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Education

Let’s celebrate achievements!

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Pembrokeshire buildings: a Highly Commended Certificate and prize

Pembrokeshire buildings: a Highly Commended Certificate and
prize

A MORNING of celebration was held on Monday (Nov 24) as pupils were recognised for their achievements in various extracurricular activities. Three pupils were awarded with the schools Disgybl Disglair award ( Pupil of the Week) which recognises when pupils go that extra mile in their school work but also in other aspects of school life.

Congratulations to Mari Williams, Michael Lewis and Callum Harries on their achievements in academic areas but also for their work with the School Council and the transition presentation to governors, councillors and Local Authority officers including Mrs Kate Evan- Hughes, Director of Education on November 19th. Pupils received their certificates and vouchers following Year 7,8 and 9 assembly.

Also celebrating were several pupils who have recently received recognition of their history project work by the Pembrokeshire Historic Buildings Trust Schools Competition2014. All pupils attended a celebration ceremony in Haverfordwest but also received whole school recognition in a presentation of certificates on November 24th. Pupils had prepared a variety of projects on Pembrokeshire buildings including Pembroke and Carew and also St David’s Cathedral.

Well done to everyone who received a Highly Commended Certificate and prize , and also a Certificate of Achievement award. Also celebrating were pupils who contributed to the recent Sports Pembrokeshire Secondary Schools Football tournament who won both the under 14s and under 16s competition. This was a great opportunity for pupils to take part in an inclusive activity to promote team building and skills such as working with others.

Congratulations to all on their achievements. The school also welcomed members of the Lions Club to distribute the Peace Poster Competition prizes in collaboration with the Ysgol Bro Gwaun’s Art Department. Lions Bob Wheatley and Delia Smith together with the President and Mayoress Mrs Rhian Lloyd congratulated the three winning pupils and distributed various prizes and certificates.

This year’s winner was Emma Harries with a beautiful poster giving her interpretation of Peace but also demonstrating her effective artistic skills and techniques. The school greatly appreciates the support and interest shown by the Lions in the school’s progress and development. Well done also to Charlotte Gethin and Kate Hawkins who came second and third respectively. Congratulations to everyone who supported this initiative again this year . Da iawn i bawb!

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Education

Estyn decision to scrap headline gradings has ‘lifted a burden’ on schools

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Estyn’s decision to remove gradings such as “excellent”, “adequate” or “needs improvement” from inspection reports has lifted a burden on schools, a committee heard.

Owen Evans, Estyn’s chief inspector, told the Senedd’s education committee that feedback from schools since scrapping the headline gradings has been overwhelmingly positive.

Giving evidence on Estyn’s 2022-23 report, Mr. Evans said the new approach has led to a far more professional dialogue with schools about what’s working and what’s not.

“I think that’s been incredibly refreshing,” he said. “There are several layers of pressure that come with an Estyn inspection of a school….

“The removal of summative judgements and the fact that you’re going to be labelled with that one word, has lifted a burden on the sectors that we look at.”

‘Outlier’

However, Mr Evans stressed that removing gradings must be seen as a trial.

He said: “We are a bit of an outlier. We are still the only inspectorate in the British Isles that has removed summative judgements and a lot of eyes are on us about how this is working.”

Mr Evans, who has been in post for two years, added that Estyn is likely to carry out a review to ensure the reforms have led to further improvements.

He said it was important to introduce parental reports given the removal of gradings, suggesting that reports for learners themselves could also be on the horizon.

Asked about Estyn’s funding, which has increased from £11.5m in 2021-22 to £16m currently, Mr Evans told the committee the uplift was due to the pandemic.

‘Backlog’

He told the committee the interruption created a huge backlog and Estyn needed to increase capacity to finish its six-year cycle of inspections by the end of the current academic year.

Mr Evans said 90%-plus of the uplift has gone on additional inspections and inspectors.

Arguing the additional funding should become a part of the inspectorate’s baseline budget, he told MSs that Estyn will start visiting schools twice every six years from September.

He explained that the main inspection has been slightly curtailed, so Estyn can afford to have an interim inspection after three years rather than a “big bang” every six.

“It’s imperative the budget stays at that or slightly higher,” he said. “But we realise there’s a lot of pressure on the system – we have to demonstrate the value of what we’re doing.”

‘Self-evaluation’

Laura Anne Jones, for the Conservatives, raised concerns about an emphasis on self-evaluation, saying: “I don’t think anyone’s going to mark themselves badly.”

Laura Anne Jones MS speaking in the Senedd
South Wales East MS Laura Anne Jones MS is the Conservative shadow education minister

Mr Evans shared the shadow education minister’s concerns as he warned that self-evaluation is not yet strong enough within schools for Estyn to rely on it.

The chief inspector, who was previously S4C’s chief executive and a senior Welsh Government civil servant, warned that the pandemic continues to cast a shadow.

Mr Evans said variability between schools has widened, raising attendance as an example.

“Some are coping and some are not,” he told MSs: “I think the social contract between schools and parents has, to a degree, broken down.”

