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Education

Pembrokeshire County Council Failings lead to set up of Education Recovery Board

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huw-lewis-265017737-2512757Concerned parents and guardians of our County’s children will be disappointed with the decision by the Welsh Assembly to appoint a Welsh Recovery Board to oversee improvements, once again, in Pembrokeshire County Council’s education service. This comes after nearly two years of our Council attempting to resolve this worrying situation, without, it would appear, satisfactory success.

In 2011, a report by Children Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, led to a team being sent by the Assembly with the purpose of overseeing change in Pembrokeshire County Council’s policies and systems for safeguarding children and young people. These were judged to be ‘unfit for purpose’ by ESTYN who had produced a report at that time.

Council leader at the time, John Davies, assured voters and County constituents that Pembrokeshire County Council were not hiding from the matters raised, and he promised improvements and change in order to meet the requirements of both ESTYN and the Welsh Assembly.

It will come as grim news, therefore, that now Ministers from the Welsh Government have stated that changes in how our Pembrokeshire County Council safeguards children are not happening fast enough. As a result of this dissatisfaction, Huw Lewis, the Assembly Education Minister, along with Local Government Minister, Lesley Griffiths, have decided to set up a Recovery Board to oversee these required improvements in Pembrokeshire’s Education Services.

Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Jamie Adams, is quoted as saying he welcomes the board, having already had productive meetings with them.

Reading from a local newspaper’s message board, and in response to this developing story, it was clear from the comments attached to the story, that parents are angered and dismayed by the seeming inability of Pembrokeshire County Council to resolve issues and problems directed at them from some two years ago, despite Assembly assistance.

In April of this year, the Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board was wound up after more than a year and a half advising the local authority on changes to its policies and operation for safeguarding children.

In a Welsh Government written statement, Huw Edwards, Minister for Education, commented on an ESTYN report published in December 2012 that had said of Pembrokeshire, ‘The Authority’s education services were found to be unsatisfactory’, and it further went on to say that they had, ‘judged Pembrokeshire’s prospects for improvement as unsatisfactory’. As well as that, it stated that, ‘corporate leaders and senior elected members have been too slow to recognise key issues in safeguarding’. Of Pembrokeshire County Council, Mr Lewis continued by adding that, ‘arrangements lack rigour and do not identify, accurately, areas in need of further improvement and the Authority has made limited progress in addressing recommendations from previous inspections’.

In support of those who provide the day to day education in our County, Angela Davies, Shadow Minister for Education and local AM, said that,

“Education services in Pembrokeshire have gone through a torrid time over the past few years but parents and pupils must hold fast to the fact that the majority of the teaching profession are totally committed to providing an excellent education for Pembrokeshire children”.

She was, however, quite clear as to where the blame should lie for the failings of the County Council education services and said,

“The ongoing problems stemmed from inadequate management practices within education services and a poor attitude to the proper safeguarding of children. Like all parents I know that I expect my children to be treated well and kept safe at school. Their well being and safety is of equal importance as the education they receive, and it was with a great sense of shock that we learnt of the adverse, and, at times, damning reports from Estyn and CSSIW which were the reasons for the initial Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board and for education services to be put into special measures.

The key issues appear to be inadequate oversight of key services, a lack of action when things went wrong, inadequate management, weak representation and an overly strong officer culture resistant to change. Since then a number of agencies have examined aspects of education and safeguarding in Pembrokeshire and there appears to be a sense that improvements are ongoing but are happening too slowly.

The fact that the Welsh Government have felt able to replace the Ministerial Board with a Recovery Board is good news and I am sure that Pembrokeshire’s appointment of a new Head of Education Services will usher in a more dynamic and constructive era.”

She also went on to make further comment on the Assembly’s role in education for Wales,

“I am concerned that there are so many local authority education services in special measures throughout Wales and I have called on the Welsh Government to explain why this is so.

It is also concerning to note that the General Teaching Council for Wales is not being inundated with lots of disciplinary cases arising from all these special measures and I would have thought that if education is so very bad in Wales, given the six Authorities in special measures, then the GTC would be flat out.

I am aware that the Government has an agenda for change and there are recommendations that there should be fewer local education authorities, ultimately, perhaps, leading to fewer county councils. However, I do not want to see education services, teachers and, above all, our children’s present and future being used to crowbar change. So I challenge the Government to ensure their actions are crystal clear and their motives pure.”

