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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

Kirsty Williams announces online PGCE

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Transforming teacher training: Cabinet Secretary launches ground-breaking plan

A NEW part-time PGCE that combines online study with tutorials and seminars could soon make Wales a world-leader in Initial Teacher Education (ITE).

The addition of this new alternative route into teaching, announced today by Education Secretary Kirsty Williams, is the latest in a series of reforms designed to revolutionise the way ITE is provided in Wales. These also include new full-time ITE programmes.

The new part-time PGCE would provide a high quality alternative to full-time study and remove the need for students to travel just to attend their chosen course.

Students could instead interact with their lecturers and fellow students online, just as they would in the soon-to-be accredited full-time ITE programmes. This would remove any barriers that might be caused by their location or distance from a university.

In addition to the new PGCE, the Education Secretary also announced a new Employment Based Route (EBR), which would see a student teacher employed by a school from the outset. This would be targeted to help regional consortia address teaching shortages in schools region by region.

Both the part-time PGCE and EBR would enable student teachers to maintain their current commitments, including employment and income, whilst studying to be a teacher.

The students would also be able to take advantage of opportunities afforded by Wales’ new student finance arrangements. From the 2018-19 academic year, all Welsh students – whether studying undergraduate full or part time – will receive support for their living costs equivalent to the UK national living wage.

Announcing the changes today, Kirsty Williams said: “An education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and our new curriculum cannot be delivered without a well-supported, aspirational teaching profession.

“The new part-time PGCE has the potential to completely transform the way Initial Teacher Education in Wales is delivered, complementing our equally high quality full-time ITE programmes.

“New students who may previously never have considered a career in teaching or been put off by costs or their location will have access to an academic qualification and programme that is of the very highest standard while also being flexible and easily accessible.

“It’s by harnessing technology in this way that we’ll attract highly-talented, experienced people with the higher level skills needed by both the teaching profession and our wider economy.

“I am confident that along with the step change in our soon to be accredited full-time ITE programmes the new part-time PGCE and EBR, together with new Professional Standards for teaching and accreditation criteria for initial teacher education, will allow us to raise standards across the board and make Wales a world-leader.”

The Education Secretary also confirmed today that an HE provider, or partnership of providers, will be procured to deliver the proposals by working with schools and education consortia across Wales.

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Education

Yale to unlock students’ potential

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Young Global Scholars: Welsh students to attend Yale this summer

​THIS summer, 16 of Wales’ brightest sixth-formers will join students from across the world for a life-changing summer programme held at one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions.​​

The pupils, all part of the Seren Network, will join over 1500 other students from 126 countries and 50 US states on Yale’s Young Global Scholars Programme (YYGS), at Yale University’s New Haven campus in the US, as part a new scholarship opportunity made possible through the Seren Network.

Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, will join the first group of pupils from Wales to travel to Yale’s New Haven campus as she looks to build on links already made with the university through Seren.

The Education Secretary will also travel to both Harvard University and MIT in Boston to discuss new opportunities and collaborations.

This opportunity has been made available to Welsh students thanks to a jointly funded scholarship between Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) and the Welsh Government. The flight costs have been supported through sponsorship by businesses in Wales who are all rooting for the Welsh students.

The students will each spend two weeks at Yale’s New Haven campus, where they will take part in a rigorous academic programme led by world-leading academics in one of six areas, including International Affairs & Security, Frontiers of Science & Technology and Politics, Law & Economics.

The partnership has been established to broaden the academic horizons of Welsh students, giving them a taste of university life in the States and the opportunity to make strong university applications when they return.

Kirsty Williams said: “It is a huge success story for Seren that we’ve been able to broker a partnership which will see Yale’s renowned Young Global Scholars programme made accessible to students across Wales.

“I’m proud to be joining our first ever group of students to take part in this life-changing summer programme and look forward to making new links with other universities as we try to open new doors for many more of our students.

“I want every pupil in every school in every part of Wales to know that if you work hard then no academic opportunity is off-limits. I think this is a perfect example of what is possible and I want to thank all the sponsors involved in making this happen.”

This partnership has been made possible through Liam Rahman, a Yale University alumnus born and raised in Carmarthenshire. A Co-Director at E-Qual Recruitment Education in Cardiff and West Wales, Liam is an avid supporter of The Seren Network and has been the driving force throughout the partnership. E-Qual Recruitment Education is a headline sponsor of the partnership, having raised in excess of £10,000 to fund the cost of students’ flights to and from the US.