‘Stubborn’

Claire Morgan, a strategic director at Estyn, said average attendance is 87.5%, meaning pupils are missing 12 days of education in an academic year “which is far too much”.

She called for more to be done to tackle “stubborn” attendance issues, saying successful schools have a strong community focus.

Mr Evans said exclusions are rising while the number of children and young people going into pupil referral units has doubled since the pandemic.  

He said pupil referral units are no longer helping learners return to mainstream education.

He said: “The wave of anecdote I hear – from everyone from headteachers to teachers and caretakers to support staff – is behaviour, particularly out of the classroom, has worsened.”

‘Relentless’

On Wales’ poor performance in the latest Pisa results, Mr Evans said he was disappointed but not shocked as he called for a “relentless” focus on standards.

He said the results reinforce Estyn’s previous annual reports, which have long raised concerns about numeracy, science and literacy.

Mr Evans suggested a focus on the new curriculum has taken away from subject specialism.

Asked about the impact of poverty on attainment, he said the pupil development grant can make a difference but he suggested the funding is being used to plug budget gaps.

The chief inspector also raised concerns about “great deficiencies” in recruiting teachers in terms of the Welsh language and secondary school subjects such as maths.

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Education

Castle School closure certain now rescue plan has failed

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PARENTS have been informed that the highly regarded Castle School, a beacon of independent education since its establishment in 2009 in Cresselly, is on the verge of closing down, with no rescue plan in sight.

The institution, which began with a mere 22 secondary-aged pupils, saw significant growth over the years, relocating to Narberth in 2015 and later to Haverfordwest. The school, known for its broad curriculum catering to pupils from the age of three to 18, prides itself on an ‘exceptionally high academic performance’, boasting an average of 95 per cent A*-C grades at GCSE.

Despite its academic success, the school announced earlier this month that it would be shutting its doors to the majority of its pupils come July, though it will remain operational for current GCSE and A Level students until their examinations are completed the following year.

Harriet Harrison, the headteacher and proprietor, expressed that the decision to close was made with a ‘heavy heart’ and after considerable deliberation. The news has left many parents in a scramble to secure alternative educational arrangements for their children.

A glimmer of hope appeared when Dr Mark Boulcott, a local dentist and retired army officer with a daughter at the school, presented a rescue plan. “I am doing what I can as quickly as I can. I am doing my very best to stop the closure of a great school,” Dr Boulcott stated, signalling his commitment to prevent the closure.

The school was envisioned to transition into a charitable organisation, with Dr Boulcott collaborating with Mrs Harrison until the end of this academic year before assuming full leadership in July. Unfortunately, this plan has been rendered unviable, with Dr Boulcott disclosing that from a business standpoint, the school’s recovery from the Covid crisis was insurmountable under the current conditions, making the prospect of taking over ‘untenable’.

In an earnest letter to the parents, which was obtained by The Pembrokeshire Herald, Dr Boulcott lamented that the challenges of establishing the school elsewhere were too great, necessitating a considerable investment and an estimated two years to navigate bureaucratic hurdles.

“It is with regret that without immediate extensive capital investment, something we do not have, school purchase resurrection or reorganisation is impossible,” Dr Boulcott concluded in his correspondence with the parents, effectively extinguishing the last embers of hope for the school’s survival.

As the community grapples with the impending loss of Castle School, the situation underscores the continuing pressures faced by independent educational institutions in the post-pandemic landscape.

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Education

Childcare students beat to the rhythm in inspirational drumming workshop

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PEMBROKESHIRE COLLEGE’S Childcare students recently had the enriching opportunity to participate in a captivating drumming workshop led by Lox, where they not only delved into the vibrant rhythms of African drums but also gained insights into Lox’s philanthropic endeavours through his charity, Love Your Neighbour.

The workshop offered an immersive experience into Lox’s upbringing in Kenya, where drums were not just instruments but integral components of culture and community. Through engaging discussions, Lox shared his journey and shed light on the impactful work his charity undertakes, particularly in supporting social and educational projects in Kilfi, Kenya.

Lauren Owen, a Childcare lecturer at Pembrokeshire College, expressed her enthusiasm about the session, stating, “During our session with Lox, we were able to learn about the importance of music in our lives and the significance of offering musical opportunities to children. We discussed the role of music in self-expression, celebration, and community cohesion.”

Students echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the value of incorporating music into children’s developmental activities. One student remarked, “The session gave us so much to think about – valuing music as a key developmental tool for children, as well as considering the wider impact music can have on us all. A big thank you to Lox.”

The workshop not only provided an avenue for cultural exchange but also equipped students with practical insights into incorporating music into their childcare practices. They learned key musical rhythms and explored ways to integrate music for children’s holistic development, fostering creativity, expression, and social interaction.

Moreover, discussions on the barriers to education faced by young people in Kenya offered a broader perspective on global challenges and the role of education in fostering positive change.

To find out more about the Childcare courses offered at the College, please visit: www.pembrokeshire.ac.uk

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