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Education

Estyn optimistic about improvement

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There is sustained improvement: Kirsty Williams welcomes report

THE BIGGEST trend in Welsh education over the last seven years has been the move towards a culture of self-improvement.

According to Estyn’s Chief Inspector’s Annual Report published on Wednesday (Jan 24), schools and other education and training providers increasingly take ownership of their own improvement and share expertise and best practice with each other.

Chief Inspector Meilyr Rowlands says​:​ “Looking back over the last seven-year cycle of inspections, there’s been a shift in education in Wales towards greater collaboration. It’s clear from our inspections of over 2,700 schools, non-maintained settings, colleges and other education and training organisations that there is enough excellence across Welsh education to support improvement and help reduce variability.

“This spirit of cooperation is most obvious in the way that the new curriculum is being developed with the teaching profession and how schools themselves are beginning to develop innovative teaching and learning practices. Consortia of local authorities work together and schools support each other to improve teachers’ professional skills.”

In schools like Ysgol Gynradd Bynea, Llanelli, pupils led a project to develop an outside learning village. Learners developed a range of skills from designing architectural models to budgeting and placing orders. In the further education sector, Pembrokeshire College has developed partnerships that support the development of skills in Pembrokeshire, improve learners’ access to post-16 education and engage with hard-to-reach groups.

More findings from the seven-year inspection cycle:

  • Inspection findings this year are broadly similar to those for the last seven years as a whole. Seven-in-ten primary schools inspected this year are good or excellent, similar to last year, while half of secondary schools inspected are good or excellent, a bit better than last year
  • There are many strengths in nursery settings, maintained special schools and in further education colleges, where the quality of education provided is good or better in most cases. Variability within and between providers remains a challenge in most other sectors.
  • Schools that are most successful at raising standards for all their pupils and at closing the gap in the performance of pupils eligible for free school meals compared to their peers, encourage greater involvement of parents and the community and create a culture where education is respected and valued.
  • In the quarter of schools that deliver the Foundation Phase well, pupils make good progress, become confident learners, and are well-prepared for future learning. But many schools remain reliant on more traditional teaching methods, especially for children aged 5 to 7.
  • As the secondary school accountability system became increasingly linked to examination results, some schools focused too much on examination technique rather than on providing a broad education. The best schools develop learners’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes to learning by capturing their interest through engaging learning experiences.
  • Mergers of further education colleges have resulted in a smaller number of large providers. The new leadership teams of these institutions have overseen improved provision in this sector over the last seven years.

Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, welcomed the report as further evidence that Wales’ education system is uniting in a mission of self-improvement.

The Welsh Government also expressed pleasure in the ​’​spirit of cooperation​’​ with the teaching profession in developing a new curriculum.

The report also welcomes:

  • The establishment of a National Academy of Educational Leadership;
  • A “more systematic approach” to how pupils learn, apply and practise their literacy and numeracy across the curriculum;
  • Major changes in how professional learning is organised;
  • Improvements in attendance and behaviour;
  • Strengths in learner wellbeing, care, support and guidance, and learning environment; and
  • Strengthened links between higher and further education.

Welcoming the report, Kirsty Williams said: “Our national mission for education seeks to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and enjoys public confidence.

“It is clear from reading this report that there is sustained momentum in Welsh education; a culture of self-improvement that is embedded in the system and, most importantly, owned by those working in the profession.

“I am heartened to see the Chief Inspector welcoming the steps we have taken to drive up standards and support improvement in our schools – particularly our efforts to work with the teaching profession in developing the new curriculum.

“The report notes our efforts to reduce the attainment gap, but we know there is no room for complacency. That’s why we’re doubling the Pupil Development Grant for our youngest learners, so that every child has the opportunity to reach their potential.

“By continuing to work together, I am confident that we can achieve our national mission and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.”

David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union Cymru, said: “This report shows that despite increasingly difficult funding settlements and the ongoing concerns of workload schools and teachers in Wales are continuing to provide an education service we can be proud of. Amongst the many positives identified, it is especially good news to see recognition from Estyn for the work schools are doing to work constructively together.

“The profession has always espoused the benefits of self-improvement, collaboration and the focus on teaching and learning. This report highlights those issues and the benefits to be gleaned when teachers are allowed to take ownership of their teaching practices. This will be a big boost as we seek to implement the new curriculum and highlight the cooperative approach that we see being priorities in communities across Wales.”

