Connect with us
Advertisement
Advertisement

Education

New term structures prompt fears of ‘chaos’ in our schools

Published

on

Report and Comment by Herald Special Correspondent, John Vaughan

 

classroom_pupils_closeup_290There are fears amongst many within the education sector that Wales could be heading into chaos with a radical potential restructuring of term times. This comes as England adopts a policy from 2015 whereby head teachers will have the power to set their own school terms, potentially scaling down the long held traditional six week summer holiday to as little as four weeks.

The plans for England were announced on Monday July 1 of this year. The Department for Education set out the policy to ensure that, in future, term times are decided upon by head teachers and not local Councils. As it stands at present, Wales is not included in these plans and, though currently there is no legal duty on councils or governing bodies in Wales to work together on holiday times, there are plans to give the Assembly Government powers to set the same holiday times for all state schools in Wales. However, this is not policy yet and there is growing concern from some people within education that Wales could well follow in the same direction as England.

The National Union of Teachers have stated it will cause problems for families in different schools. A view shared by South Pembrokeshire And Carmarthen West AM and Shadow Minister for Education, Angela Burns who said, exclusively to the Herald,

“Imagine the chaos, a child at one school, another at one with different term times. It is hard enough with the disparity that England and Wales have. Even schools in the Vale of Glamorgan have different term times to Pembrokeshire. It’s the logistics!”

The Shadow Minister went on to express her concerns over the impact that this could have for potential childcare issues and parents planning for their work schedules. She stated,

“Why not let the County Council do it as they do now? I don’t understand the point of it and what are the benefits?”

Some have cited that one of the potential benefits of such a change could be cheaper package holidays for parents; others are more sceptical of this as an argument, as Christine Blower, head of the National Union of Teachers, pointed out when suggesting that holiday companies would just expand the period over which they charge premium rates, with the result that the general public would have fewer weeks of less expensive holidays.

Mrs Burns expressed her concern at the current Welsh Government proposal that the Welsh Minister for Education could have the sole power to set school term dates which could also mean an arbitrary decision could be taken on five or even six terms in a school year. She stated that she had been challenging these proposals. Mrs Burns also cast doubt upon the idea of cheaper holidays, given any change of term structure by saying that,

“The holiday companies would soon cotton on to it and nothing would change (with regard to cheaper holidays). I don’t see how that (argument) holds water”, a sentiment echoing that of Christine Blower.

A further argument put forward for this change is that it would allow for a better means of organising the curriculum. One head teacher in England argued that the changes would allow for ‘more equalised blocks of working which would be much better for curriculum planning and would be better in terms of levels of student and staff exhaustion’. Putting this point forward to Mrs Burns she responded by saying,

“Instinctively I don’t like the idea, but there is statistical evidence that the long summer break does give children too much time to forget what they are learning. The more successful European countries have shorter terms.There might be a discussion worth having about a four term year, it might serve small children, especially during the winter term”

This raised an important issue with regards to the lack of consistency with current term times and, when this was suggested to one local teacher, who asked not to be named, said,

“I can understand the argument that some of our terms are currently very long, with the present structuring, and, certainly, the autumn term leading up to Christmas can really take it out of all involved, pupils and teachers alike, but the summer holiday is almost an institution. It is a very long year and at the end of it we are all exhausted. I would suggest the first week of that summer break be a period for recovery and rest and then the last week is mostly used by teachers to prepare for the autumn term, whereby you simply hit the ground running almost immediately. I can see an argument for a five week summer break, but I would add that extra week on to the Christmas holiday, leaving the term length as it is. I can’t imagine the kind of chaos that would ensue if different schools had different term times – it makes you glad to be teaching in Wales if this is what is about to happen to our colleagues in England”

Seeking a response from the Head of Education in Pembrokeshire, Kate Evan-Hughes stated that,

“If such a policy were to be introduced in Wales, we, as a local education authority, would work with schools to minimise the impact and disruption for parents and students”

It certainly appears that whatever is decided upon in Wales, the policy is likely to cause at least some disruption and disorientation to parents, teachers and pupils when it is introduced into English schools.