It is to be hoped that for the sake of our County’s children and for the peace of mind of parents and guardians alike that this Recovery Board is able, finally, to steer our County Council’s education services in the right direction, and resolve the safeguarding issues that remain of grave concern to all those who work in those areas where children are involved. As one local teacher put it, “No one wants to see a repeat of what happened at the Pupil Referral Unit in Neyland or read again about twenty-five cases of alleged professional abuse, as happened between 2007 and 2011”.

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Education

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A MASTERS graduate from UWTSD recently won the Student Dissertation category at the prestigious Celebrating Outdoor Learning Awards 2018 ceremony.

John Godley received his prize at the Celebrating Outdoor Learning Awards are presented to Outdoor Learning professionals and organisations in recognition of their outstanding work as well as encouraging excellence.

Scooping the student award, John’s dissertation looked at how disconnection from social media contributes to young people’s experience and learning on a 3-day outdoor education residential.

Celebrating dissertation work completed by students as part of an undergraduate or post-graduate course the category was open to students who had successfully completed their course during the three years to September 2018.

The judges looked for evidence of the choice and focus of the subject; the clarity of purpose and structure; research and review; methodology; analysis and interpretation of results; communication as well as conclusions and summaries.

“I’m really pleased to have won the dissertation award,” says John, a Further Education college lecturer. “The course was a fantastic experience that allowed me to explore issues and perspectives that I had not even known about beforehand. I was able to take part in some really memorable practical experiences which were blended with the academic content and which were great opportunities to meet experts in their fields and the other students on the course. The skills I learned on the course have really benefitted my teaching through the advanced academic and critical thinking skills developed. The tutors’ support has been excellent throughout and they have been central to giving me the confidence to enter the competition.”

In what was a highly contested category, another UWTSD Masters graduate, Anna Gordon, was also highly commended and featured as one of the three category finalists. Anna’s dissertation was an exploration of how women perceive the presence of others to affect their freedom in outdoor activities.

Having both graduated with an MA in Outdoor Education in July 2018, their dissertations were submitted with the support of UWTSD’s MA Outdoor Education Programme Director, Dr Andy Williams who attended the ceremony and collected John’s award on his behalf.
“John’s success in winning the Student Dissertation Award at the national conference for the Institute for Outdoor Learning is a terrific personal achievement and reflects well on his commitment to further study and his competence as an early career researcher,” says Andy.

“The study is highly topical, focussing on how a disconnection from social media on a residential outdoor experience might contribute towards changing attitudes and behaviour around future use.

“I am delighted to say that he has already looked to share his conclusions with a broader audience in Horizons – the professional journal for Outdoor Educators. As important is John’s continuing desire to constantly improve his own teaching and outdoor practice through his involvement with the MA Outdoor Education programme at UWTSD.

Speaking of Anna’s achievement of reaching the final three, Andy is again delighted to see another of his students attain success and recognition on a national level.

“Anna Gordon’s success in being shortlisted for the Student Dissertation Award at the national conference for the Institute for Outdoor Learning is well deserved,” continues Andy.

“At a time when society has reawakened to issues of equality and opportunity Anna’s study is highly topical for Wales and the outdoor community focusing as it does on Women’s perceptions of the presence of others to affect their freedom in outdoor activities.

“Anna’s dissertation success draws from her MA Outdoor Education studies (2016-18) and builds on her previous undergraduate success on the BA Outdoor Adventure Education degree at UWTSD where she studied from 2013-16. Anna lives locally and works as a freelance outdoor instructor with many local groups and organisations. As a graduate of UWTSD we are proud of her academic success and pioneering work as a role model for young women developing a career in the outdoors.”

UWTSD’s Outdoor Education courses are now offered at the University’s new Outdoor Adventure Education Centre in Carmarthen called Cynefin – an accessible hub for the University’s BA Outdoor Adventure Education and MA Outdoor Education students enabling them to further enhance their skills and develop their understanding of Outdoor Adventure.

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Education

Noteworthy £3m for music education

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THE MINISTER for Education, Kirsty Williams, confirmed £3m for improving music services in schools across Wales over the next two years.

