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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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Carmarthenshire students celebrate A Level and A.S. results



CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council wishes to congratulate all of the county’s students that are receiving their A-Level and A.S. results today, Thursday 18th August 2022.

Whilst this year has seen a return to exam-based results, following two years of assessment-based grading during the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers have still had to contend with the ongoing impact of the last 2 years.

A total of 98.6% of A Level students in Carmarthenshire achieved A*-E, which is higher than the 97.3% in 2019 when exams were last sat.

Across Carmarthenshire, a total of 40.1% of A level students have received A or A* this year, which is vastly higher than the 24.9% when exams were last sat in 2019.

After 2 years without examinations, students at AS Level also had the opportunity this year to show what knowledge they had learned and skills they had developed, through a combination of exams and assessments, applicable to different courses. 91.8 % of AS students in Carmarthenshire achieved A-E grades which, again, is higher than in 2019.

Cllr. Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language said: “Congratulations to every single student receiving their A-Level and A.S. results today. These young people and their teachers have worked extremely hard, within the uncertain climate that exists due to the pandemic, and they should be very proud, as am I, of their fantastic achievements.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the students, teachers and support staff of Carmarthenshire as well as their families for their hard work over the last two years.”

In a joint statement, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Wendy Walters and Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gareth Morgans added: “Congratulations to our A-Level and A.S. students for their, well deserved, excellent results. The last two years have been very challenging for students, teachers, support staff, families and friends and we are grateful to everyone for their commitment and support to each other during this period.

“These young people are a credit to their schools and our county, and we wish them every success for the future.”

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St. Michaels School celebrates excellent A-Level results



St. Michael’s pupils with their 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.

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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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