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Education

Minister calls time on Initial Teacher Training

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Huw Lewis: 'We must deliver improvements'

Huw Lewis: ‘We must deliver improvements’

EDUCATION MINISTER, Huw Lewis has announced he is to reorganise the whole system of initial teacher education training in Wales.

The Minister’s announcement follows publication of a critical Estyn report on the North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education which the Minister has described as “very disappointing”.

Estyn’s report concludes that both the North and Mid Wales Centre’s performance and its prospects for improvement are unsatisfactory. It also identifies aspects where the centre is failing to comply with statutory requirement for initial education teacher training.

The Minister said: “The North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education has had some two years since shortcomings were identified to develop and improve its provision. However this report shows the necessary improvement has not been made. Frankly, this is not good enough.

“This latest report leaves me in no doubt that more needs to be done to accelerate the process of improvement in ITET provision across the whole of Wales.

“We need an ITET sector that can act as a key driver in building workforce capacity, particularly as we prepare for the new Curriculum for Wales. This is something that the school sector, local authorities, Consortia and the public are all, quite rightly, calling for.

“I am meeting Vice Chancellors in November, including those leading on current ITET and will be clear that I am calling time on the current system of initial teacher education training in Wales and moving to a focussed improvement plan, designed and delivered across the education system.

“Going forward, participation in genuine collaboration will be a requirement for any institution who wishes to play a part in the initial training of teachers.

“We know it is possible to deliver radical change in a short time frame – the recent news about the progress of the South East Wales Centre for Teacher Education and Training proves that.

“But improvements cannot stop there. We simply must deliver systematic improvements, with more effective collaboration between ITET centres in Wales, more partnership with Consortia, local authorities and schools, more learning from the best from elsewhere and more challenge.”

In 2009, following a report by Professor John Furlong, the Welsh Government reorganised Initial Teacher Training in Wales into three centres: one based in North Wales, one serving South-East Wales and the other Mid and West Wales.

At the time the Welsh Government claimed that concentrating teacher training and education into fewer centres would drive up standards of training and produce consistency of results.

Critical reports have, however, followed into both South East Wales’ provision and that of North Wales.

While a recent report from Estyn demonstrated some improvement in South East Wales’ centre, the same report concluded that ‘the centre was “not able to show the impact of the systems on trainees’ outcomes’

Huw Lewis has suggested that further radical reform is required to change the system again: “The landscape of ITET in Wales will be different. For those ITET centres that genuinely want to work with us to improve and provide genuinely sector leading practice then the door is open but – if you are not prepared to raise your game then you will not be part of our future vision for Wales.”

The Minister announced that he and Professor John Furlong would be holding two summits in December and January to engage the ITET sector in challenging reform.

This complements the task and finish group that Professor John Furlong is already leading to revise current ITET statutory criteria for accreditation and to implement change so the ITET system is more robust and fit for purpose.

The reform of ITET in Wales, the effective delivery of the New Deal and the implementation of a new curriculum for Wales are key parts of the Welsh Government’s ongoing programme for Education reform.

The Minister’s announcement has received short-shrift from opposition AMs, who have pointed out that the Welsh Government appears only now to be seeking to remedy flaws in the system of teacher training to which its own 2009 reorganisation of the sector has contributed.

Focusing on the challenges of equipping teachers to deliver a new curriculum, Aled Roberts AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister said: “There is a widespread consensus that the Labour Government in Wales has failed to address the fact that teacher training has not been of a high enough standard to serve the needs of Wales either now or in the future.

“The Estyn report into the North and Mid Wales centres at Bangor and Aberystwyth is extremely disappointing and is the most recent example of reports raising concerns with regard to the quality of training provision in Wales.

“There are major curriculum reforms on the horizon in Wales and we need a profession that is properly equipped for such change and which is in receipt of ongoing support through continuing professional development following qualification.

“The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe in empowering teachers to be able to take a lead so they have more responsibility in innovation and are able to work collaboratively with other teachers in the development of their practice. We would also look to attract and increase the quality of new entrants to the teaching profession.”

Making concrete proposals for the future of teacher training, Mid and West AM Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Education, Skills and the Welsh Language Simon Thomas, a Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire candidate said: “We have had Labour Education Ministers since 1997 responsible for the education of our children. This unsatisfactory report into the North and Mid Wales Centre for Teacher Education is another example of a culture of complacency in Cardiff Bay.

“A Plaid Cymru Welsh Government would give our teachers and classroom assistants the time to teach so that they can focus on ensuring the development of core skills in schools.

“By working with teaching unions and staff, Plaid Cymru will reduce red tape and bureaucracy so that head-teachers can lead their schools and more time is spent teaching children, rather than completing paperwork. The best way to spread good teaching practice is between schools, peer to peer.

“We will consider for all teachers to be educated at a Masters Level with a focus on classroom techniques. We will look to establish one professional-led body to deal with Continuous Professional Development to take politics out of education as happened in Scotland.”

“We need the powers over pay, terms and conditions to facilitate the best allocation of resources – it is only a Plaid Cymru Welsh Government that can deliver this.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Education, Angela Burns AM, told us: “We’ve long said teacher training in Labour-run Wales needs urgent improvement.

