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.

Education

Doubts cast over Milford Haven secondary school refurbishment

Published

on

FRESH doubts have been cast over the refurbishment of Milford Haven Secondary School.

At a meeting of the Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, January 21, it was announced that it could be delayed until 2024.

The school had been earmarked for refurbishment but after costs were escalated due to the building’s poor state, it has been suggested that a new-build would be needed.

Cllr Viv Stoddart said she was ‘very disappointed’ by the new information and said that Milford Haven was coming out ‘second-best’.

Cllr Bob Kilmister said: “We are doing the prep work for Milford Haven in terms of where we go.

“The 21st Century Schools budget goes up to 2024 and there is a £15m gap at the moment. So if nothing happened we would need to fund £15m. That is unaffordable.

“I have been in contact with the Welsh Government to ask if they can expand our budget of £106m upwards. The extra budget gap would be £5m and that would be affordable.

“They have said they cant do that at the moment as we are not far enough down the program.

“We are looking at the options for Milford Haven. It was down as a refurbishment but that is just not an option that is viable. It would be very poor use of money.

“This administration’s intention is to try and complete the whole of the programme.”

Cabinet member for Education, Cllr Guy Woodham added: “There was an increased figure in the refurbishment of the building. That was still less than a new build but it did close gap.

“It was almost a no-brainer to go with the new build over the refurbishment.

“Both the secondary and primary schools in Milford Haven are in Band B which runs until 2025 but we are trying very hard to ensure we deliver all projects. I remain optimistic that we should be able to deliver all Band B projects.”

Cllr Stoddart responded saying she was ‘very pessimistic’ about it adding: “It has been at least two years since we had a meeting in Milford Haven School, we’ve had the problem with the
learning resource centre. I find this information very disappointing.”

Cllr Woodham added that Haverfordwest had been the main project in Band B and that the next one on the list was Milford Haven.

Cllr Ken Rowlands said that the people in Milford should have the same sort of facilities that are on offer elsewhere in the county and that they shouldn’t be ‘short-changed’.

Continue Reading

Education

PembrokeshireCollege receives Carers Scheme award

Published

on

PEMBROKESHIRE COLLEGE has recently been recognised for its work to support staff and students with caring responsibilities securing a Bronze Award in the Investors in Carers Scheme.

 

Delivered by Hywel Dda University Health Board, and supported by its local authority and third sector partners in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, the Investors in Carers scheme is designed to help health, social care, and other institutions to focus on  their carer awareness and to improve the help and support that they can offer to carers.

 

Pennie Muir, Lead at Investors for Carers, presented Pembrokeshire College Safeguarding and Wellbeing Officer, Judith Evans, with the award and commented on the College’s achievement saying: “Pembrokeshire College have been recognised for their commitment to supporting unpaid carers and their families within both their student and their staff communities.

“Originally designed to help health facilities such as GP practices, areas within hospitals and other organisations to focus on and improve their carer awareness and enhance the help and support they give unpaid carers of all ages, the Scheme has been expanded to education settings including secondary schools and colleges. Pembrokeshire College joins the other two Colleges in the west Wales region to have achieved this level.”

There are approximately 30,000 carers under the age of 25 in Wales with a carer being defined as someone who provides care to an adult or disabled child.

Pembrokeshire College are committed to actively seeking to identify and support young carers and to provide the best resources and support possible to ensure that they can continue to study alongside their caring responsibilities.

Judith expressed it was a proud moment and a positive step forward to supporting these young carers: We are delighted to have achieved the Investors in Carers Bronze Award. We have worked hard to develop the services we provide for our learners and staff with caring responsibilities and feel that the changes we have made to support them are already making a difference and have ideas for further developments in the future. The Investors in Carers team have been so helpful, providing us with ideas, resources and information. We look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”

Continue Reading

Education

Schools to stay closed in Wales as coronavirus situation worsens

Published

on

THE WELSH GOVERNMENT, in consultation with the WLGA and Colegau Cymru, has just agreed that all schools and colleges will move to online learning until January 18.

The Welsh Government says it will use the next two weeks to continue to work with local authorities, schools and colleges to best plan for the rest of term.

In a statement education minister Kirsty Williams said: “This is the best way to ensure that parents, staff and learners can be confident in the return to face to face learning, based on the latest evidence and information.

“Schools and colleges will remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable learners, as well as for learners who need to complete essential exams or assessments.

“We had already ensured that schools had full flexibility in the first two weeks of term to decide when to reopen based on local circumstances.

Reacting to the announcement, Suzy Davies MS – the Shadow Minister for Education – said: “With many children having been due to begin a ‘staggered’ return to school from Wednesday onwards, this news has come late for them and for their parents.”

The closure will affect all primary and secondary schools, and additional learning needs (ALN) bases will remain open “if possible”.

However, schools and colleges will remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable learners, as well as for learners who need to complete essential exams or assessments

Welsh Conservative Mrs Davies continued: “Because of the planned staggered return, we were told that teachers were preparing online, blended learning. I hope, and I’m sure all parents and pupils feel the same, that these systems can be adapted for this full closure.

