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Education

Report highlights fall in primary standards

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THE EDUCATION watchdog, Estyn, this week published a report stating that standards in Welsh primary education had declined in 2014. They further stated

Numeracy Problems: Estyn flag primary concerns.

Numeracy Problems: Estyn flag primary concerns.

that 2 out of every 3 schools required some level of follow up by the Inspectorate. They did however confirm that attendance rates had improved.

Estyn reported that the proportion of primary schools with good or excellent standards fell from 7 in 10 to just over 6 in 10. In many cases, this was, they said, due to weaknesses in pupils’ numeracy skills and pupils’ lack of confidence in using these skills in other subjects across the curriculum. Alarmingly, they identified maths as a problem subject across primary and secondary schools and that assessment by teachers was another problem area, in that there was a mismatch in the levels awarded by staff and the evidence of the work that they had seen. There was also concern that younger pupils were being prepared for testing in a more structured and ‘formal teaching style’ at some schools, which went against the ethos of the Foundation scheme.

Dr. Philip Dixon, Director of the teachers union, ATL Cymru, said: “Again and again the report points out that numeracy remains the weak point in many of our schools and colleges. We now need to bring the same focus to numeracy as we did to literacy, which has shown much greater improvement. Leadership, too, is identified in the report as something that needs attention. The Welsh Government will need to be careful that its new accountability mechanisms, such as categorisation, do not increase the tendency for leaders to think only of their own institution.”

Shadow Education Minister, Conservative AM Angela Burns told the Herald: “I was pleased to see that the annual report from Estyn shows that in some areas there has been some small improvements in school performance and students’ attainment. However whilst the improvement in secondary schools is welcome I am very concerned to see that standards in primary have dropped. This drop in performance must be addressed robustly otherwise we will see secondary schools struggling to maintain their improvements as cohorts move through. Other areas that continue to show weaknesses are numeracy performance, pupil referral units and attainment levels by our most disadvantaged students. There is also a growing problem, reflected by students I speak to, with applied science. If we want to keep abreast of global trends we need to ensure that our students are able to hold their own in a competitive world and sciences, maths and literacy are absolutely key.”

Plaid Cymru AM, Simon Thomas commented: “Standards in primary schools have declined this year and, in many cases, this was due to weaknesses in pupils’ numeracy skills. It is a concern that Estyn has found too many teachers lack the appropriate mathematical knowledge to exploit opportunities to develop pupils’ numeracy skills. Independent evaluations of the Welsh Government’s flagship education policies show that children in Wales are no better off because of a Labour Government. Significant changes will not happen on the slashed budgets that Labour is passing on to our local authorities and schools.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We welcome the current Chief Inspector’s final comprehensive report and thank Estyn for their hard work. We particularly welcome Estyn’s recognition of the new momentum for improvement that exists within the Welsh education system. We must now work together to build on that momentum and focus on key issues, such as leadership, which will ensure the improvements we want to see. Building an excellent education system is an ambition shared by everyone in the sector.”

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Education

Phoebe-Lily shines in Royal Opera House design challenge

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PEMBROKESHIRE COLLEGE says it is proud to announce that Phoebe-Lily, a Graphics & Illustration student, has been awarded a ‘Commended’ judgment for her outstanding set design entry to the Royal Opera House Design Challenge. Phoebe’s entry was based on the production of ‘Barber of Seville’ and showcased remarkable creativity and skill.

Phoebe-Lily Williams was among ten Further Education students commended by the judges for their exceptional contributions.

The Royal Opera House Design Challenge provides a platform for young talents across the UK to demonstrate their creative abilities in set design. Phoebe’s commendation reflects her commitment to excellence and innovation in her field.

Upon receiving the commendation, Phoebe expressed her gratitude for the support she received from her tutors at Pembrokeshire College. She remarked, “I was more illustrative, and my tutors were very supportive. I want to go on to study set design and production, so Lou showed me the design challenge and said it would be okay to do that instead of a packaging brief.”

Phoebe chose Pembrokeshire College for its tailored modules that aligned with her career aspirations. She found the course to be conducive to developing the skills necessary for her desired path. “I enjoyed the process as it felt very liberating and positive, knowing that my tutors were encouraging and supportive of my career and study goals,” she added.

The Royal Opera House has invited the twenty winning, highly commended, and commended students, including Phoebe, to attend an awards ceremony on June 4, 2024. This event will provide them with an opportunity to interact with professionals in the field and gain insights into the day-to-day workings of the Royal Opera House.

