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Education

Report recommends scrapping school categorisation

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Professor Graham Donaldson: Review welcomed

A REPORT prepared for the Welsh Government has recommended a series of major reforms to the schools inspection programme overseen by Estyn, the body tasked with inspecting and improving Welsh schools’ performance.

Key elements of the report, prepared by Professor Graham Donaldson who has previously advised the Welsh Government on curriculum reform, include a pause in the inspection cycle to allow ongoing reforms to bed in and the scrapping of the controversial colour-coded categorisation of schools.

Professor Donaldson criticised the ‘high stakes’ approach of categorisation as having the potential to limit development and being contrary to the Welsh Government’s plans to create a culture of self-improvement by placing the emphasis on inspection instead of education outcomes.

In the report, Prof Donaldson writes: “Inspection has come to be an important element in this ‘high-stakes’ culture. There are concerns, supported by research evidence, that in such a culture inspection can inhibit improvement and innovation if schools try to ‘second guess’ what inspectors want to see.

“Graded inspection reports and follow-up categories reinforce the association of inspection with an externally driven approach to improvement and can distort some schools’ practices to the detriment of their pupils.”

The Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales has welcomed the report, saying that it recognises the vital role that Estyn plays in enhancing the learning of young people in Wales.

Chief Inspector, Meilyr Rowlands, said: “I am grateful to Professor Donaldson for his work on this review and am glad that the report recognises the strengths of the current inspection system. We now look forward to working with Welsh Government, schools, and other stakeholders to fully consider the report’s comprehensive proposals and how to take them forward. We will keep stakeholders informed as this work develops and be seeking their views through consultation to ensure they have their say.

Professor Graham Donaldson remarked: “Wales is working to develop a dynamic and successful education system with rising standards and schools committed to their own improvement. Evidence to my Review confirms that Estyn is central to that process. The unique professional experience and expertise of its HMI and peer inspectors are a key national resource. Inspectors should both evaluate how well the young people of Wales are being served by their schools and contribute directly to improving the quality of their learning. That means more emphasis on school self-evaluation and improvement, more informative inspection reports, a more diagnostic approach to schools causing concern and more direct engagement of inspectors with reform.

The National Education Union, Wales’s largest education union has welcomed the publication of Professor Donaldson’s review.

David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union Cymru, said: “The recommendations outlined by Graham Donaldson, if accepted and implemented, will represent a seismic shift in the school inspection arrangements in Wales which will be largely welcomed by the profession as it wrestles with the ambitious educational reforms that are already underway.

In particular, we note the very real concerns identified regarding the high stakes accountability measures that have increasingly caused significant pressures and unintended consequences since being imposed upon schools in 2011. Many of the concerns we voiced at that time are reflected in this review and should become a thing of the past if the necessary changes are implemented.

A key and very welcome recommendation is the proposal that there be a moratorium on the formal inspection reporting cycle as inspectors, schools and other key stakeholders learn about, develop and implement the new curriculum. This was an issue that we pressed for very strongly. The NEU has always wanted the new curriculum to succeed and it was of vital importance that practitioners were provided with every assistance and opportunity to secure that aim.”

Keith Bowen, Director, NEU Cymru, added: “Currently, inspection can be a stressful time for education professionals in schools. We welcome these announcements, and the potential positive impact the recommendations could have on our education system. We have long pushed for self-evaluation for the schools’ sector in Wales, and Professor Donaldson’s recommendations could help make this a reality. We look forward to working with Estyn and the Welsh Government to take these recommendations forward.”

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said: “It is clear from the recommendation in the report that Professor Donaldson has listened to the teaching profession.

“The recommendation for a ‘suspension of the formal inspection reporting cycle for a period while inspectors engage with schools both to learn about and support the realisation of the new curriculum’ will be particularly welcome by teachers, school leaders and the wider education workforce, as many inspectors still appear to have very little knowledge about the new curriculum.

“This review will complement and resonate with the cultural change in terms of school accountability which is now being promoted actively by the Welsh Government.”

