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Education

New school rating system

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A NEW grading system for education, recently introduced into Wales, has published its first results.

Education Minister: No hiding place for under performing schools.

Education Minister: No hiding place for under performing schools.

Under the new grading, schools are rated via a colour coding system. Green and yellow schools are seen as highly effective, whereas those coded red and amber are shown as schools in need of improvement, with red schools in need of greatest improvement. In Pembrokeshire, 7 schools are listed as green, but alarmingly, 4 are listed as red: Ysgol Gynradd Eglwyswrw, Haverfordwest CIW Voluntary Controlled School, Ysgol Bro Gwaun and Tasker Milward V.C. School.

The Welsh Government believe that the new system will help all schools to improve by judging them over a 3 year period rather than just one year. Spearheading the changes, Welsh Education Minister Huw Lewis, said: “Under this system, there is no hiding place for schools that don’t deliver for the most disadvantaged pupils. We have deliberately set a high bar – I make no apology for that. Under the new system you don’t get to call yourself a top performing school, unless the results of your poorest pupils reach a certain basic standard. If there are those who seriously want to argue with the basic fairness of that, then good luck to them.”

However, NAHT Cymru director Dr Chris Howard said: “The new school categorisation system will anger many schools in Wales at a time when the minister should be recognising the hard work that’s been done to raise standards. It will do nothing to encourage schools and teachers working with the most challenging communities. The categorisation system was supposed to show which schools needed most help. It will not be seen that way. It will stigmatise schools and the professionals in them.”

Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister, Simon Thomas, said: “This system is no longer a league table of schools but an attempt to recognise where failure lies. The Minister must now demonstrate he has chosen the correct criteria for categorisation and is delivering the right support to the right schools for improvement. The new school categorisation system is a step in the right direction in that, unlike banding a school can move up in the system without another school moving down.

“The system is also supposed to take into account the environment the school is working in and its capacity to self-improve. Plaid Cymru always warned that banding did not provide a whole view of a school’s performance. We believe that pitting schools against each other is destructive and should not happen. We have long called for support to be provided for under-performing schools throughout Wales.”

Shadow Education Minister, Angela Burns, stated: “Schools throughout Wales will be very relieved that the Welsh Labour Government have finally come to their senses and scrapped the deeply unpopular and divisive school banding system. The new School Categorisation system is a move in the right direction but is still throwing up extraordinary anomalies where schools with recent excellent Estyn inspection reports are in the Amber (in need of improvement) category.

“The good news is that schools will be judged over a three year period rather than just one and some form of outcome monitoring is to be welcome. However adding primary schools into the mix and altering the baseline measures for all schools will create more work for teachers to understand the new colour coded performance targets, create further anomalies and can demoralise well performing schools. It remains to be seen whether the Red, Amber, Yellow, Green traffic light system is coherent, accurate and meaningful or simply a colourful whitewash for Government failure.”

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Education

Teacher’s gruelling challenge to help visually impaired child

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TEACHER Sion Jenkins is running 100 laps around a famous Pembrokeshire landmark to raise money to help a visually impaired child in his class.

He is aiming to raise £2,000 on crowd funder platform Go Fund Me by doing laps of Carew Castle and Mill in just 24 hours, about one hundred miles in total.

Sion said: “I decided that I wanted to raise money to help purchase a trike/adapted bike to help a visually impaired child in my class.

“Due to his sight, he isn’t able to ride a bike – and is desperate to gain some independence/confidence and ride a bike like every other child.

“On the back of a challenge set by school, to complete the ‘100 challenge’ as a tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore, I decided to tie the two together and have a go at completing this gruelling challenge.

“100 laps of Carew Castle and Mill will total just under 100 miles – in less than 24 hours.”

If you would like to contribute to this epic challenge this is the link:

https://uk.gofundme.com/f/carew-mill-100-laps-in-24-hours?

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Education

Schools partnership promotes the benefits of outdoor learning

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OUTDOOR learning across the county has received a welcome boost over the past 12 months as a result of additional funding secured by the Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools (PODS) project, which has covered the cost of a Co-ordinator working directly with schools.

Thanks to financial backing from the People’s Postcode Local Trust and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust, the PODS Co-ordinator has been able to help with the delivery of high quality, curriculum-linked learning experiences in school grounds and local outdoor spaces.

Part of the Co-ordinator’s role is also to bring together local and national organisations, including Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Discovery team, teachers and head teachers. Pooling their diverse knowledge and expertise, the partnership seeks to share good practice and promote the benefits of taking lessons outdoors.

Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools Co-ordinator Bryony Rees said: “Last summer, the Welsh Government recognised the importance of outdoor learning in the post-lockdown return to school. We have been working hard to support this by giving children and teachers increased opportunities to take their learning outdoors.

“We have already engaged with a number of schools across Pembrokeshire and produced some live webinars. Supporting resources for these can be found on HWB. This has made it possible to reach out to even more schools with practical information, inspiration and advice on delivering outdoor learning programmes.

“Several schools have taken the opportunity to develop their school grounds to support outdoor learning and more recently, Neyland Community School has introduced outdoor lessons every Friday.”

During the most recent lockdown, work has continued online and the PODS website has been developed to provide teachers with some learning resources. Outdoor learning ideas and inspiration for teachers and parents are also shared on the PODS Facebook page (Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools) and on Twitter @PembsOutdoorSch.

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Education

Education announcement welcomed by Pembrokeshire County Council

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THE LOCAL AUTHORITY has said that it welcomes the Welsh Government’s announcement today (Friday, 29th January) that schools will be the first to reopen when Wales’ current lockdown restrictions are lifted.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that the ‘alert level four’ restrictions will remain in Wales for three more weeks but following that period, there would be a ‘phased and flexible back-to-school approach if coronavirus cases continue to fall’.

He said primary school children would be the first to return, if the public health situation continues to improve, and that students studying vocational qualifications would also be among those prioritised for the phased return to colleges.

Mr Drakeford said: “We’ve seen a really welcome fall in cases of the virus all over Wales, but they are still too high and the NHS continues to be under intense pressure.

“We need to keep the lockdown restrictions in place for a little while longer to help us bring rates of the virus down further. If we can do this, we will create the headroom we need to get children back to school after half term – starting with the youngest at primary schools.

“We will work with teachers, colleges, local authorities to plan for the safe return of children to school over the next couple of weeks and keep parents updated.”

Pembrokeshire’s Director of Education, Steven Richards-Downes, will be meeting virtually with Welsh Government ministers today together with other Education Directors.

Mr Richards-Downes said: “We welcome the Welsh Government’s statement that schools will be the first to reopen, whenever that may be.

“We will continue to work directly with unions, headteachers, governing bodies and other Council services to ensure that schools are Covid-safe when they are re-opened.

“Distance learning will continue for now and parents should contact their schools directly if they have any queries regarding this.”

He added: “Any parent experiencing difficulties with digital exclusion should contact their school directly.

Free school meals payments will continue to be paid to families who have applied for them, as planned. The next payments will be made on Thursday, 4th February.

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