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Education

Welsh teaching union officer berates inspector

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Under fire: Sir Michael Wilshaw

Under fire: Sir Michael Wilshaw

A WELSH union policy officer has berated an Ofsted inspector who has called for children to be taught in schools from as young an age as 2.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said in a speech in London, this week, that he believed that the poorest children in primary schools would benefit, and be more able to catch up with their more advantaged classmates, if they were taught from the age of two, rather than three, which is the current entry point in state schools’ nurseries. He cited primary schools as the best places to provide that education, saying: “Let me be clear: What the poorest children need is to be taught and well taught from the age of two. Children who are at risk of falling behind need particular help. And it remains my view that schools are often best placed to deliver this.”

He went on to say that schools had better and more extensive access to specialists for this age group, citing speech and language therapists, along with behaviour management and parenting support within the framework of the schools. He continued by saying: “So put simply, we need to get more of the poorest children into primary schools earlier.”

Referencing a scheme in 2013 coveringsome260,000disadvantaged children who were offered free education as 2 year olds in England, he said that less than half of those who could access the scheme were. Speaking about the uptake of the 2 year old offer, a DoE spokesperson said the number had doubled to 157,000, saying: “It is for parents to decide at what age their child should attend a childcare setting and for how long. We want to help parents make choices based on what is right for their family, rather than what they can or can’t afford. The overwhelming evidence shows high-quality early years provision gives benefits that last throughout a child’s life.”

A local government association councillor, David Simmonds, added weight to the argument, saying: “Many early years providers, including nurseries, childminders, and school-based settings, opt to work with their local councils, and mums and dads are seeing the results with more high quality provision becoming available. However, we could do so much more if some of the bureaucratic barriers preventing councils from using their expertise were lifted.”

However, completely contrasting this viewpoint was Owen Hathway, NUT Cymru Policy Officer, who said: “Quite frankly the notion that children should start school as young as two years old is simply not supported by evidence. In some of the best performing education systems in the world children do not start formal education until much later. In Britain children already start school at an age that is younger than many across the globe and spend more days in school per year than the vast majority of nations. It is undoubtedly the case that all parents, but particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, need support. However this should be in terms of being able to provide high quality and affordable child-care at such a young age. We do really need to allow children to have a childhood.”

In support of this sentiment was Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, who said: “While schools do offer many benefits, including the potential for an easier transition into reception and beyond, they are not necessarily geared up to support very young children. And teachers are not necessarily trained to teach two-year-olds. Many schools need to make big changes to their premises, their lunchtime arrangements and their staffing in order to provide the best care and education for two-year-olds, and this cannot happen overnight.”

Also commenting on the issue was Party of Wales Mid and West AM, Simon Thomas Shadow Education, Skills and the Welsh Language Minister who said: “Plaid Cymru has been out to consultation on extending nursery education to all 3 year olds rather than targeting on the basis of poverty. This consultation was after Labour councils decided to cut provision of childcare.”

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Education

We Swim Wild brings micro plastic research to the Pembrokeshire Coast

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THE PILOT session of Pobl Dwr was filmed for an upcoming episode of ITV’s Coast and Country series with Sean Fletcher and pupils from Castle School in Haverfordwest explored marine and environmental issues affecting the waterways in Wales. 

A pupil from Castle School said “I found 22 pieces of microplastics in one cup of sea water”.

Created by the Wales non profit We Swim Wild, Pobl Dwr has made children aware of the microplastic pollution crisis, while giving them a chance to explore the beautiful coastline and deepen their connection with the ocean environment. 

We Swim Wild aims to educate and empower the younger generation on environmental action and micro plastic pollution.

A pupil from Castle School described their experience as “the biggest eye opener ever”.

The project gives pupils an opportunity to learn about the marine life on our coasts through an immersive snorkeling programme, wellbeing activities such as breathwork and meditation, citizen science microplastic analysis that actually feeds into We Swim Wilds national microplastic database with Bangor University.

We Swim Wild founder Laura Owen Sanderson says “ We have been highlighting the issue of microplastics for the last few years, through adventure activism campaigns and U.K wide citizen science projects to map for microplastics. 