Rex Phillips, NASUWT National Official for Wales, said: “The report appears to steer Estyn back towards the role of ‘critical friend’ rather than ‘common enemy’ and that is to be welcomed.”

UCAC, the education union for Wales, has also welcomed the vision presented in Professor Donaldson’s report.

Rebecca Williams, UCAC’s Policy Officer said: “UCAC welcomes this report and the vision it outlines for the future inspection of schools in Wales.

“Far-reaching changes to the Welsh education system are on the way, and re-examining Estyn’s role is an important step in ensuring that all parts of the system are pulling in the same direction.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, Professor Donaldson’s recommendations are perfectly in tune with the direction and ethos of the wider reform programme. They strike a balance between continuing to provide assurance to the public about educational standards, and giving schools more responsibility for their own self-improvement.

“The emphasis on trust, joint-working, support and professional learning – as opposed to shock and awe, and public shaming – is particularly welcome. UCAC is confident that this approach will encourage a far more open, honest and mature system that will be more likely to lead to improvement for pupils.

“We urge Welsh Government and Estyn to look favourably on the recommendations in this report.”

Rob Williams, Director of Policy for the National Association of Head Teachers Cymru said: “The recommendations emerging from the review of the inspectorate are very welcome. It is clear that we now need inspection to properly reflect the new curriculum that schools are currently seeking to implement. The concern for school leaders and staff up until this point is that the two things were becoming increasingly out of step.

“The report and recommendations also recognise that now is the time to be bold and enable schools, Estyn, Local Authorities, Regional Consortia and Welsh Government to think differently, focusing all our collective efforts upon maximising the progress and achievement of children and young people across Wales. High stakes accountability linked purely to pupil outcomes has not served our pupils well, there now needs to be an expectation that schools work together, with support from regional consortia, to continually strive for school-level driven improvement.”

Education

New independent sixth form opens in Haverfordwest

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A NEW independent sixth form is set to open in Haverfordwest in September 2021. The latest addition to Castle School, which relocated to Haverfordwest in 2020, the new sixth form will offer 20 different A Level subjects and a BTEC in business through bespoke study programmes that include options to study online or in the sixth form. Students will also get the option to complete work and study placements abroad.

The launch of the sixth form comes after a busy year for Castle School, which relocated from Narberth to Haverfordwest in September 2020, taking over and refurbishing Glenover House, a beautiful old ‘gentlemen’s residence’ that had been empty for five years. The move enabled the school to expand and increase its educational provision.

In addition to its main building, the school has a cookery school and performing arts facility in Snowdrop Lane, and a further site on Snowdrop Lane which is being specially converted to create the sixth form centre. The site will also include an indoor sports facility for whole school use.

The sixth form is designed with flexible study in mind: as well as offering a broad range of subjects and the ability to study online from any location, it will provide instant access study support as well as face to face teaching. In addition, students will get the option to study for one of their A Levels at Pembrokeshire College, in order to experience a different learning environment.

Other milestones for Castle School this year include the opening of a second independent school, Westward House, in St Clears and the purchase of a narrow boat, which will be moored on the Avon and Kennet canal. This will give pupils opportunities for short residential trips to Bristol, Bath and beyond.

“With a floating hotel licence, our newest acquisition will enable small groups of pupils to take their studies further afield and benefit from enhanced learning, extracurricular boating skills and a look at the wider world,” said Harriet Harrison, owner of Castle School and Westward House.

“Things have been tricky over the past year, but along with many others we have seen the difficulties of a world of Covid not as an opportunity for excuses but as a time for stepping up, working harder and making things better and stronger wherever possible. Our schools are thriving, and despite being desperate to get back to normal, we have used this time to improve our facilities for all the children in our care who are coming back after these long periods of lockdown and remote schooling. We can’t wait to see everyone.”

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Education

U-turn on compulsory lifesaving lessons in Welsh secondary education

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SCHOOLS in Wales will now teach first aid and lifesaving skills as part of the new curriculum.

Wales will join England and Scotland by introducing first aid and lifesaving kills to their national secondary education curriculum.