Additionally, the public will have the chance to view the winning, highly commended, and commended works at an exhibition in the Linbury Foyer at the Royal Opera House from May 27 to June 10, 2024.

Amy McGann, Head of National Schools Programmes at the Royal Opera House, commended the participants for their creativity and expressed excitement about providing professional feedback to students from various educational settings. She stated, “The level of creativity from the young people across the country in this year’s Design Challenge has been high. As well as celebrating the Winners, Highly Commended, and Commended, we are looking forward to delivering professional feedback to students from an ever-widening set of participating educational settings.”

Phoebe-Lily Williams and her fellow commandeers represent the future of set design and production, and their achievements are a testament to their talent and hard work.

To find out more about the creative courses available at the College please visit www.pembrokeshire.ac.uk

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Education

Pembrokeshire schools achieve milestone for careers award

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32 schools in Wales have successfully completed the first stage of the new Careers Wales Quality Award, including Pembrokeshire Learning Centre.

The award supports schools and settings with learners aged 3-16 with the development of purposeful and relevant careers and work-related experiences (CWRE) across the curriculum.

The schools are taking part in the pilot of the new award and are working closely with dedicated curriculum coordinators from Careers Wales to develop a CWRE model that works best for the individual school and its pupils.

This stage forms the first of three stages, each with a different focus. Titled leadership, it forms the basis for the required ongoing development of pupils’ careers learning. 

WALES NEWS SERVICE

Jeremy Miles, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy & Welsh Language, said: “Well done to all the schools taking part for their commitment to their pupil’s future career and work-related opportunities.

“It’s so important for children and young people to learn about the different pathways available to them to ease the transition from education to successful employment, and each school’s work-related experiences action plan will support this continuous development.

“We want to do everything we can to help our children and young people achieve their full potential. By developing work related experiences across the curriculum our schools can support their learners to go on to play their full part in our economy and society.”

As part of the leadership stage, the schools have worked closely with Careers Wales to create an action plan, a vision and strategy for CWRE, and have planned for the regular monitoring and review of this activity.

This stage has also seen the school identify the roles needed to facilitate effective development of CWRE and commit to allocate sufficient resources.

Jo Thomas, Teacher in Charge at Pembrokeshire Learning Centre, said: “The award has helped us enormously and has enabled us to develop best practice within the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre. We now have a robust policy in place, with clear aims as to the breadth of Careers Education.

“By doing the Quality Award, we are beginning to embed CWRE into our curriculum in a way that it incorporates all pupils.”

Nikki Lawrence, chief executive at Careers Wales, said: “A huge congratulations to all the schools who have completed the leadership stage of the Careers Wales Quality Award.

“Each school’s commitment to the award illustrates their ongoing dedication to provide their pupils with high quality careers and work-related experiences.

“Quality careers support equips young people with the vital skills, knowledge and resources to succeed, as well as benefitting the local community and economy in Wales with a capable, confident and motivated future workforce.

“We look forward to progressing through the award process alongside the participating schools. Together, we will achieve our shared objective to empower pupils with the ability to make informed decisions about their futures and take steps towards success.”

Following a successful pilot, the award has been designed to be launched nationally across Wales.

For more information on the award, visit the Careers Wales Quality Award pilot webpage.

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Education

Exciting visit to France for Pembrokeshire school pupils

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LAST week, 60 children and 16 teaching staff visited the Bassin d’Arcachon in France as part of a Taith funded project. 

The children, representing Pennar Community School, Neyland Community School, Prendergast Community School, Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi and Haverfordwest High School, engaged in a week of activities with French school children. 

They visited lessons, took part in dancing, art, maths and playground games, all with the aim of developing modern foreign language skills, exploring cultural similarities and differences as well as having an overarching theme of sustainability in schools and caring for the environment. 

The children explored the Dune de Pilat, the largest natural sand dune in Europe, and Biscarosse beach where they undertook beach and environmental studies.

The town of Neyland has had a twinning connection with the town of Sanguinet for more than ten years and this trip allowed these friendships to develop further and pave the way for a return visit by up to 20 French children next year.

The group was hosted by the twinning committee and the mayor at a reception in the town hall where the children had the opportunity to sample local dishes.

The children and staff were excellent ambassadors for their schools and for Pembrokeshire, laying the foundations for future collaborations.

Taith is Wales’ international learning exchange programme, with taith being Welsh for journey.

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