“It’s clear significant failings persist and I am extremely unhappy to read of another poor Estyn report on the North and Mid Wales Centre.

“Changes are not happening quickly enough and it’s our pupils and hard-working staff who are taking the brunt of it.

“While Labour’s minister is taking some steps to address the clear problems, it’s simply not fast enough.

“16 years of Labour rule have left our education system in tatters. That requires fresh thinking and a new approach.”

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Education

Handling of Manorbier School fire aftermath an ‘absolute disgrace’

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SENIOR members of Pembrokeshire County Council should apologise to staff at Manorbier School for not visiting following last year’s fire, a committee has heard.

Manorbier Church in Wales VC School and its adjoining school house was severely damaged by a fire on October 11, which broke out in the school roof space.

Pupils and staff were successfully evacuated with no injuries.

At Monday’s (Feb 6) Schools Learning and Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet Member for Education Guy Woodham said repairs and the insurance position – partly the responsibility of the council and partly the Diocese of St Davids – were being progressed as “a matter of urgency”.

County councillor for the ward Cllr Phil Kidney raised concerns about a lack of any senior members of the council visiting the school and the plight of the neighbours, who he felt had not been properly supported.

“The couple were 12 months away from retirement; they went to work that morning and due to a fire in a council-run building they lost everything,” he said.

“It’s too important to be embarrassed, it reflects very, very badly on the council. I don’t think they’ve been treated fairly; I hope the diocese can come to the rescue here and help them out.”

Cllr Kidney continued: “Make no bones about it, this could’ve been headline news on the six o’clock news, it really could’ve been.

“The response from the council – if I’m brutally honest – has been very poor; that’s the first time I’ve heard anything from the Cabinet member for education today, we’ve not seen him, the children have not seen him, the chief executive has not been down.

“We’ve had a lot of correspondence from Senedd member Sam Kurtz and MP Simon Hart has been on the phone but to date we haven’t had anyone from the council, nobody thought to come to Manorbier.

“The headmistress and staff down there feel totally undervalued, totally unsupported.”

He added: “If this was a school in Haverfordwest or Tenby there would’ve been suits everywhere, you wouldn’t be able to move.”

Cllr Rhys Jordan said to Cllr Kidney: “I think it’s an absolute disgrace that the cabinet member has only got hold of you knowing this is coming to this committee,” adding on record: “Either himself or the leader [Cllr David Simpson] should write a letter of apology.”

John Cecil, of the diocese, had earlier said the insurance claim was being dealt with by the proper department, adding: “I can assure you it is being dealt with appropriately.”

The local authority’s Chair of Scrutiny for Schools and Learning, Cllr Huw Murphy called to see the School for himself in early January and as a result had the matter added to the agenda for the Scrutiny meeting.

“As chair of PCC Schools and Learning Scrutiny the children, parents and staff at Manorbier School have my utmost sympathy and it’s disappointing that the Cabinet Leader on Education has not yet visited the scene to see for himself the severity of the devastation,” he said following the meeting.

“I implore that both PCC and the Church of Wales instigate repairs as soon as possible,” added Cllr Murphy.

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Education

Welsh students promised more help with living costs by Welsh Government

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT says it will increase student maintenance support by 9.4% for the 2023/24 academic year, subject to regulations being made.

The average full-time Welsh student can claim £10,710 in maintenance grants and loans, which will rise to £11,720 thanks to this increase.

This will apply to full-time and part-time higher education students from Wales, who began a course on or after 1 August 2018.

Living costs support is rising in line with the National Living Wage, which is unique to Wales. In contrast, the UK Government has announced a 2.8% increase for students ordinarily resident in England.

The Welsh Government continues to provide the most progressive student finance system in the UK. Welsh undergraduate students have less to repay on average than their English peers as they can access our generous living costs package of grants and loans.

The highest level of grant support is given to those students most in need. A substantial part-time student support package is available, giving students from all backgrounds the chance to study part-time.

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:

“Living costs should never be a barrier to studying at university. This increase in support will ensure that students from all backgrounds are able to access higher education.

“Despite continuing budget pressures, I have ensured that the value of support is increased accordingly at this time of exceptional cost-of-living pressures.”

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Education

Redevelopment of Portfield School moves towards next stage

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THE NEXT stage in improving facilities for pupils at Portfield School will be decided by Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet’s first meeting of 2023.

The submission of the Outline Business Case (OBC) for plans to improve the condition of school buildings and increase capacity at the school for children and young people with complex needs is recommended for approval by senior Councillors on Monday, 9th January.

The OBC for Portfield School was considered by the Sustainable Communities for Learning Strategic Programme Board in December and the current estimated cost of the project is £30,307,000 including cost of achieving Net Zero Carbon.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s contribution towards the project is £6,651,293 as a result of a 75 per cent Welsh Government intervention rate on all special school related projects.

Cabinet will note that a reduction in the overall 21st Century School Band B Programme capital envelope results in a £3million funding shortfall that will potentially be mitigated by design efficiencies, value engineering, reinstated Welsh Government funding or prudential borrowing.

Cabinet will meet at 10am and the meeting will be webcast.

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