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Education

Panel calls for overhaul of sex education

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Kirsty Williams: Considering report

A PANEL report published today has made recommendations for a major overhaul of sex and relationships education (SRE) in Wales.

The Sex and Relationships Education Expert Panel, chaired by Professor Emma Renold of Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences, was established in March 2017 by Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams to help inform the development of high quality SRE in the new curriculum in Wales.

The panel were asked to identify issues and opportunities which could inform decisions around supporting the teaching profession to deliver high quality SRE in schools more effectively.In the report published today, the panel have described SRE in Wales as being in need of significant reform if it is to meet the needs of children and young people. Drawing upon the available research in Wales, international research and Estyn’s (2017) recent thematic review on Healthy Relationships, there were found to be significant gaps between the lived experiences of children and young people and the SRE they receive in school. While there is some promising practice, especially when schools collaborate with SRE experts and external service providers, the quality and quantity of SRE provision was found to vary widely.

Findings concluded that SRE in Wales has too strong a focus on biology, with not enough attention given to rights, gender equity, emotions and relationships. There is a lack of focus on minority gender and sexual identities and relationships, and lack of awareness and education on violence against girls and women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

The panel have recommended that the Welsh Government make SRE statutoryin the new curriculum due to be finalised in 2020, with statutory guidance being essential for ensuring that children and young people in Wales have access to high quality SRE. The report sets out how this guidance should be underpinned by core principles and themes that ensure a needs-led, relevant and engaging SRE for all.

The panel have also recommended a name change to Sexuality and Relationships Education, drawing on the World Health Organisation’s definition of ‘sexuality’, with an emphasis on rights, health, and equality. This more expansive definition will also enable teachers to develop an SRE programme of learning that connects with the full curriculum, from the humanities and expressive arts to sciences and technology.

Also identified was an urgent needto establish training for teachers and other professionals involved in SRE provision, including initial teacher education, in-service training and peer education, as well as having a specialist trained SRE lead in every school and local authority, with curriculum time equitable with other curriculum subjects. Currently there are only a handful of school teachers across Wales who are extensively trained in SRE areas.

Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education, said: “Creating an education system which helps all our young people become adults who are healthy, confident individuals is a key part of our National Mission. We can only do this by assisting teachers to gain the knowledge, confidence and skills they need to develop the physical, emotional and mental health of their pupils.

“I would like to thank Professor Renold and the members of the expert panel for their hard work researching and producing this report. The recommendations will assist the Pioneer Schools in exploring curriculum structures and wider whole school approaches around Sex and Relationships Education.

“I will now consider the report and will publish my response early in the New Year.”

Panel Chair Professor Renold added: “If our recommendations are approved and implemented, we are confident, that over time, Wales can become a beacon of excellence for high quality SRE provision in schools with an emphasis on rights, equity, inclusivity, protection and empowerment. This report, and its extensive evidence paper is an important starting point in outlining what is needed to begin that process. There is, however, some intensive short-term and long-term investment, planning and work-force capacity building ahead if Wales is to provide children and young people with high quality SRE.

“Chairing the panel was a truly collaborative process. I was impressed by the ways in which different sectors, groups and individuals worked together, across diverse yet inter-connected fields to exploit the potential of what SRE could become as the new curriculum takes shape. It certainly makes for a very promising future for high quality SRE in Wales as the infra-structure for a whole school approach to SRE evolves.”

Welsh Liberal Democrat equalities campaigner Cadan ap Tomos said: “I know from my own experience, and from listening to young people right across Wales, that the provision of sex and relationships education isn’t fit for the 21st Century.

“This report is an excellent blueprint on the changes we desperately need to make on how SRE is delivered in our schools, and Kirsty Williams deserves a lot of credit for recognising more needs to be done and for establishing this expert panel.

“The Welsh Government needs to accept the recommendations in this report so that all young people are armed with the knowledge they need to practice safe sex and take part in healthy, respectful relationships.”

Education

School’s concern over ‘inappropriate use of images of staff and pupils’

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THE HEADTEACHER of a Pembrokeshire primary school has written to parents and guardians following concerns over certain social media activity.

Mrs Clare Hewitt, of Neyland Community Primary School, said that it filled her “with great sadness” to have to email parents and guardians of pupils at her school.

She added that the school had alerted the police regarding the matter.

Mrs Hewitt said that it came to light that there had been “inappropriate use of images of staff and pupils for TikTok pages and Messenger groups.”

The school said it is asking that all parents, where their child uses social media, to check social media accounts to ensure that they are being used appropriately and safely,

Parents or guardians with concerns have been asked to telephone the school on Monday or to contact Mrs Hewitt by email.