However, a local Pembrokeshire school governor, who wished to be unnamed, did stress there may be some positives,

“From speaking to teachers I know it can take months for children to be re-focused after the summer holidays. I can see a four week holiday might be of benefit to help with this problem and pupils would re-focus much more quickly. Also, schools often struggle to keep children in school, holidays are cheaper (outside of current holiday times), but of course holiday companies would cotton on, but it could well cut down on unauthorised absences which is a real problem.”

It is an emotive issue and there are opinions for and against the change in England. No matter whether Wales adopts this policy or not, it seems from speaking with the various academic parties that, in Wales, there is at least a growing movement to question as to whether there should be a change to the structure of the school year and the amount of and length of terms. However, what are the impacts likely to be and who will it benefit? As Angela Burns states,

“This is a big decision that needs to be taken with all the consultation of teachers, unions, parents, governors, support services and businesses as it is a really radical move. If only one school did this it would be highly disruptive. It is a decision that needs proper analysis, research, evidence and consultation with everyone that it will affect. It is a huge change that needs investigating properly. It could be very unsuccessful”

Perhaps we, in Wales, should wait and see how successful it is in England before deciding upon a policy for Wales. After all, where education is concerned, risks simply cannot be taken with children’s academic futures. It is far too important for that and, surely, a measured and patient approach should be taken before any change is made, where quantifiable evidence has been studied and reflected upon before any final decision?

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Community

Top marks for Ysgol Casmael

Published

on

YSGOL CASMAEL in Puncheston are celebrating after being given an excellent report by school inspectorate, Estyn.

The rural north Pembrokeshire Primary school was inspected in November last year, and the report, published on Thursday, praised the school for their accomplishments.

The school was rated ‘Excellent’ in all five inspection areas.

Praising the school, the report said: “Leadership is strong and innovative and is developing the school as a very successful creative community, which makes the most of its local area to enrich its pupils’ education.”

“All members of staff have very high expectations to ensure the well-being and progress of all individuals.  This creates a healthy learning environment, in which all pupils are encouraged to work hard and create work of a high standard.  Nearly all pupils are extremely polite and treat each other and adults with a high level of respect.”

“Staff work together very effectively to plan an exciting, creative and stimulating curriculum for all pupils.  They provide practical and interesting experiences that engage nearly all pupils’ interest in full.  This helps pupils to develop as ambitious, confident and knowledgeable learners.”

Speaking specifically about standards at the school, Inspection Area 1, the report pays particular reference to the numeracy skills.  “More able pupils solve increasingly complex problems, for example when calculating the volume of different cylinders and prisms successfully”, giving this area and excellent judgement.

With regards to wellbeing and attitudes towards learning at the school, Inspection area 2 was again awarded an excellent judgement, the report states, “Nearly all pupils behave excellently in lessons, during break times and during periods while working independently.  Nearly all pupils are very keen to attend school daily, as they enjoy the exciting activities and the care that is available to them.”

Inspection area 3 is focused on Teaching and Learning Experiences, here inspectors praised the teachers for providing an “Exceptionally stimulating and creative curriculum for pupils, which develops their skills very successfully across all areas of learning.  Effective planning methods are preparing staff and pupils well to introduce the new curriculum.”  This again received a judgement of excellence.

A fourth excellent judgement was awarded for area 4, Care, support and guidance.  “The school promotes the importance of good behaviour, courtesy, respect and commitment very successfully.  As a result, pupils behave well consistently, are very polite and respectful towards each other and visitors, and apply themselves conscientiously to their activities….  All pupils have an individual development plan, class teachers give the content of these careful consideration when planning their lessons. “

Finally, Inspection area 5 makes a judgement on the leadership and management of the school.  “The head teacher has high expectations of herself, staff and pupils.  Her vision focuses clearly on supporting pupils’ wellbeing and developing ambitious and confident learners in a creative and Welsh environment…There is a strong sense of teamwork in the school…The school is an effective learning community in which staff learn from each other in a supportive environment…the school is innovative in developing a creative and stimulating curriculum that engages nearly all pupils’ interest in their learning.”  This area was also given a judgement of excellence.

Mrs Amanda Lawrence, head teacher at Ysgol Casmael, said: “I believe a team approach is essential to the success of any school, but particularly to a small school like ours, in a rural area.”