Kirsty Williams, Education Minister had previously rejected the calls for emergency resuscitation skills to be compulsory in school.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was introduced in the secondary school curriculum in England in September 2020.

Local authorities in Scotland have also committed to introduce lifesaving skills to their secondary education curriculum.

The British Heart Foundation had backed the campaign for CPR to be taught in schools.

In a long fought battle, Suzy Davies, a Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, secured the commitment from the Welsh Education Minister in the course of debating amendments to the new Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, which will make sweeping changes to the way Welsh children are educated.

The new curriculum for Wales is planned to come into force from 2022.

Children, parents, families and medics have long argued that regular teaching of CPR in particular will raise our children to have the skills and confidence to step in and save the life of someone in cardiac arrest if they encounter them outside a hospital setting.

The commitment was included in the Welsh Conservative manifesto for the Assembly election in 2016, and Suzy Davies, the Shadow Education Minister, said:

“After 10 years campaigning for this, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen.

“From securing cross-party support for this in my early days as an Assembly Member, through several debates and pitches to different Ministers, on to my own proposed legislation which found favour among Senedd Members, it was difficult to understand why Welsh Government was so resistant.

“In this country, our chances of surviving a cardiac arrest outside hospital are as poor as 10%. In countries around the world where teaching CPR and defibrillator use is compulsory, those odds improve dramatically. These skills are quick and easy to learn and easy to remember.

“ Alun Davies MS – himself a cardiac arrest survivor – has rightly argued that we should be able to learn these skills at any time in our lives and that defibrillators should be a commonplace feature of our public landscape. I couldn’t agree more – but how simple it is to ingrain these skills from an early age and raise generation after generation of lifesavers.”

Under the new curriculum, teachers must follow statutory guidance made by Ministers to support various aspects of the new way of teaching. After changes guaranteed by the Education Minister, this guidance will now instruct teachers that they should teach lifesaving skills and first aid: It is no longer optional.

The mandatory teaching of life saving skills and first aid (not just CPR) has been supported by the medical profession, including paramedics and fire service co-responders, as well as charities like St. John’s Cymru, British Heart Foundation, Calon Defibrillators, Cariad and the Red Cross.

It is taught through many youth groups, including Torfaen Sea Cadets who trained Aneurin Metcalfe, the young man who saved someone’s life only this week.

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Education

Styling their way to the top

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FOUR hairdressing learners: Holly Mathias, Jenna Kilgallon, Helaina Thomas and Leah Rees, recently earned themselves a place in the next stage of the Concept Hair Magazine Learner of the Year Competition.

The candidates were invited into the College to show their fully presented entries as evidence and then submitted them remotely to the Concept Hair Magazine judges in December.

The categories for the competition were: Festival Hair, Red Carpet, Old School Barbershop, Celebration of Colour and Safari.

The unique styles allowed the learners to show off their creative hair styling skills from plaits to updos, to bold colour creations.

Charlotte Jones, Hairdressing lecturer was over the moon with the learners’ success; “We were all so impressed with the creativity, dedication and enthusiasm of all the students who took part in the competition. Also, the students who supported the entries during the day and the models who gave up their time to be involved. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved. The results were amazing!”

The students worked to COVID regulations ensuring all the correct PPE and procedures were followed.

Finalist, Holly Mathias entered three categories which included; Styling Level 2 – Festival Theme, Hair Up Level 2 – Red Carpet and Avant Garde – Safari.

Holly shared her experience; “Taking part in the Concept Hair competition, has really boosted my confidence and proved that hard work really does pay off. The support from the staff at Pembrokeshire College is outstanding. I would recommend everyone to take part in this competition as not only is it an amazing experience, but it really allows you to think outside the box and be as creative as you can! I would 100% take part in this competition again.”

Holly plans to go into full-time employment when she completes her course and hopes to one day work on cruise ships or even own her own salon.

The next stage involves the candidates submitting photographic entries on the 12th March where six will be shortlisted for the national finals which is set to take place virtually in April.

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