans Hughes took note and will already be finding out more if she does not already have a handle upon it. Perhaps there is major economic pressure on schools, or a large number of year 12s became disaffected. They saw no job prospects at the end of their courses and they did not feel carrying on was worth it. This is possible.”

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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.”

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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.

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



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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