“Through working collaboratively with all stakeholders, we are ensuring that all pupils receive the best possible experiences in a homely environment, with a strong yet inclusive Welsh ethos.”

“I am so grateful to have the support of a strong team of highly experienced practitioners, a strong governing body, alongside supportive, appreciative parents, but above all I am grateful to our pupils, the individuals who make our journey towards a new curriculum in Wales so vitally important.  As we are receptive to their ideas, so they too are eager to take on board changes in our pedagogy with excitement and enthusiasm, this is what energises us as a staff to keep expanding our horizons.”
Mr Russel Evans, chair of Ysgol Casmael’s governing body, said: “On behalf of the Governors of Ysgol Casmael, I would like to thank and congratulate the school on their recent extremely successful and impressive inspection report.
As a governing body we are very aware of the hard work of the teaching staff and of the pupils in reaching these standards, together with the continued and constant support of the parents, non-teaching staff and the friends of the school.
As a school which values its community role, we are aware that the success of this school is dependent on everyone connected with our educational provision playing their part in our success and development.
May I also thank my fellow Governors for their hard work over the years and for their support to the school.”

Continue Reading

Community

Dairy challenges Pembrokeshire kids to win £1,000 for their school

Published

on

ECO-FRIENDLY kids in Pembrokeshire are being urged to get creative with recycling and win their school £1,000.

The call comes from Wales’s leading yoghurt producer, Llaeth y Llan, who want to hear from primary schools with wizard ideas for re-purposing their plastic pots.

They’re offering £1,000 for the school with the best plan for reusing those little pots in a fun and useful way.

And to show they’re serious about making sure Llaeth y Llan yoghurt even more environmentally friendly they are also urging schools to collect the lids and send them back to the dairy.

Llaeth y Llan have put up a total of £20,000 to encourage schools across Wales to recycle and Director Gruffudd Roberts said: “Climate change and the environment are now global issues and a lot of that is down to young people and their concerns.

“As a company we believe it’s vital to involve children in spreading the message of the importance of recycling to secure the future of our planet.

“We are extremely excited to see the designs created by each school using our pots.

“Not only is recycling our main focus, we are proud to fund prizes that will assist the children’s future.

“Being able to give £20,000 worth of prizes to schools whose budgets are stretched makes the project worthwhile.

“School funding is simply not going to buy vital equipment such as Chromebooks, garden supplies, sports gear and school trips. We want every school in Wales to have an equal opportunity to win their share of our £20,000 prize fund.”

Llaeth y Llan yoghurt, made with local Welsh milk, was started by dairy farmers Gareth and Falmai Roberts over 30 years ago and is still a family-run operation based at Tal y Bryn Farm, in the Vale of Clwyd.

These days though their yoghurts are on sale all over the country and are on the shelves of the UK’s biggest supermarkets like Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Co-Op’s.

Those distinctive pots now come off a state of the art production line and Gruffudd Roberts added: “We’ve already seen many innovative ideas for the pots from schools across Wales but there’s still time to stake your claims to a share of the £20,000 prize fund.

“We’d especially like schools to take pictures as they make their creations at each step and send them to us along with a main picture showing the end result.”

Entries for the competition close on February 25th and full details on how to take part in Llaeth y Llan’s are on the website at www.villagedairy.co.uk/school-registration/

Continue Reading

Education

No opt-out for learning about religion, relationships and sexuality

Published

on

PARENTS will not be able to prevent their children from learning about religion, relationships and sexuality in the new curriculum.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement this week, emphasising the need for ‘careful and sensitive implementation’ of the decision.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams told The Herald: “Our responsibility as a government is to ensure that young people, through public education, have access to learning that supports them to discuss and understand their rights and the rights of others.

“It is essential that all young people are provided with access to information that keeps them safe from harm.

“Today’s decision ensures that all pupils will learn about issues such as online safety and healthy relationships.

The announcement was made following an eight-week Welsh Government consultation on ensuring access to the full curriculum, including the teaching of Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Religious Education (RE).

Kirsty Williams added: “I recognise this is a sensitive matter and the consultation responses reflected a wide range of views.

