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Education

Flying Start needs ‘significant change’

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'Postcode Lottery': Some children in poverty are excluded from support

A SIGNIFICANT change is needed if the flagship Flying Start early years programme is to succeed in reaching out to those in most need of support, according to a cross-party Assembly committee.

The Children, Young People and Education Committee found that more flexibility is needed so that funding can be used to help children who live outside existing Flying Start areas.

The Flying Start programme provides services to children under the age of four in some of Wales’ most deprived postcode areas. It is cited as one of the Welsh Government’s top priorities in tackling child poverty, and has four key elements: free part-time childcare for two to three-year-olds; an enhanced health visiting service; access to parenting support; and access to early language development support. However, with nearly two thirds of people who are income deprived living outside geographical areas that are defined as deprived, the Committee heard that a significant number of children living in poverty were likely to be excluded from Flying Start support.

While the Committee welcomes recent changes which will give councils more opportunities to help children outside Flying Start postcode areas, more flexibility is needed to make sure that those most in need are supported.

The Committee was pleased to hear anecdotal evidence from users and front line service providers about the benefits of Flying Start. However, in light of the fact that the Welsh Government has provided funding of more than £600 million to Flying Start since its creation in 2007, it is concerned that there is limited hard evidence at this stage to show that children and parents supported by the programme have experienced improved outcomes.

Lynne Neagle, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, said: “We welcome the hard work of those delivering Flying Start services across Wales. Nevertheless, with the majority of children living in poverty falling outside defined Flying Start areas, we believe that more flexibility is needed to allow the programme to reach those most in need.

“We also believe that more needs to be done to demonstrate the benefits of the programme, and we welcome the Welsh Government’s assurances that it is looking at different ways to show the direct improvements Flying Start is making to the lives of children and families in Wales. We will monitor this work closely, and believe it to be particularly important given the large amount of money invested in this programme annually, with just under £80 million allocated in this financial year alone.”

Commenting on the report, Shadow Education Secretary, Darren Millar, said: “We’ve been saying for a long time that Flying Start simply isn’t working for the overwhelming majority of families in need of support.

“The Welsh Government must put an end to the Flying Start postcode lottery which excludes families in need simply on the basis of their address.

“The programme needs radical reform to make it more flexible and Wales-wide so that local Councils can deliver help and support to those who need it most.”

Education

WRU and unis combine on degree

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New degree launched: Students will gain hands on coaching skills

THE WELSH R​UGBY UNION (WRU), University of South Wales (USW), Cardiff Blues, and the Dragons have launched a new Foundation Degree in Rugby Coaching and Development which will combine study with practical experience to enhance students’ employability.

The two-year blended learning course will ensure the students gain hands-on coaching skills as part of the Dragons or Cardiff Blues community rugby teams while working towards a valuable qualification at USW.

The course is ideal for individuals who wish to work in the ever-expanding rugby industry, either as a coach, or as a member of staff working within communities developing and delivering sports initiatives.

On completion of the Foundation Degree course, students can progress on to a third year of studies to achieve a BSc (Hons) degree in Rugby Coaching and Performance.

The course allows students to study all sub-disciplines of coaching and gain valuable industry-recognised qualifications and will teach students aspects of children and youth coaching, rugby coaching, rugby development, social inclusion and sports management skills.

Paul Rainer, Head of Sports Science and Sports Coaching at the University of South Wales said “This is an excellent initiative and the collaboration between the University, WRU and the regions will provide the next generation of community coaches in Wales to support the development of the game at grass-roots level.”

“The course provides flexibility in how the student will study and provides an opportunity for the student to develop their vocational skills within the Dragons or Blues community programmes whilst working towards their Welsh Rugby Union Level 1 and 2 coaching certificates and working towards a degree qualification.”

WRU Head of Rugby Participation Ryan Jones said, “We are determined to continue to invest in coaches to safeguard the future of our game. This partnership is a great example of that, with key partners working together for the good of the students and the game.”

WRU Community Coach Development Manager Gerry Roberts added: “The rugby industry is a growing one and it is important that this course aligns the academic study of coaching with vital skills that can only be gained on the ground, working within the regional community teams on all aspects of community rugby.”

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Education

University nominated for LGBT+ Award

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Delighted to fly the flag: Ruth Fowler, Equality Officer, Aberystwyth University

ABERYSTWYTH U​NIVERSITY has been nominated for a public sector equality award at the 2018 PinkNews Awards.

The nominations were announced at a special PinkNews event held in the Senedd in Cardiff Bay on ​June 7.

Aberystwyth is the only Welsh university and one of three institutions from Wales on the longlist of 21 public sector organisations throughout the UK.

The award aims to recognise the contributions of public sector organisations in championing the inclusion and rights of LGBT+ employees and those in the wider community.

A panel of judges will decide the winner, which will be announced at the PinkNews Awards in London on October 17, 2018.

Ruth Fowler, Equality Officer in the Department of Human Resources at Aberystwyth University, said: “We are delighted that Aberystwyth University is flying the flag for the Welsh higher education sector in these important awards. Equality and diversity are embedded across the University. We have a range of policies and positive action plans in place to ensure Aberystwyth is an inclusive and forward-thinking place to work and to study for all, including an LGBT network for staff as well as a series of high-profile LGBT events.”

The annual PinkNews Awards has become one of the UK’s most significant LGBT+ events, championing the efforts of politicians, campaigners, charities, businesses, public sector organisations, broadcasters and journalists in the fight for equality for all.

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Education

WG backtracks on uniform grant

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Kirsty Williams: 'Climbdown' claim on pupil grants

PARENTS in Wales will soon be able to access a new £1.7m fund to help cover the cost of school uniforms, school sports kit and for wider activities such as scouts and guides and sports outside of school.

The new fund, announced by Education Secretary Kirsty Williams, will also cover equipment for activities within the curriculum, such as design and technology.

In addition, parents will also be able to access funding for equipment for out of school hours trips, including outdoor learning.

The new fund, which will be in place ahead of the new academic year in September, will become another element of the Pupil Development Grant (PDG) and will be known as PDG – Access.

As well as making funding available for new uniforms and activities both in and outside the classroom, PDG – Access will be available to a wider range of pupils than the previous School Uniform Grant and attract a higher per pupil funding level of £125.

For the first time, learners in both Reception and Year 7, who are eligible for free school meals will fall within scope of the funding. Unlike the previous school uniform grant, all looked after children in these year groups will also be covered.

As with the previous scheme, the funding will be distributed via local authorities. The Welsh Government has worked with local authorities to develop the grant and will continue to do so to make sure that the funding is being used effectively and that good practice is being shared amongst schools.

Announcing PDG-Access today, Kirsty Williams said: “Reducing the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers is at the heart of our national mission to raise standards.

“The Pupil Development Grant has already been described as “invaluable” by schools. PDG – Access will allow us to go that step further in supporting our disadvantaged learners to reach their full potential and narrowing the attainment gap between those learners and their peers.”

In addition to the grant, further consideration is also being given to current non-statutory school uniforms guidance and how it can be strengthened.

Commenting, Shadow Education Secretary, Darren Millar, said: “This announcement amounts to an embarrassing climb-down from the Minister, and comes after a huge backlash from all corners.

“Make no mistake, the Education Secretary has been forced into doing the right thing.

“We warned that scrapping the grant would hit the poorest pupils the hardest and thankfully the Welsh Government has seen sense.

“Labour’s bonfire of education grants is causing huge concern amongst parents and teachers alike, and this u-turn is a sad indictment of the Welsh Government’s mismanagement of its resources.”

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