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Education

Overhaul of Welsh curriculum announced

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Shadow Secretary: “Significant questions remain.”

Shadow Secretary: “Significant questions remain.”

ASSEMBLY GOVERNMENT Education minister, Huw Lewis, announced this week that his government would be accepting the Donaldson report recommendations in full. Donaldson’s ‘Successful Futures’ proposed radical change in the Welsh curriculum, and after a consultation period with the public and academic bodies, the Welsh Curriculum is now set for a complete overhaul.

Speaking about the changes Mr Lewis said: “Successful Futures provides the foundations for an ambitious, engaging 21st Century curriculum shaped by the very latest international thinking. Together, we now embark on the next stage of the journey. I was heartened by how the people of Wales engaged with the Great Debate that followed the publication of Successful Futures. They understand how crucial this moment is for the future of education in Wales and there is enormous appetite for change. That’s why, after consulting with them, I am accepting Professor Donaldson’s recommendations in full. The teaching profession must now play a central role in delivering the new curriculum. Pioneer Schools will be asked to work closely with a range of partners but they will lead on the design and development of the new curriculum.”

He went on to state that the curriculum that embraces four key purposes, supporting children and young people to be:

  • Ambitious, capable learners ready to learn throughout their lives;
  • Enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work;
  • Ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world; and
  • Healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.

He was keen to express what these changes would mean to the profession, saying: “I appreciate we are asking much of our teachers, lecturers, leaders and support staff. But I know the commitment exists within the workforce to deliver the very best for our young people and we will support them on this challenging, exciting journey. Our New Deal for the Education Workforce provides teachers with the opportunity to access high quality professional learning at every stage of their career. It has been developed with the requirements of the new curriculum in mind so it enables us to prepare the workforce for the changes that lie ahead. It’s crucial too, that we ensure new teachers are fully equipped to deliver the new curriculum. Professor Furlong’s report clearly and convincingly articulated the implications of the new curriculum on initial teacher training and I’m delighted he has agreed to support Professor Donaldson on the Independent Advisory Group.”

The Minister finished by saying: “Change on this scale is too important to rush but the process will evolve with purpose and momentum. We have a clear blueprint but I am not setting a timetable for implementation. We will take views from the Independent Advisory Group and others, as part of our continuing Great Debate and I will report back in the autumn.”

Commenting on his report’s acceptance, Professor Donaldson said: “I’m delighted the Minister plans to take forward the recommendations of Successful Futures but it is only one stage in a very long and important process. What we’ve done is to make clear what our aspirations are and set some sign posts for how we should move forward. The critical thing is to turn those aspirations into reality and that depends on everyone across Wales engaging in that process. We need to ensure the way in which the review was conducted, with a strong sense of inclusion and ownership of the direction we want to go in, is maintained.”

However, Welsh Conservative Shadow Education Minister, Angela Burns AM, added a note of caution, stating: “An overhaul of Welsh education is long overdue – but significant questions remain over its implementation.Those reforms will inevitably mean increased workloads for teachers. Given the amount of hours lost to stress-related illness, it’s absolutely crucial that appropriately training and re-skilling staff is top of the agenda. Labour has held the reins of Welsh education for 16 years – and standards have fallen dramatically. There are too many young people beginning secondary school unable to read and write properly – and too few who are sufficiently literate and numerate when they leave full-time education. I now hope to work with the minister on a system of implementation that keeps disruption to both pupils and staff to a minimum.”

Plaid Cymru’s Mid and West AM Simon Thomas said of the radical overhaul: “Plaid Cymru welcomed Donaldson’s recommendations for a more agile and flexible curriculum that sets out objectives rather than overly-prescribing content. While welcoming that the Minister has accepted Donaldson’s review in full it is disappointing that this was announced on the BBC rather than to Assembly Members in the Senedd. The Party of Wales has called for a simple and understandable curriculum that allows teachers to deliver the objectives set out by the government. We have called for more freedom for teachers to be flexible and to challenge pupils in the classroom. A less prescriptive curriculum allows teachers more freedom and gives them more responsibility. We therefore need to build the capacity of the education workforce. It is hoped that, following recent recommendations on teacher training, the Welsh Government will professionalise the education workforce and trust the education professionals to improve education standards.”

The Shadow Education Minister, was keen to extol the virtues of a skills-based curriculum, adding: “Schools need to enable young people to develop the skills they need in a competitive global economy and also the skills they need for life. We have long called for digital literacy to be given equal status to literacy and numeracy and for pupils to learn how to create as well as use technology. We welcome the recognition that young people need to be equipped to become lifelong learners and that, as well as being well-qualified when they leave school. They should have an understanding of citizenship, wellbeing and health. We have called for citizenship to be taught in schools; for the development of pupils’ social and emotional skills; and for ensuring that all pupils receive good-quality physical education that is relevant to their needs and interests.”

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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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