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Education

Meet ‘The Two Steves’

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BACK in the county again last week were Steven Barlow and Steven Skidmore, otherwise known as ‘The Two Steves’, bringing their unique brand of writingtwosteves skills teaching to our local primary school children. The Herald had an exclusive opportunity to watch one of their lively sessions at the Pembrokeshire Archives offices.

In the session were three small groups of local primary school pupils, including Haverfordwest school, Fenton CPS. The object of the workshop is to get Key Stage 2 boys, predominately, writing and, more importantly, to give them an enjoyment of the writing process.

Each group attends either a morning or an afternoon session for the whole week. On day 1 they are introduced to each other and use memory and co-ordination games to break the ice, during which they will be given talks, and entertainment, by the Steves. On day two they partake in a visualisation game and have to decide what they would take on a desert island, as they develop their thinking and imagination skills. They are also asked to think about elements of a story; character, theme, settings, creating tension, foreboding and conflict, as they build towards writing their own story. By day 3 they are planning a story and coming up with ideas, and an ending, which they do first as, the Steves explained, prevents them from getting stuck or lost as they have already decided where their story is going. On day 4 they are writing and editing from a finished story they have written at home or in school, and on day 5 they have produced the finished work and are sharing each others stories.

At the end of the whole process they will have something concrete, that is published and of which they can get a copy.

The sessions are lively and very interactive with lots of discussion and shared ideas. They are given clear advice on story structure and there is much humour in the process, as both Steves are certainly fun. They are also given clear objectives, for example, the 4 opening sentences in stories that are either a question, some dialogue, a piece of information or a metaphor or simile. They learn the importance of beginnings, middles and endings and those vital components of a successful story; the who, what, where, when, why and how. The delivery is very kinaesthetic and accessible to all in the session and there is much opportunity for discussion and talk, which is not always a feature of the classroom.

We spoke with Fenton teacher, Mr Williams, who said of the workshops: “We can use these strategies in the classroom, and when we do, the children’s enthusiasm shoots right up. The planning process is excellent as the story is broken into segments from the end backwards. It is a great way to enthuse the boys and build self esteem.”

Steve Barlow explained a little bit about what they were doing: “For teachers it helps to be a good performer. In a recent Estyn finding it had been proven that the use of the right people and outside agencies leads to improvement. The best people for this tend to be ex-teachers. We work with all ages, from Kindergarten to staff, but our main focus is on key stage 2, as well as key stage 3. It is particularly rewarding working with primary schools as they can make time for this which is hard for secondary schools where the timetable is God”.

Steve Skidmore added to this point, saying: “It is more compartmentalised in secondary school. We work with boys and girls, indeed, the girls insist sometimes! Although there is a focus on boys, as in some schools it is very disparate between boys and girls achievements. There are simply not enough male role models in primary schools. Literacy is female dominated; mum is the one who tends to read at home, secondary school literacy teachers tend to be women, most primary school teachers are women and even most librarians are female, so literacy can be seen as a feminine thing by boys.”

They both stated that they felt ‘blokes tended to duck out of their responsibility’ with literacy and reading, and they criticised this as they said boys need a male role model and encouragement.

Steve Skidmore made the point that he and the other Steve can come along as a couple of blokes and have fun, which is, he said, also the sort of stuff they themselves tend to write.

The Herald asked what is going wrong in schools given that, despite having just as much creativity as girls, boys are still not performing so well in writing. Steve Barlow explained: “We have it the wrong way round in schools, because of the way education has been structured over the last few years. In these developing years there is a big emphasis on the mechanics rather than motivating kids to feel empowered to tell the stories they want to tell. We think that’s a retrograde step.”

Said Steve Skidmore: “If they are hung up on the whole mechanics of writing, spelling, punctuation and grammar, and that’s what they get judged on, then they will fail. A lot of the boys don’t develop on the mechanics like the girls, yet they are being judged on the same level. A lot of time boys need to get out that excess energy. Some children are more needy than others and teachers don’t always have that time in a class of 30. We talk about self esteem on the first day a lot. A lot of boys would rather get kicked out of a lesson than admit they can’t do something.”

As Steve Barlow stated, many boys tend to react negatively to failure as opposed to many girls who see it as a spur to try harder the next time.