The education programme gives young people the opportunity to experience the magic of wild waters safely, equips them with the skills and tools to analyse water for silent contaminates and the opportunity to see the scale of the problem in real time”. 

The project in Pembrokeshire is in collaboration with The Big Retreat Community, the non profit arm of The Big Retreat Festival in Pembrokeshire, one of the top adventure and wellbeing festivals in the UK. 

Festival founder Amber Lort-Phillips says “Wellbeing in nature is at the heart of everything we do. As a result of the pandemic, we know that young peoples’ mental health has suffered significantly. We want to give them the skills to improve their own mental and physical health whilst learning how to protect the planet for generations to come, and there is no better place to do it than in our home, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.”

“Plastic can commonly be found in our water, soil and air,” explains Laura. “Crucially, we now know it is in our bodies as we breathe in, eat and drink plastic particles every day. As plastic production grows, so does our exposure. There is growing concern that it may be harming our health.”

Laura adds  “We know that the presence of microplastic and nano plastic in our bodies can’t break down and is associated with chronic disease and pressure on our immune systems, such as arthritis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The truth is there is currently not enough money invested in Plastic research and its impact on our health. Our citizen science campaigns and education programme go some way towards mapping current UK levels for this emergent contaminate”.

We Swims Wild’s ultimate goal is to get the UK government to start testing regularly for microplastic levels as an emergent contaminate and to put greater restrictions on plastic production and its use. 

A group of MP’s including MP Mike Penning has also called on the chancellor to commit to a £15 million fund to examine the potential health impacts of plastic.

The Pembrokeshire project has been sponsored by the National Lottery community fund. We Swim Wild will be bringing this programme to coastal communities across Wales over the coming months. 

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Education

Secondary School places deadline

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PARENTS of Year 6 pupils in Pembrokeshire will need to apply for a secondary school place for September 2022 by the closing date of 20th December, 2021.

There is no automatic admission to a secondary school, even if they are living in catchment – an application must be made.

Applications received after this date will be considered late which may have a bearing on whether the child gets a place at his / her preferred School.

It is important to note that a school place will not be allocated unless a formal application is received.

The online application form can be found on the Pembrokeshire County Council website: www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/schools-and- learning under ‘Apply for a School Place’. 

Parents of pupils in Year 6 at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi or Ysgol Caer Elen do not need to apply as they are attending 3 to 16 schools and it is assumed they will remain in their current schools. 

However, if parents wish to apply for a different secondary school they must apply within the deadlines noted above.

Parents / guardians will be informed of the allocation of places on the common offer date of 1 st March 2022.

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Education

County Councillors approve massive investment for Pembrokeshire schools

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCILLORS have this week recognised the need for further significant investment in local schools. The decision was taken on Thursday (Oct 14).

Councillors have backed proposals to invest £62.4m in the community of Milford Haven with the creation of new-build primary and secondary schools in the town through the use of the Welsh Government Mutual Investment Model (MIM).

This decision recognises the educational need to provide the learners of Milford Haven with 21st Century School environments that will enhance the development of the Curriculum for Wales over the coming years and enable every learner, regardless of their background, to become the best they can be.

Council also agreed the teaching and learning environments for children who attend Portfield School in Haverfordwest and the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre (PLC) in Neyland need to be significantly improved, with a £38.5m investment into the two sites. This work will be funded under Band B of the 21st Century Schools Programme.

A total of £20.3m will be invested at Portfield School, which provides education for pupils with statements of special educational needs aged between 3-19 years.

Meanwhile £18.2m will be spent on improving the Neyland site of the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre, which provides education for pupils aged between 11 and 16 with complex needs.

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “While there are further stages as part of both the Band B 21st Century Schools funding and separate MIM proposal that we now need to successfully complete in partnership with Welsh Government, today represents a significant positive step forward in achieving Cabinet’s commitment to delivering all 21st Century School capital projects and significant investment in Milford Haven, Portfield School and the PLC.

“My thanks go to all those who have worked very hard to get us to where we are today, and I look forward to continuing to work with all those now involved in successfully delivering these exciting school capital projects that will provide the best educational facilities for learners.”

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