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Education

Language learning is in ‘steep decline’

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Welsh crisis: More focus on foreign languages

Welsh crisis: More focus on foreign languages

A REPORT this week has highlighted an alarming decline with Welsh Schools’ provision of Modern Foreign Languages (MFL). In a hasty response, Education Minister, Huw Lewis, announced new plans to improve and promote MFL across Wales’ schools.

The report, published by the British Council and CFBT Education Trust, which was carried out across two thirds of Welsh secondary schools, showed a drop of over 4,000 pupils since 2002 taking either a German or French GCSE.

At the same time as Wales reached near crisis levels for MFL uptake, England and Scotland, unlike the Welsh government, put in policies to increase provision. As a consequence, uptake in French increased in England by some 19% between 2012 and 2013.

As England has introduced a compulsory MFL curriculum at primary level, Wales has not. Even where MFL is compulsory, in the first 3 years of secondary school, the report showed that only a minimal or fragmented experience of language learning was being received by pupils.

Earlier this year a Welsh Government spokesperson was quoted as saying: “Learning a modern foreign language is not compulsory in primary schools in Wales”, but continued by opining that, “it should be noted that all children in primary schools in Wales are taught Welsh”.

Reacting to criticism and alarming statistics, Huw Lewis has launched, this week, ‘Global Futures’, a plan, he said, to improve and promote MFL in Wales that will come into effect from September and will be supported by up to £480,000 of Welsh Government funding in the first academic year.

The minister went on to say that under the plan, one secondary school in each of Wales’ four regional consortia will be appointed as a Centre of Excellence for MFL. Teachers at the appointed Centre for Excellence will receive targeted Continuing Professional Development and benefit from new partnership arrangements with language institutes and Welsh universities to help them develop high level language teaching skills.

They will then be tasked with working in partnership with other secondary schools and primary schools in their area to drive up teaching standards for MFL across the region. An MFL steering group, he said, that was made up of experts from schools, universities, Estyn, British Council, language institutes and education consortia will also be established to ensure the plan is fully implemented.

Mr Lewis said: “Linguistic skills are rapidly becoming one of the most important skills a young person can acquire to compete for jobs in the global economy. They are important to Welsh businesses too as increasing amounts of our trade and commerce is done with new partners overseas.

“I want to ensure that more and more of our young people actively choose to study a Modern Foreign Language as part of their school education, and develop the skills they need to thrive in a modern global economy. We need a radical and new approach.”

Owen Hathway, NUT Wales Policy Officer, said: “As with any ‘outreach’ initiative it is wholly vital that this is seen as working with schools rather than simply monitoring and challenging them. Regional consortia bodies have failed to find the correct balance in the past.”

However, Dr Philip Dixon, Director of ATL Cymru, said: “This announcement is far too late and far too little to stem the catastrophic decline in the teaching of modern foreign languages. That decline has been apparent for over a decade. We must wonder if the Welsh Government is serious about this matter at all. Changes to the way schools’ performance is measured, to be introduced in the next year or so, will simply make things worse. We fear it is a case of ‘adios’ to foreign languages.”

Also commenting on the news that the Welsh Labour Government is to overhaul its strategy on MFL was Angela Burns AM, Shadow Minister for Education, who said: “Labour took measures which actively discouraged modern foreign language study, slashed funding for the National Centre for Languages and failed to capitalise on a successful pilot of foreign language study in primary schools.

“The ability to communicate in multiple languages is an increasingly valuable skill in the international jobs market, but unfortunately if young people lack the skills employers seek, Wales will fall further behind in the global race.

“Language learning is crucial to the future of the Welsh economy and can help ensure that Wales doesn’t become isolated with school leavers and graduates only able to communicate in their mother tongue.”

Asked if it might be the case that Welsh language teaching had replaced MFL provision, a Pembrokeshire County Council Spokesperson said: “MFL and Welsh are not treated similarly due to the statutory requirement to teach Welsh second language in primary schools and up to the age of 16 in secondary schools. MFL teaching is only required to be taught from Years 7-9 (ages 11-14). The statutory nature of Welsh second language is a curriculum priority set by the Welsh Government.”

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Education

New independent sixth form opens in Haverfordwest

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A NEW independent sixth form is set to open in Haverfordwest in September 2021. The latest addition to Castle School, which relocated to Haverfordwest in 2020, the new sixth form will offer 20 different A Level subjects and a BTEC in business through bespoke study programmes that include options to study online or in the sixth form. Students will also get the option to complete work and study placements abroad.

The launch of the sixth form comes after a busy year for Castle School, which relocated from Narberth to Haverfordwest in September 2020, taking over and refurbishing Glenover House, a beautiful old ‘gentlemen’s residence’ that had been empty for five years. The move enabled the school to expand and increase its educational provision.

In addition to its main building, the school has a cookery school and performing arts facility in Snowdrop Lane, and a further site on Snowdrop Lane which is being specially converted to create the sixth form centre. The site will also include an indoor sports facility for whole school use.

The sixth form is designed with flexible study in mind: as well as offering a broad range of subjects and the ability to study online from any location, it will provide instant access study support as well as face to face teaching. In addition, students will get the option to study for one of their A Levels at Pembrokeshire College, in order to experience a different learning environment.