“There is clearly a need for us to work with communities and all interested parties in developing the learning and teaching for RSE and RE – this work will be vital to enable everyone to have trust in how the change is implemented.”

The Minister outlined plans for implementation which include the creation of clear guidance, resources and professional learning for schools and the creation of a Faith/BAME Community Involvement Group to hold its first meeting this February.

The group will engage in the development of RSE guidance, develop a shared understanding of the new curriculum and address the concerns raised by faith and community groups during the consultation.

The Minister continued: “It is vital that we continue to work with communities across Wales to ensure parents have the right to develop, care for and guide their children into adulthood while allowing our schools to provide a broad and balanced education.  

We will build on the community engagement which accompanied the consultation with a long term investment in listening to our communities and finding ways to address the issues which concern them.

The Minister also confirmed plans to establish a new RSE Working Group that will oversee the refinement of the new RSE statutory guidance to form part of the new curriculum guidance.

The Minister added: “I want to take the opportunity in 2021 to test the approach for RSE prior to it being made statutory in the new curriculum.  

This will provide valuable intelligence to inform the refinement of our approach and will also enable learners, parents and carers and communities to see it working in practice and to feedback their views.”

Further details on this approach will be announced over the coming weeks.  The consultation also showed support for renaming the subject ‘Religious Education’.

The most popular choice from respondents was ‘Religion, Values and Ethics’ and, as a result, the Minister confirmed the subject name would change when the new curriculum comes into effect. The Terrence Higgins Trust said that the news was something they very much welcomed, and said that they have been campaigning for this for a number of years. The Trust said that Wales has very much lead the way on this one as the UK Government has resisted calls to remove the parental opt-out for lessons when RSE lessons become compulsory in England from September. Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy at the trust said: “By guaranteeing access to Relationships & Sexuality Education lessons for all pupils, Wales is leading the way. We’ve campaigned for compulsory RSE lessons for nearly four decades and until now far too many young people have learned about sex through whispers in the playground. 
“This decision by the Welsh Government will go some way to fixing this. It’s absolutely vital lessons are LGBT+ inclusive and have a strong focus on HIV and sexual health so all young people have the knowledge they need to form healthy and fulfilling relationships. We are now looking to the Welsh Government to continue leading the way by providing all schools with the resources and training they need to deliver these new lessons to the highest standard across the board.” 

Continue Reading
News16 hours ago

Town councillors object to hotel on health and safety grounds

TOWN COUNCILLORS in Milford Haven have unanimously voted to object to a planning application my Milford Haven Port Authority to...

Community16 hours ago

Start your career with the RNLI

THE RNLI is in search of new recruits to spend a season working on some of west Wales’ most popular...

News16 hours ago

Hook: Police name 13-year-old who sadly passed away last week

POLICE have named the pupil at Haverfordwest High who passed away on Wednesday last week (Jan 22.) A spokesman told...

Community17 hours ago

Top marks for Ysgol Casmael

YSGOL CASMAEL in Puncheston are celebrating after being given an excellent report by school inspectorate, Estyn. The rural north Pembrokeshire...

News2 days ago

Fishguard: Stiff sentences for £240 million drugs haul

TWO men who hid £60 million worth of cocaine on a yacht travelling from South America to the UK have...

News5 days ago

Narberth: ‘My mum’s camper was stolen and found burned out down the road’

A CAMPER VAN stolen on Thursday night in Narberth was found burned a short distance from where it was parked,...

Community5 days ago

Dairy challenges Pembrokeshire kids to win £1,000 for their school

ECO-FRIENDLY kids in Pembrokeshire are being urged to get creative with recycling and win their school £1,000. The call comes...

News5 days ago

Hook: Police and school confirm death of boy, 13

POLICE are investigating the sudden death of a 13-year-old boy from Hook on Wednesday (Jan 22) A police spokesman told...

News6 days ago

No action at Cardiff Airport over virus

THERE were no checks or screening at Cardiff airport this morning (Jan 23) as international concern continues to grow about...

Education1 week ago

No opt-out for learning about religion, relationships and sexuality

PARENTS will not be able to prevent their children from learning about religion, relationships and sexuality in the new curriculum....

Popular This Week