Parents and guardians of pupils were contacted by email on Saturday night (May 15).

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Education

Major prize for UWTSD lecturer

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A UWTSD academic has been awarded the prestigious Henry Stopes Memorial Medal.
Based at the University’s Lampeter campus, Dr Martin Bates accepted the outstanding contribution award from the Geologists’ Association during an online ceremony on Friday 7 May. This prize is awarded just once every three years for exceptional work in the archaeological field and specifically ‘on the Prehistory of Man and his geological environment.’
During his career, Dr. Bates has been involved in several major discoveries within the UK archaeological field including the Dover Bronze Age Boat, the Clactonian Elephant butchery site in Ebbsfleet, the Harnham terminal Lower Palaeolithic site near Salisbury.
He discovered the Happisburgh human footprints in Norfolk (the oldest presently know in the world outside Africa).
It was noted during the presentation that the Henry Stopes Medal had been awarded to Dr Bates for his “significant contributions to understanding the geological environment of prehistoric human occupation of Britain and elsewhere over the last 40 years.”
It was also noted that in the spirit of the Geologists’ Association he was “generous with his time and expertise to colleagues, students and members of the public alike.”
Following the awards ceremony, Dr Martin Bates commented: “It is incredible to be recognised in this way and I’d like to thank the Geologists’ Association for this honour.  
“However, this award really reflects the support I have received through my career from a whole range of specialists who have provided me with the data I have used in my research. Without them I would not have been able to do what I have done”
“I think this all goes back to my very early days spent on the beaches of West Wales being dragged along on Saturday fieldtrips led by my father for students studying geology at Aberystwyth.  He has a lot to answer for!”

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Education

Students relying on free school meals fell further behind

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THE ATTAINMENT gap between disadvantaged primary school pupils and their classmates has grown in mathematics by one month since the onset of the pandemic, according to interim findings published this week by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

The findings are drawn from an ongoing EEF-funded study that aims to understand changes to the gap which might have occurred due to the periods of partial school closure resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

While disadvantaged pupils’ outcomes in mathematics seem to have been hit hardest by the first national lockdown, the attainment gap did not widen (or shrink) during the Autumn 2020 term.

Thar suggests that gaps caused by Covid are unlikely to close without intervention.

The research is based on assessment data collected by FFT Education from 132 primary schools prior to and after the first national lockdown.

The report did not measure the impact of school closures on overall learning progress (sometimes referred to as learning loss) but, instead, looked at the differences in progress between pupils eligible for free school meals and those that are not.

Data from reading and maths assessments (PIRA and PUMA tests) taken in Autumn 2019 was used as a baseline to track the trajectory of the attainment gap.

Pupils whose data was included in the sample were all in Years 1 to 5 (5-to-10-year-olds) during the academic year 2019-2020.

Reading and maths tests were administered to these same pupils on their return to the classroom in September 2020, and then again towards the end of the Autumn term 2020.

Disadvantaged pupils’ performance in the tests was compared to that of their classmates to examine changes to the attainment gap which might have resulted from the first period of partial school closures.

The analysis of these results indicates that pupils from socio-economically deprived backgrounds have fallen further behind in maths since the onset of the pandemic.

Contrary to previous estimates, this study found no discernible change to the disadvantage gap in reading.

The findings also highlight the difficulty of combatting educational inequality in classrooms.

Data collected from PIRA and PUMA assessments taken at the end of the Autumn term 2020 indicate the return of all pupils to school in September has not been sufficient in narrowing the gap.

Further analysis is currently underway.

A final data set will be collected in June 2021 to examine whether the disadvantage gap narrows, widens, or remains stable.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Today’s research gives us more evidence of the enormous impact school closures have had on young people, especially those from low-income homes.

“The research indicates the need for long-term, sustained support for schools as they work to accelerate the progress of their disadvantaged pupils.

“To mitigate against the long-term impact of lost learning, large government funding is required. The cost of failing to act now will be a catastrophe for young people from low-income homes.”

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “The pandemic has brought the significance of social and educational inequality into sharp focus.

“Research studies like this one are providing clear evidence that substantial existing gaps have grown further due to the disruption to learning caused by the pandemic.

“In strategizing an approach to recovery, we are presented with the opportunity to go beyond restoring the learning lost during partial school closures, and work towards rebalancing the scales for disadvantaged pupils.”

Researchers from FFT Education said: “Our study makes a fresh contribution to the research on the effects of COVID.

“We find that attainment gaps between disadvantaged students and their peers have widened slightly in maths, but not reading.

“We also find that there were surprisingly weak associations between school responses to COVID – for example, phoning students during the lockdown – and attainment.”

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