The fund aims to increase access and opportunities for children and young people in Wales to learn new instruments and study music. It builds on initiatives such as Anthem and will offer opportunities to ensure the provision of high quality, universal access to musical education for all learners.

£1.5million will be spent in 2018/19, with a further £1.5 million allocated for music services next year. This includes £1million per annum as agreed as part of the two-year budget agreement between the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru and £0.5m as announced in yesterday’s final budget allocation.

Local Authorities have received £1.4million via the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) which may be used to support a variety of services including:

• Purchasing new and endangered instruments
• Ensuring all pupils have access to lessons, exams and courses
• Covering costs of attendance at orchestras, choirs and bands
• Initiating a ‘rock and pop’ ensemble
• Supporting music co-operative arrangements
• National Youth Arts Wales has received £100,000 to continue their music services, including youth ensembles.

Kirsty Williams said: “Music is at the heart of our nation’s rich heritage and I am absolutely committed to ensuring all our young people, whatever their background, have the same opportunities to develop their musical talent and reach their full potential.

“Schools will already be delivering musical education as part of our progressive new curriculum, and this additional funding will help break down barriers, such as costs for exams and access to instruments.”

Bethan Sayed AM, Committee Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, said: “I’m pleased by this announcement and that more money has been committed to this than initially proposed in the Welsh Government, Plaid Cymru budget agreement.

“People across the sector, throughout Wales, have been calling for extra, targeted support and I hope that the funding announced will start to reverse the decline we’ve witnessed in music in schools.

“The Education Secretary has worked with me and others in good faith and this is a testament to what can be achieved when there is consensus on an issue.”

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Education

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A COLEG SIR GAR apprentice hairdresser and an aspiring retail designer have proved they have world-class talent following their selection to the WorldSkills UK Squad.

Ellie Hanley, 19 from Haverfordwest, and Phoebe McLavy, 20 from Carmarthen, have both been selected for Squad UK to train for a chance to represent Great Britain in Russia next year at WorldSkills, the globe’s biggest biennial skills competition.

Apprentice hairdresser Phoebe, who is employed by Morgan Edwards in Carmarthen has been successful in a range of regional and national competitions including WorldSkills UK Live, a competition final held every year at Birmingham NEC.

Edward Rees, owner at Morgan Edward has been supporting Phoebe through her competition journey and providing training within his salon. He said: “Two years ago Phoebe began her WorldSkills journey as a young, motivated but very inexperienced hairdresser.
“Through her hard work and dedication to her craft, she has competed all over the country and won several awards along the way.

“Today she is a highly qualified and talented member of the UK Squad and, as a salon, we have committed time and energy into her development and now have an asset in Phoebe.
“I would urge other employers to guide their staff down this exciting career path.”
Phoebe McLavy added: “Competing and training has been an amazing experience which has taken me as far as Budapest and Italy for the EuroSkills training camp and locally, my employer and college are investing in additional training.

Ellie Hanley, who has been selected for Squad UK’s visual merchandising team is also familiar with competition success and has taken part in a range of regional and national events including WorldSkills UK Live in Birmingham where she won a silver medal in 2016. She said: “’Going to WorldSkills Live at the NEC was a truly incredible experience.
“Transforming a plain window booth into a fashion-focused display with hundreds of onlookers was very scary and incredibly pressurising.

“I am overjoyed to have been selected for Squad UK and I cannot wait to get stuck into all the intense training over the next few months.”

The Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales (ISEiW) project is a Welsh Government funded initiative that encourages and supports all Welsh competitors taking part in WorldSkills competitions and offer support across the board, from regional Skills Competition Wales events to international level.

Paul Evans, pan-Wales coordinator for ISEiW said: “It’s a tough competition process but it’s highly supportive of competitors to ensure they are competing at world standard level.
“It’s also a highly competitive process which involves an intense training regime, supported by WorldSkills mentors, employers, training providers and colleges to ensure the very best are selected for Team UK to compete at WorldSkills.”

WorldSkills is the equivalent of the Olympics in skills and the 2017 Abu Dhabi event attracted 1,251 competitors from 59 countries which attracted more than 150,000 visitors.

Coleg Sir Gâr has a reputation for success in competing on a global level since 2009, representing areas including web design, carpentry, plastering and dry lining, restaurant services and hairdressing.

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