Other milestones for Castle School this year include the opening of a second independent school, Westward House, in St Clears and the purchase of a narrow boat, which will be moored on the Avon and Kennet canal. This will give pupils opportunities for short residential trips to Bristol, Bath and beyond.

“With a floating hotel licence, our newest acquisition will enable small groups of pupils to take their studies further afield and benefit from enhanced learning, extracurricular boating skills and a look at the wider world,” said Harriet Harrison, owner of Castle School and Westward House.

“Things have been tricky over the past year, but along with many others we have seen the difficulties of a world of Covid not as an opportunity for excuses but as a time for stepping up, working harder and making things better and stronger wherever possible. Our schools are thriving, and despite being desperate to get back to normal, we have used this time to improve our facilities for all the children in our care who are coming back after these long periods of lockdown and remote schooling. We can’t wait to see everyone.”

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Education

U-turn on compulsory lifesaving lessons in Welsh secondary education

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SCHOOLS in Wales will now teach first aid and lifesaving skills as part of the new curriculum.

Wales will join England and Scotland by introducing first aid and lifesaving kills to their national secondary education curriculum.

Kirsty Williams, Education Minister had previously rejected the calls for emergency resuscitation skills to be compulsory in school.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was introduced in the secondary school curriculum in England in September 2020.

Local authorities in Scotland have also committed to introduce lifesaving skills to their secondary education curriculum.

The British Heart Foundation had backed the campaign for CPR to be taught in schools.

In a long fought battle, Suzy Davies, a Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, secured the commitment from the Welsh Education Minister in the course of debating amendments to the new Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, which will make sweeping changes to the way Welsh children are educated.

The new curriculum for Wales is planned to come into force from 2022.

Children, parents, families and medics have long argued that regular teaching of CPR in particular will raise our children to have the skills and confidence to step in and save the life of someone in cardiac arrest if they encounter them outside a hospital setting.

The commitment was included in the Welsh Conservative manifesto for the Assembly election in 2016, and Suzy Davies, the Shadow Education Minister, said:

“After 10 years campaigning for this, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen.

“From securing cross-party support for this in my early days as an Assembly Member, through several debates and pitches to different Ministers, on to my own proposed legislation which found favour among Senedd Members, it was difficult to understand why Welsh Government was so resistant.

“In this country, our chances of surviving a cardiac arrest outside hospital are as poor as 10%. In countries around the world where teaching CPR and defibrillator use is compulsory, those odds improve dramatically. These skills are quick and easy to learn and easy to remember.

“ Alun Davies MS – himself a cardiac arrest survivor – has rightly argued that we should be able to learn these skills at any time in our lives and that defibrillators should be a commonplace feature of our public landscape. I couldn’t agree more – but how simple it is to ingrain these skills from an early age and raise generation after generation of lifesavers.”

Under the new curriculum, teachers must follow statutory guidance made by Ministers to support various aspects of the new way of teaching. After changes guaranteed by the Education Minister, this guidance will now instruct teachers that they should teach lifesaving skills and first aid: It is no longer optional.

The mandatory teaching of life saving skills and first aid (not just CPR) has been supported by the medical profession, including paramedics and fire service co-responders, as well as charities like St. John’s Cymru, British Heart Foundation, Calon Defibrillators, Cariad and the Red Cross.

It is taught through many youth groups, including Torfaen Sea Cadets who trained Aneurin Metcalfe, the young man who saved someone’s life only this week.

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Education

Styling their way to the top

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FOUR hairdressing learners: Holly Mathias, Jenna Kilgallon, Helaina Thomas and Leah Rees, recently earned themselves a place in the next stage of the Concept Hair Magazine Learner of the Year Competition.

The candidates were invited into the College to show their fully presented entries as evidence and then submitted them remotely to the Concept Hair Magazine judges in December.

The categories for the competition were: Festival Hair, Red Carpet, Old School Barbershop, Celebration of Colour and Safari.

The unique styles allowed the learners to show off their creative hair styling skills from plaits to updos, to bold colour creations.

Charlotte Jones, Hairdressing lecturer was over the moon with the learners’ success; “We were all so impressed with the creativity, dedication and enthusiasm of all the students who took part in the competition. Also, the students who supported the entries during the day and the models who gave up their time to be involved. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved. The results were amazing!”

The students worked to COVID regulations ensuring all the correct PPE and procedures were followed.

Finalist, Holly Mathias entered three categories which included; Styling Level 2 – Festival Theme, Hair Up Level 2 – Red Carpet and Avant Garde – Safari.

Holly shared her experience; “Taking part in the Concept Hair competition, has really boosted my confidence and proved that hard work really does pay off. The support from the staff at Pembrokeshire College is outstanding. I would recommend everyone to take part in this competition as not only is it an amazing experience, but it really allows you to think outside the box and be as creative as you can! I would 100% take part in this competition again.”

Holly plans to go into full-time employment when she completes her course and hopes to one day work on cruise ships or even own her own salon.

The next stage involves the candidates submitting photographic entries on the 12th March where six will be shortlisted for the national finals which is set to take place virtually in April.

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