Education

Extra investment in 21st Century Schools

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Announced £100m extra: Kirsty Williams

£100​M ​is to be invested over the next three years to accelerate the delivery of the flagship 21st Century Schools and Education programme, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams and Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning Eluned Morgan ​has said.

An extra £75m, has been allocated to the 21st Century Schools and Education Programme a major, long-term and strategic capital investment programme to modernise education infrastructure.

In addition, £30m will be released from the programme in future years for immediate investment in capital projects that will contribute to the goal of reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050. This is a shared priority with Plaid Cymru.

The money will bring the total invested over the life of the programme to almost £3.8bn. The first phase of the programme will finish in 2019 having invested £1.4bn to support the rebuild and refurbishment of more than 150 schools and colleges across Wales. The second phase will see a spend of £2.3bn.

Kirsty Williams said: “Our national mission is to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and confidence. Our 21st Century Schools and Education Programme plays a key part in this and is the largest investment in our schools and colleges since the 1960s.

“Having a comfortable, modern, fit-for-purpose environment in which to learn is vital to ensuring young people have the best possible education. This extra funding will mean that even more of our students will be able to benefit from having the best possible facilities in their schools and colleges.​”​

Eluned Morgan said: “Reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050 is a significant challenge and education is key to the success of this ambition. This means we need to invest in new Welsh medium schools and improve and increase the teaching of Welsh in English medium schools. Bringing forward this funding for immediate investment allows us to ensure there is no delay in the work to achieve this target.”

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Education

Aber hots Apple programmers’ conference

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Aberystwyth: Firmly on software development map

IOSDEVUK, the UK’s leading conference for Apple software developers, will be returning to Aberystwyth in September 2018.

Now in its eighth year, iOSDevUK is hosted by Professor Chris Price and Dr Neil Taylor from the Department of Computer Science at Aberystwyth University.

The dates for iOSDevUK 8 have been confirmed as 3-6 September 2018, with the list of speakers and themes due to be announced in the coming weeks.

Further-more, the Aberystwyth based conference has been voted one of the World’s top 10 iOS conferences for 2018, the only one in the UK, by tech website www.raywenderlich.com.

Last year’s iOSDevUK 7 saw representatives from thirty nationalities travel to the three day event at Aberystwyth, with all 200 delegate places taken.

Professor Chris Price said: “We are delighted to confirm that iOSDevUK will be returning to Aberystwyth once more this year. Over the years iOSDevUK has put Aberystwyth firmly on the software development map, and we are delighted that so many developers from around the world feel it is worth their while travelling to Aberystwyth. Indeed, for many it has become an annual pilgrimage.”

“From the outset, our aim with iOSDevUK has been to encourage creativity by sharing expertise and experiences and we are confident that this year’s conference will once again achieve this, both for our delegates and for our students who will be able to attend free of charge.”

Previous iOSDevUK gatherings have focused on the most recent developments announced by Apple and this year’s conference will be no different.

One of the features of the conference has been the end-of-conference hack which challenges delegates to work together to develop innovative and exciting applications using Apple’s latest software.

The most recent hack focused on ARKit – Apple’s latest augmented reality software, which has proved so popular in games such as Pokemon Go.
Further details about the conference will be released on the iOSDevUK website.
Organisers also plan to announce the ‘Early Bird’ offers online in April 2018, for those who want to avoid disappointment.

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Education

Night on the tiles for students

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Master ceramicist: Richard Miller speaks at Coleg Sir Gâr

A​SPIRING​ ceramicists at Coleg Sir Gâr’s Carmarthen School of Art welcomed a master craftsman from the BBC’s The Great Pottery Throw Down into college recently for a bespoke lesson in tile-making.

Richard Miller is a Surrey-based ceramicist who runs his own business, Froyle Tiles, which produces traditional, contemporary and bespoke tiles for both domestic and business environments. The company works with​ ​independent retailers as well as undertaking luxury projects in London with clients including Wagamama and BBC.

The ceramicist gave a talk to ceramics degree students on his work on the BBC show and how he grew his business.

Thomas Fisher, Carmarthen School of Art ceramics lecturer, said: “Students learned about what inspires Richard’s work and how he responds to individual, business and agency briefs.

“They really benefited from his experience of such a wide range of clients and briefs, from English heritage to modern architecture, and how he grew his business to the materials and processes used in his company.”

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