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Crabb slams Labour on education



WELSH SECRETARY and local MP, Stephen Crabb, has hit out at the Welsh Government for, what he believes, is their role in

Stephen Crabb: The news is "deeply concerning"

Stephen Crabb: The news is “deeply concerning”

Wales continuing to be at the bottom of the UK’s academic table.

At a manufacturing centre in Pencoed he made a speech making a direct link between academic achievement and business success in Wales, saying: “Here in Wales, I don’t believe we have had enough focus on the vital role of education when it comes to our economic performance. As the global economy continues to change, levels of education and skills will become an even more important factor for inward investment decisions. Our vision of a rebalanced economy puts such a strong focus on education and skills. Wales needs this kind of focus as much as anywhere else. Our economic performance remains at the bottom of the UK league table. We should be asking some very hard questions indeed about Welsh educational trends over the last generation. We have not been setting our sights high enough when it comes to our vision for Welsh education. When it comes to the education of our young talent in Wales, we are simply not doing well enough”.

He went on to talk about problems with numeracy and literacy skills within Welsh education: “One of the most important vocational skills is being able to read well, or write well, or have confidence in basic maths. I know of firms where part of young people’s apprenticeships is to go back and get the minimum C qualification in Maths or English. Because these are vocational skills too. More than 40 percent of businesses in Wales say that their workers do not have the basic literacy skills they need.”

He also linked foreign language acquisition to literacy skills, as Wales has become increasingly focussed on the Welsh language to, what some argue, is the detriment of learning modern foreign languages. Mr Crabb said: “There was a view some years back that English would become the ‘lingua franca’ of global business and that the power of Microsoft and the internet would reduce the need for language skills. The opposite has turned out to be true. In the global economy language skills are more highly valued than ever before.

“A recent skills survey conducted by the CBI showed that 70 per cent of businesses valued foreign language skills to build better relationships with their clients, suppliers and customers. Wales has seen a drastic decline in foreign language study since the late 1990s – both at GCSE and A Levels. These qualifications are the gateway to foreign language degree level courses, the Erasmus Scheme and so many other life and career enhancing opportunities overseas for Welsh youngsters.”

Finally, the MP made a direct criticism of the performance of the Welsh Assembly Government, stating: “We need Welsh Ministers to embrace this agenda more positively. In Westminster there has been twenty years of robust debate and argument about school standards, school structures, school leadership, parental choice – every aspect of the education system. That, I believe, is the kind of honesty and the level of commitment to education that business leaders and parents want to see from Welsh Ministers too.

“Here in Wales it’s not just a question of reforms not happening, we haven’t even begun to have that debate. Welsh parents, pupils and teachers deserve better. Economic ambition has got to include a vision for excellence and aspiration in our schools and throughout our education system.”

In response to Mr Crabb’s comments Welsh Assembly Education Minister, Huw Lewis, accused the Welsh Secretary of an attempt to ‘frighten gullible voters’, and said: “Stephen Crabb is meant to be Wales’ voice round the cabinet table. With friends like that Wales doesn’t need enemies. It’s dishonourable, disreputable and the Welsh public can see right through this stuff. There is clearly no let up on the ‘War on Wales’ and the order has been passed to the Secretary of State to do his bit. I am hugely ambitious for the education system in Wales, and that is why I want to learn from the absolute best. Nicky Morgan’s poxy programme for reform announced in the Sunday Times today – more long division and times tables – is a desperately lame response to the challenges of the future economy. This is 2015, not 1815.”

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NEU Cymru teacher members vote to accept pay offer



73% of NEU teacher members in Wales who responded to the union’s consultation have voted to ACCEPT the pay offer put forward by the Welsh Government, and end the dispute.

The offer put forward by Minister for Education and Welsh Language Jeremy Miles will see an additional payment to teachers of 3% for this academic year (2022/23), made up of 1.5% consolidated award and a further 1.5% unconsolidated lump-sum. The offer also included an increased pay rise of 5% paid from September 2023. The Minister has also confirmed that it will all be fully funded by the Welsh Government.