“What parents, pupils, and teachers across Wales need is reassurance from the Minister as to what conditions must be met for schools to re-open, because while a prudent measure, to read that the next two weeks will be used to plan for ‘… rest of term’ offers little reassurance.

“This announcement, however, reinforces our calls for teachers to be prioritised to receive the new vaccine, because this virus has damaged our young learners’ education enough.”

Laura Doel, Director of NAHT Cymru, the Welsh school leaders’ union said: “The decision to close schools to gain control of Coronavirus has been inevitable for some time. The announcement this evening will bring some much-needed clarity to the situation.

“Besides parents and carers there is no one more committed to the education and welfare of children at school than school leaders and their teams. NAHT Cymru members want children back in school as soon as possible and the restricted attendance from tomorrow should be used to organise an orderly and sustainable return.

“The Welsh Government has repeatedly said it wants to prioritise education, in that case it must also prioritise safety in schools and the communities schools serve.

“Work should be undertaken with school leaders and Public Health Wales to establish and agree new Covid-related safety measures in schools during the temporary restriction for implementation in good time prior to lifting restrictions.

“There needs to focus on vaccinating staff so that further disruption to teaching and learning can be ruled out.

“Welsh Government must also urgently review its approach to special schools given the statement that states special schools should remain open if possible. This once again demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the complexities faced in special schools in keeping covid restrictions in place.

“It is uncertain whether the next two weeks will be enough time to ensure a fully risk-assessed plan is put in place to facilitate the safe return with a properly organised and resourced testing regime and priority vaccinations for staff, but I know that NAHT Cymru members stand ready to work with the government for the good of all children. For its part the government should be prepared to work directly with leaders from every phase and sector of education.”

 

FULL WRITTEN STATEMENT
Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education

The situation in Wales and across the UK remains very serious. Today, the four UK Chief Medical Officers have agreed that the UK is now at the highest level of risk, Joint Biosecurity Council level 5.

In the light of that decision the Welsh Government, in consultation with the WLGA and Colegau Cymru, has agreed that all schools, colleges and independent schools should move to online learning until January 18th.

As a government we will use the next two weeks to continue to work with local authorities, schools and colleges to plan for the rest of term.

This is the best way to ensure that parents, staff and learners can be confident in the return to face to face learning, based on the latest evidence and information.

Schools and colleges will remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable learners, as well as for learners who need to complete essential exams or assessments. On this basis Special Schools and PRU’s should remain open if possible.

We had initially given schools flexibility in the first two weeks of term to decide when to reopen based on local circumstances.

But it is now clear that a national approach of online learning for the first fortnight of term is the best way forward.

We know that schools and colleges have been safe and secure environments throughout the pandemic.

However, we also know that education settings being open can contribute to wider social mixing outside the school and college environment.

We are confident that schools and colleges have online learning provision in place for this immediate period,

Universities in Wales have already agreed a staggered start to term. Students should not return to universities for face to face learning until they are notified that they can do so.

Wales remains in the highest level of restrictions. Everyone must stay at home.

I will continue to update members.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.

Continue Reading
News13 hours ago

Chief inspector of Immigration to review use of Penally Training Camp

THE CHIEF INSPECTOR of Borders and Immigration, Mr David Bolt, is to commence a review into the use of hotels...

News19 hours ago

From ‘coke to smoke’: Huge haul of contraband found in Hakin drug den

POLICE have released a photograph of a haul of illegal drugs found during a raid on a property in Hakin...

News22 hours ago

Suspended sentence activated after woman smeared faeces on car

A WOMAN who smeared faeces on a car just hours after being handed a suspended sentence has been jailed. Lucy...

News2 days ago

County Council seeking ‘full cost recovery’ for Penally Camp involvement

COUNCILLORS will hear an update on Tuesday (January 26) on the County Council’s involvement with Penally Asylum Camp. The council...

News2 days ago

Concern over misuse of Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard

PEMBROKESHIRE residents are being asked not to wear the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower as proof of exemption from wearing a face...

News2 days ago

Pembrokeshire residents aged 75 to 79 years to receive their first COVID vaccine

LETTERS will arrive in the coming days inviting Pembrokeshire residents aged 75 to 79 years to receive their first COVID...

News3 days ago

A4076 reopens following accident where everyone ‘miraculously walked away’

THERE was a road traffic accident in icy and snowy conditions on the A4076 Dredgemans Hill on Sunday afternoon. Emergency...

News4 days ago

Paul Davies MS quits as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd

PRESELI Pembrokeshire MS Paul Davies quit as Leader of the Conservatives in the Senedd this morning. The Conservatives’ Chief Whip...

News5 days ago

Asylum seekers to be moved out of the former Penally Army Training Camp

ASYLUM SEEKERS are to be moved out of the former Penally Army Training Camp; the Home Office have confirmed. Camp...

Education6 days ago

Doubts cast over Milford Haven secondary school refurbishment

FRESH doubts have been cast over the refurbishment of Milford Haven Secondary School. At a meeting of the Schools and...

Popular This Week