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Education

Welsh Bacc review recommends improvements

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Findings 'a sound foundation' for evolving qualification: Philip Blaker, Qualifications Wales

THE QUALIFICATION at the heart of the Welsh Baccalaureate offers a valuable learning experience and gives students the skills they need for their future, according to a research report published ​this week​.

The report was produced for Qualifications Wales by Wavehill Social and Economic Research in partnership with University College London’s Institute of Education. The research looked at the design of the Skills Challenge Certificate and gathered views from teachers, lecturers and students to see how it’s working on the ground.

“This report found that the Skills Challenge Certificate is a valuable qualification that helps learners to develop crucial skills. The skills that employers consistently say young people need to succeed in the workplace,” said Philip Blaker, Chief Executive of Qualifications Wales.

“It is positive that many teachers say the Skills Challenge Certificate is rewarding to teach and that students say they enjoy gaining new skills and the chance to focus on what they’re interested in.”

While noting the importance and value of the Skills Challenge Certificate for young people in Wales, the report finds that:

  • Some aspects of its design and assessment are more complex than they need to be;
  • There is some duplicated content and assessment across its components;
  • There are inconsistent levels of understanding amongst teachers and students about it and how it links to the Welsh Bacc.
  • Teachers and students find it difficult to describe the Skills Challenge Certificate and the Welsh Bacc to others.

“Any critical review of this kind will always find areas for improvement, especially when looking at a qualification as innovative and as new as the Skills Challenge Certificate,” said Mr Blaker.

The report makes eight recommendations for addressing the issues it identifies. Some of the recommendations focus on the current delivery of the Skills Challenge Certificate, for instance by doing more to explain what it is, how it fits in the Welsh Bacc, and its benefits. Other recommendations suggest how, in the future, the design and assessment of the Skills Challenge Certificate could be simplified.

In considering any future changes, the report cautions against making any rapid changes and advocates involving others to consider whether and when any proposed changes should be introduced.

Responding to the recommendations, Mr Blaker said: “Qualifications Wales supports the findings from the research. We are setting up a working group to look in detail at how to put the recommendations into practice. We will also convene a panel of teachers, learners, employers and universities to test and refine any proposals for change. We’ll report on our progress by the end of the year.“

“The Skills Challenge Certificate is a new and exciting way of developing and assessing important life skills. We always expected that further refinements would be needed after a period of bedding-in. The findings from this review give us a sound foundation for gradually evolving the qualification so that it continues to go from strength to strength.” said, Mr Blaker.

Responding, Shadow Education Secretary, Darren Millar, said: “The Welsh Baccalaureate is certainly a valuable qualification, but we need to see action to reduce the pressure on teachers and students engaged in it.

“Clearly there needs to be some kind of streamlining, because the qualification is almost universally seen as too complex.

“We believe that the Welsh Baccalaureate should continue to be offered to all students in Wales but it should not be a compulsory subject.”

Rebecca Williams, UCAC’s Policy Officer said: “UCAC welcomes Qualifications Wales’s report, which acknowledges the conflict between the value of the Skills Challenge Certificate on the one hand, and the confusion and misunderstandings surrounding it on the other.

“The report’s recommendations resonate with what UCAC members have been reporting for some time, which is that elements of the design and assessment are unwieldy and unmanageable – both for learners and teachers. The emphasis on clearer communication and on better training opportunities for teachers – including in initial teacher training courses – is very much to be welcomed.

“UCAC urges all relevant partners to take action on the report’s recommendations in order to ensure that the Skills Challenge Certificate element of the Welsh Baccalaureate is made as appealing and beneficial to as many learners across Wales as possible.”

Education

School to share digital experience under lockdown

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Greenhill School in Tenby is set to share their digital journey with other
educators in Wales next week in a national webinar.

Leading their part of the webinar will be Jonathan Evans, Greenhill’s DCF
(Digital Competence Framework) lead, who will be accompanied by Vicki
Price (the school’s Head of Computing) to talk about how staff, pupils and
parents have embraced digital engagement and training since the
lockdown started.

They were approached by Ryan Evans, Google Trainer with Aspire2Be, to
be part of the webinar with him and other Google experts.

Vicki said it was a fantastic opportunity to showcase what the school has
been doing.

“Jonathan has held a twice-weekly geek meet online with staff which has
been very successful,” she said.

“He has created a resources website for staff, pupils and parents to
support them. On top of this, staff meet daily on Microsoft Teams to
discuss the day ahead giving them valuable time to connect with each
other.

Vicki added: “The school has fully embraced many features of the Hwb
Platform, some more successfully than others, and we hope that by taking
part in this webinar we can show others the journey our staff, pupils and
parents have taken in these challenging times.”