Speaking about the members’ decision, NEU Joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney said: “The members in Wales have made a clear decision to accept the pay offer, put forward by the Minister in a letter dated 9 March.

“We would like to thank the Welsh Government for the constructive way in which they have conducted negotiations with the union, and we look forward to a productive working relationship to ensure that the rest of the deal, focused on workload, continues to make good progress.

“Whilst this doesn’t meet our ambitions for pay restitution every part of this offer is due to our members’ efforts – and we will continue campaigning for the Governments in Cardiff and Westminster to invest properly in this generation of children and the staff who work with them.”

David Evans, Wales Secretary for the National Education Union Cymru, said: “It is clear that a large majority of our teacher members here in Wales want to accept the deal from the Minister. They were provided with full information about the offer and have given us a definitive steer.

“This has been a difficult time for everyone in education. Our members do not take decisions to go on strike lightly, but they had to make a stand given the continuing impact of austerity, cost of living and spiralling inflation. We would like to thank all the parents who supported teachers and support staff in the action taken.

“We remain disappointed that the Minister made no offer to teaching assistants, but we know that we have raised the profile of the critical issues which affect everyone in education. Our National Executive will be considering next steps in our support staff pay campaign.”

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Commissioner joins students on tour of Dyfed-Powys Police custody suite construction site



POLICE and Crime Commissioner joins construction students on tour of Dyfed-Powys Police Custody Suite Construction Site

As part of a national open doors to construction sites campaign, this week there is an opportunity for the public in Carmarthenshire to go on site with construction company Willmott Dixon, to see construction work going ahead on the new Dyfed-Powys Police Custody suite in Dafen, Llanelli Carmarthenshire as it nears completion.

Today, 14 March 2023, Police and Crime Commissioner was invited to attend one of the site tours with a group of construction students from nearby Coleg Sir Gar.

As part of the open doors event, members of the public are shown around a construction of approximately 4000m2 over two storeys, that includes 18 new cell custody suites, interview rooms, cells, charge desk, open plan office space and associated meeting rooms and a significant area for mechanical and electrical plant. 

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said: “This is a major investment for us which will see an ambitious, modern, sustainable fit for purpose policing hub and custody suite that will meet the needs and expectations of modern policing.

“I am grateful for Willmott Dixon, for including the construction site on the menu of construction sites for the national Open Doors campaign this week.  I’ve worked extremely hard with partners over recent years to ensure that we get to this position, and it was great to be able to walk around the building today with a group of students from Coleg Sir Gar as it nears completion.”

The new Carmarthenshire Custody Suite, based in Dafen Llanelli, will offer a more sustainable environment, while also help protect natural resources.  Amongst some of the sustainable credentials of the new building will be a photovoltaic solar power installation to minimise the carbon footprint of the building; a rainwater harvesting facility for toilets and non-potable water, and electric car charging facilities.

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A unique learning experience for students from Pembrokeshire College



LAST week staff and students from Pembrokeshire College were delighted to be able to officially open their teaching space at Folly Farm.

Designed for Level 3 Animal Management learners, this unique teaching facility exemplifies what can be achieved by educators and employers working in partnership.

Jointly funded by Welsh Government and Pembrokeshire College, the facility opened for learners just prior to lockdown back in February 2020. Overlooking the rhino enclosure, learners are exposed to a wide variety of opportunities including shadowing zookeepers and working with exotic species – opportunities made possible due to their location at the centre of a working zoo.

During the opening Chris Ebsworth, Folly Farm Managing Director, highlighted the excellent opportunities that are available to learners; not only in working directly with animals, but also in the wider field of conservation. Meanwhile, learner Georgia Pike gave her perspective on what the centre brings to learners. Being based at Folly Farm provides a truly unique learning experience, something that just wouldn’t be possible on the main College campus.

MP Simon Hart rounded off by cutting the ribbon and officially opening the centre. The opening was also attended by representatives from Pembrokeshire County Council, Coleg Sir Gar, CITB and The John Burns Foundation (Burns in the Community).

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