Steve Barlow went on to question the curriculum schools use in literacy: “Part of the problem is that the curriculum contains too many different types of writing and so it’s all fragmented; writing for a purpose, writing an argument, writing a report, as well as writing stories. The point is it’s all writing and if you are failing in one you are failing in all of them. The priority ought to be to get them empowered, believing they can do it, using themselves as a resource and knowing they can develop and structure a story so that it succeeds. Once they’ve got that they can learn the other stuff in 5 minutes.”

Steve Skidmore added to this stating: “The other thing is about celebration, we don’t celebrate the writing they do in school. We, from our sessions, publish it, read it out, have time for a clap which they don’t have time for in school. We need to give them a reason for it.”

He went on to talk about the issue of changing Governments and their approach to education: “Are we saying there is a political elite that need people not to question things? I thought that with Gove; he had no idea what teaching was about. They (politicians) have come through a particular schooling system (private) and people like Gove are trying to impose the same values on children from very different backgrounds. For instance, Gove saying they should be doing Dryden at 14; how is this a life skill for some of these children?”

Steve Barlow added to this criticism saying: “Decisions are taken by elected education secretaries and it’s all to do with vanity projects rather than to do with actual need. The basic problem is those people making decisions are not listening to those at the grass roots. Politicians like to make big bold statements like ‘we will have every child literate by 2020’ for example.”

Steve Skidmore, laughed in disdain at this suggestion, saying: “You have children who are special needs. All children literate? No they won’t be; there are physical problems here. You are dealing with human beings who have different needs. Governments/ Estyn look at data – data doesn’t tell you everything. For example, we had a child whose mum and father had recently died – that impacts on the child, does data tell you this? Take Fenton school, who might be lower graded, but they have a special needs unit that gets aggregated onto the whole school so they get judged on that. It’s a really good school, with good teachers who look after the kids, and a great head that will argue the toss with Estyn, re. data, but a lot of heads don’t have that confidence. It would be lovely if politicians had the same sort of nonsense from people higher above them. There’s just no accountancy. Academies are not improving education – it’s about money and leadership. Data is not a way to judge human beings.”

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Education

New independent sixth form opens in Haverfordwest

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A NEW independent sixth form is set to open in Haverfordwest in September 2021. The latest addition to Castle School, which relocated to Haverfordwest in 2020, the new sixth form will offer 20 different A Level subjects and a BTEC in business through bespoke study programmes that include options to study online or in the sixth form. Students will also get the option to complete work and study placements abroad.

The launch of the sixth form comes after a busy year for Castle School, which relocated from Narberth to Haverfordwest in September 2020, taking over and refurbishing Glenover House, a beautiful old ‘gentlemen’s residence’ that had been empty for five years. The move enabled the school to expand and increase its educational provision.

In addition to its main building, the school has a cookery school and performing arts facility in Snowdrop Lane, and a further site on Snowdrop Lane which is being specially converted to create the sixth form centre. The site will also include an indoor sports facility for whole school use.

The sixth form is designed with flexible study in mind: as well as offering a broad range of subjects and the ability to study online from any location, it will provide instant access study support as well as face to face teaching. In addition, students will get the option to study for one of their A Levels at Pembrokeshire College, in order to experience a different learning environment.

Other milestones for Castle School this year include the opening of a second independent school, Westward House, in St Clears and the purchase of a narrow boat, which will be moored on the Avon and Kennet canal. This will give pupils opportunities for short residential trips to Bristol, Bath and beyond.

“With a floating hotel licence, our newest acquisition will enable small groups of pupils to take their studies further afield and benefit from enhanced learning, extracurricular boating skills and a look at the wider world,” said Harriet Harrison, owner of Castle School and Westward House.

“Things have been tricky over the past year, but along with many others we have seen the difficulties of a world of Covid not as an opportunity for excuses but as a time for stepping up, working harder and making things better and stronger wherever possible. Our schools are thriving, and despite being desperate to get back to normal, we have used this time to improve our facilities for all the children in our care who are coming back after these long periods of lockdown and remote schooling. We can’t wait to see everyone.”