The webinar will be held via Hwb on Tuesday, 12 th May at 12:30pm as part
of a demonstration of Creative Writing Using G Suite.
You can register here to view the webinar:

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Education

Ancient Connections – Pembrokeshire and Wexford stories to be retold by school children through animation

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Ancient Connections – a three-year arts, heritage and tourism project linking North
Pembrokeshire and North Wexford is delighted to celebrate the start of a cross-border
schools project which began in March 2020 and is expected to continue until Spring 2021.
The project will bring three schools together in the ambitious creation of a short animation
film telling the stories of connection between these two regions. The participating schools
are Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, Scoil Naomh Maodhog Ferns and St
Edan’s School, both in Ferns, County Wexford. In March, the project kicked off with a group
of 19 pupils aged 12-13 plus staff traveling from St Davids to Ferns to meet and get to know
their peers in the Ferns schools. The group have been learning about their own heritage
stories, as well as the stories that link these two regions through working with Fishguard
based storyteller Deb Winter. In Ferns, the group performed these stories and in turn
listened to their Irish counterparts, who had been coached by storyteller Lorraine O’Dwyer.
Cilla Bramley, Head of Expressive Arts at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi said:

I just wanted to send a HUGE thank you from all at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi for the amazing visit
we had to Ireland. The pupils and I were so 'blown away' by the incredibly warm Irish
welcome and every aspect of our visit was perfect! The arrival at Scoil Maodhog was moving
and our pupils are now texting, snap chatting/what's apping etc. and looking forward to the
return visit. All the excursions were fabulous and informative and when I asked pupils what
their favourite aspect of the trip was, not one of them could decide as there were just too
many things to pick from.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the project will now continue through online and digital
means, until September 2020 when they will begin work with Cardiff based animation
studio Winding Snake to creatively retell these stories through different animation
techniques, culminating in a short film that will be screened in venues and online in 2021.
Amy Morris, Director of Winding Snake says:

"The team at Winding Snake are thrilled to be working with the schools involved as part
of this exciting and historic project.  We can't wait to get stuck in and start making! The
young people taking part will work with us to create animation, learn musical composition,
make foley and sound effects, participate in script writing and storytelling sessions, and will
work with professional actors to learn acting and performance skills. With lots and lots of
arts and craft thrown into the mix too, it's going to be a wonderful project." 
A short documentary film about the project will also be created by filmmaker Terence White
based in Wexford.

Community and academic research led by Angharad Wynne and Abarta Heritage has
unearthed some fascinating stories that link these two ancient Celtic lands. From the deep
friendship between St David and St Aidan, founder of Ferns Monastery, to strategic
marriages between powerful Irish Kings and the daughters of Norman knights in the
Mediaeval period, to human entanglement with mysterious and mythical sea creatures as
well as inclement weather causing shipwrecks on unforgiving coasts.

The Animating schools project forms one aspect of the wider Ancient Connections project,
with the aim of motivating both communities to rediscover their shared heritage; to be
mentors for one another; sharing knowledge, experience and skills to create a stronger
sense of identity and place that will continue to flourish in years to come. The stories that
emerge from the project will also be employed to create ways to attract visitors to North
Pembrokeshire and Wexford outside of school and summer holidays.

Ancient Connections is led by Pembrokeshire County Council, together with partners
Wexford County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Visit Wexford
funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales co-
operation programme

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Education

Marine energy presents an ocean of opportunity

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Before lockdown, Pembrokeshire College, in collaboration with marine sector employers, recently hosted a STEM Careers in Marine Energy event for local students.

The event, organised in partnership with the Port of Milford Haven, the Coastal Communities Adapting Together project, Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, Mainstay Marine, Bombora, ORE Catapult, Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (Swansea University) and the Bucanier Project, was designed to raise the profile of the marine energy sector.

With exciting and imminent developments in marine energy in south Pembrokeshire, the purpose of the event was to introduce possible new careers in marine energy (both locally and globally) to 70 STEM students, sowing the seeds of local development and regeneration.

A-level pupils from Ysgol Harri Tudur, along with A-level and engineering students from Pembrokeshire College, were invited to attend the event, which saw the Bridge Innovation Centre in Pembroke Dock transformed into a series of interactive workshop spaces.

David Jones the CEO of Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, and Andy Edwards, Port of Milford Haven’s Vice-Chair, opened the event by setting the scene around present and future careers in marine energy. Interactive workshops were led by local marine energy developers; Bombora Wave Power, Mainstay Marine Solutions, Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, and Swansea University.

The students joined in the innovation focused workshops which included building their own floating wind turbine platform, against the clock.

The new Guide to Careers in Marine Energy was also launched at the event. This has been developed collaboratively between the marine energy industry and the supply chain to showcase the industry and possible careers within it. English and Welsh versions will be made available to learning institutions locally and online as a learning resource, in time for the next academic year.

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