Liam said: “Since returning to Wales last year, it’s been a real privilege to work with high potential Welsh students through the Seren Network and to be an interviewer for Yale’s Undergraduate Admissions Office in Wales through Yale’s Alumni Schools Committee.

“Over the past few months, I’ve worked to build the relationship between Yale Young Global Scholars and The Seren Network, which has culminated in this fantastic partnership and scholarship opportunity.

“This scholarship will deliver life-changing opportunities to some of Wales’s brightest sixth formers and gives Yale the opportunity to access some of Wales’s very best talent.”

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Education

Adult learning: Richard’s story

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Making learning a family affair: UWTSD graduate Richard Thomas with his sons

UWTSD has marked Adult Learners’ Week by encouraging its mature students to tell their own stories.

Richard Thomas, a single father of three, graduated last summer with a degree in Sports Therapy.

He recently spoke to UWTSD about his transformational journey from gardener to Sports Therapist:

“In the summer of 2014 I was working as a Gardener and handyman in the quiet village of Bancyfelin. I didn’t see it as a long term career and with three children and no partner, I felt I needed a better career direction so I started to look at returning to education. After realising that UWTSD offered a degree in Sports Therapy I decided this was the area that I really wanted to learn more about.

“I immediately loved the course description – having been passionate about sport, fitness, Crossfit and having also had many sporting injuries in the past – I felt that this course would be fascinating to follow. Because of my family commitments, I wasn’t able to travel long distances to study so the fact that the Sports Therapy course was available to me in Carmarthen was great too! I had no idea of how I was going to work, study and juggle my boys’ commitments too and I can’t deny that there were times during the course where I found it difficult – but those hard times were definitely worth it!

“Following this course has not only helped me to learn about a new profession and to embark on a new career that I’m very passionate about – it has also helped me grow as a person. The course set me academic challenges as well as challenging me to manage my time and to fit in work, study and raising three boys as a single father.

“The course was full of work experiences and volunteer opportunities and by the end of the course, I felt prepared to face the world of work because of those opportunities.

“This past year – the first year after graduation – has been tough but it would have been even more difficult if it hadn’t been for the experience and connections that I made during my time on the course.

“During my studies, I was lucky enough to work with the Welsh Under 20’s Rugby team; the Dragons; Cardiff Devils Ice Hockey; Swansea City FC as well as Bristol City FC – not forgetting the various events that we covered such as the Swansea Triathlon, The Burn, Invncbl and some epic Charity cycle rides.

“Since graduating, I’m really lucky that the list of organisations and events I’m working with continues to grow. I now work with the FAW and the Under 15’s Welsh Girls Football team; Whitland RFC and I have a role with Hockey Wales too. I also work with Gower College Rugby, Llanelli and District Schoolboys Under 15’s and the successful Rugby Sevens team, the Carmarthen Warriors. Alongside this work I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a Hip and Groin Testing team – which I initially started doing during my time on the course – but I’m now also been working with Swansea City as part of their testing team as well as the IRFU as part of their ongoing Injury reduction strategies.

“I am currently still trying to manage my time but am enjoying the challenge. Indeed, enrolling on this course was easily one of the best decisions of my life. It’s helped me immeasurably – not just academically and career wise – but it’s also made a huge difference to me on a personal level. I’ve met friends that I’ll have for life and I managed to complete a BSc degree – something that for many years would have felt impossible.

“I am the first person in my family in living knowledge to complete a degree and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried like a baby at my graduation ceremony. Receiving an award for my academic work was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. The fact that I’ve achieved something that I previously didn’t really believe I could, has helped me to raise my own expectations and has allowed me to really expanded my horizons – both career wise and personally. It’s also had a great positive effect on my children – the eldest of whom is now going to University this year.”

As the only Sports Therapy degree in Wales accredited by the Society of Sports Therapy, the BSc Sports Therapy degree programme is designed to educate competent practitioners in all aspects of Sports Therapy. During their time on the course, students learn in a practical setting with plenty of hands on teaching in a dedicated Sports Therapy Suite and Rehabilitation Centre. All teaching staff are experienced Graduate Sports Therapists who have worked in professional, semi-professional, national and international sports over a number of years.

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