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Education

U-turn on compulsory lifesaving lessons in Welsh secondary education

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SCHOOLS in Wales will now teach first aid and lifesaving skills as part of the new curriculum.

Wales will join England and Scotland by introducing first aid and lifesaving kills to their national secondary education curriculum.

Kirsty Williams, Education Minister had previously rejected the calls for emergency resuscitation skills to be compulsory in school.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was introduced in the secondary school curriculum in England in September 2020.

Local authorities in Scotland have also committed to introduce lifesaving skills to their secondary education curriculum.

The British Heart Foundation had backed the campaign for CPR to be taught in schools.

In a long fought battle, Suzy Davies, a Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, secured the commitment from the Welsh Education Minister in the course of debating amendments to the new Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, which will make sweeping changes to the way Welsh children are educated.

The new curriculum for Wales is planned to come into force from 2022.

Children, parents, families and medics have long argued that regular teaching of CPR in particular will raise our children to have the skills and confidence to step in and save the life of someone in cardiac arrest if they encounter them outside a hospital setting.

The commitment was included in the Welsh Conservative manifesto for the Assembly election in 2016, and Suzy Davies, the Shadow Education Minister, said:

“After 10 years campaigning for this, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen.

“From securing cross-party support for this in my early days as an Assembly Member, through several debates and pitches to different Ministers, on to my own proposed legislation which found favour among Senedd Members, it was difficult to understand why Welsh Government was so resistant.

“In this country, our chances of surviving a cardiac arrest outside hospital are as poor as 10%. In countries around the world where teaching CPR and defibrillator use is compulsory, those odds improve dramatically. These skills are quick and easy to learn and easy to remember.

“ Alun Davies MS – himself a cardiac arrest survivor – has rightly argued that we should be able to learn these skills at any time in our lives and that defibrillators should be a commonplace feature of our public landscape. I couldn’t agree more – but how simple it is to ingrain these skills from an early age and raise generation after generation of lifesavers.”

Under the new curriculum, teachers must follow statutory guidance made by Ministers to support various aspects of the new way of teaching. After changes guaranteed by the Education Minister, this guidance will now instruct teachers that they should teach lifesaving skills and first aid: It is no longer optional.

The mandatory teaching of life saving skills and first aid (not just CPR) has been supported by the medical profession, including paramedics and fire service co-responders, as well as charities like St. John’s Cymru, British Heart Foundation, Calon Defibrillators, Cariad and the Red Cross.

It is taught through many youth groups, including Torfaen Sea Cadets who trained Aneurin Metcalfe, the young man who saved someone’s life only this week.

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Education

Styling their way to the top

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FOUR hairdressing learners: Holly Mathias, Jenna Kilgallon, Helaina Thomas and Leah Rees, recently earned themselves a place in the next stage of the Concept Hair Magazine Learner of the Year Competition.

The candidates were invited into the College to show their fully presented entries as evidence and then submitted them remotely to the Concept Hair Magazine judges in December.

The categories for the competition were: Festival Hair, Red Carpet, Old School Barbershop, Celebration of Colour and Safari.

The unique styles allowed the learners to show off their creative hair styling skills from plaits to updos, to bold colour creations.

Charlotte Jones, Hairdressing lecturer was over the moon with the learners’ success; “We were all so impressed with the creativity, dedication and enthusiasm of all the students who took part in the competition. Also, the students who supported the entries during the day and the models who gave up their time to be involved. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved. The results were amazing!”

The students worked to COVID regulations ensuring all the correct PPE and procedures were followed.

Finalist, Holly Mathias entered three categories which included; Styling Level 2 – Festival Theme, Hair Up Level 2 – Red Carpet and Avant Garde – Safari.

Holly shared her experience; “Taking part in the Concept Hair competition, has really boosted my confidence and proved that hard work really does pay off. The support from the staff at Pembrokeshire College is outstanding. I would recommend everyone to take part in this competition as not only is it an amazing experience, but it really allows you to think outside the box and be as creative as you can! I would 100% take part in this competition again.”

Holly plans to go into full-time employment when she completes her course and hopes to one day work on cruise ships or even own her own salon.

The next stage involves the candidates submitting photographic entries on the 12th March where six will be shortlisted for the national finals which is set to take place virtually in April.

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