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Education

Apprenticeships on the agenda

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‘Wales needs a robust skills and training framework’: William Graham, AM

‘Wales needs a robust skills and training framework’: William
Graham, AM

DEPUTY MINISTER Julie James has welcomed the findings of an Estyn report highlighting success in addressing diversity and equality in the training of apprenticeships. Ms James committed the Welsh Government to sharing the best practice identified in the report among providers of Work Based Learning.
Ms James said: “We are hugely proud of our Apprenticeship programme here in Wales which is providing individuals with the opportunity to develop valuable skills and ensuring our future workforce is equipped with the tools to prosper in the economy of the future.
“We are committed though, to ensuring that everyone is able to experience the many benefits that apprenticeships have to offer, regardless of their background which is why we commissioned this report by Estyn.
“We welcome Estyn’s report which is broadly positive and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure the recommendations are addressed.
“We will now press ahead with sharing good practice models on recruitment and continue to demonstrate the positive benefits to employers of having a more inclusive and diverse workforce”.
The minister also set out the Welsh Government’s future plans for apprenticeships during a keynote speech at the National Training Federation for Wales’ annual conference.
The plans include a focussed drive on increasing the number of sixteen to eighteen year olds starting apprenticeships, a keener emphasis on higher skilled apprenticeships, particularly in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) sector and better links between Further Education programmes and Apprenticeships.
The Deputy Minister also confirmed the UK Government’s introduction of an apprenticeship levy across the UK has influenced the Welsh Government’s decision to defer publication of an implementation plan for apprenticeships in Wales.
The apprenticeship levy, announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a levy to be paid across the UK by all large employers including the public sector.
The Deputy Minister said: “We have developed an apprenticeships system that is well respected by employers, which offers the very best quality and the very best training. However, as our recent apprenticeship consultation revealed, there are areas where we can improve.
“There are too few sixteen to eighteen year olds starting apprenticeships. This has to change and that’s why we intend to re-focus our Young Recruits Programme to support additional sixteen to seventeen year old recruitment. Once we have put in place new plans for this age group, we would expect to see an increase to the six and half thousand places the network usually delivers.
“Many of our apprenticeships are also in sectors where the skills content is relatively low. This exacerbates the perception that apprenticeships are for those young people who are not capable of higher level skills.
“We must continue to grow apprenticeships in priority sectors and stretch them to meet emerging skill shortages in technical and highly skilled occupations, such as engineering and IT that will drive productivity.
“We have agreed to fund certain prescribed higher education qualifications when undertaken as part of a published Higher Apprenticeship framework. This will provide an additional stimulus to the employer market to kick start delivery in STEM related Higher Apprenticeships.
On the Welsh Government’s decision to defer publication of an implementation plan for apprenticeships in Wales the Deputy Minister said: “I am entirely supportive of the principle that employers should contribute towards the costs of apprenticeships. However, the levy proposals have been designed without consideration of the implications for the whole of the UK and encroach upon Wales’ devolved responsibilities.
“For all large employers in Wales the levy represents an additional tax burden. Up until now the UK Government has not provided any information on the potential impact on the Welsh budget, so at this point in time I’m unable to provide any assurances to employers.
“But what is clear about the levy is that it impedes our ability to craft our own policy. This is why I am deferring publication of an implementation plan for apprenticeships in Wales until more is known.”
The Welsh Conservatives have launched their own plan for apprenticeships, ‘Stronger Futures Cymru’, which they say would boost access and prioritise job creation for anyone of working age.
Accepting that apprenticeships and job-based learning play a vital role in developing an individual’s skills for the future whilst simultaneously helping businesses expand, the Welsh Conservatives say they would scrap the age cap and extend job duration, Introduce greater apprenticeship flexibility and boost promotion, and strengthen the ties between education, employment and the local business community. The Welsh Conservatives have suggested that the local business community could participate on school governing panels to advise on how best to integrate “work ready” skills into the curriculum.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy, William Graham, said: “Stronger Futures Cymru is an ambitious vision for apprenticeships in Wales and will help to ensure that Wales has a workforce equipped with the skills they need to drive the economy forward.”

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Education

Redhill pupils praised for helping win another change in animal welfare law

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TOUGHER prison sentences for animal cruelty will come into force this summer after the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill received Royal Assent today. Maximum prison sentences will be extended to five years for the most heinous animal cruelty crimes.

Pupils from Redhill Prep School in Haverfordwest have been praised in Parliament for their tireless work over the last four years in campaigning for stronger laws to protect animals. Under the guidance of teacher Vicky Brown, the young pupils have lobbied their local MP Stephen Crabb, members of the House of Lords and a number of Government ministers to persuade them to support the Finn’s Law campaign. 

‘Finn’s Law’ which came into force in June 2019 and prevents those who attack or injure service animals from claiming self-defence. The law is named after Finn, a police dog who was stabbed whilst pursuing a suspect with his handler PC David Wardell. Finn sustained serious stab wounds to the chest and head, but only criminal damage charges could be brought against his attacker.

This latest change in the law today is known as ‘Finn’s Law Part 2’ and ensures that all animals now benefit from the tougher protection in law.

Stephen Crabb MP said: “Redhill pupils should feel very proud of the work they have done to build support for these changes in the law. Their campaigning work on Finn’s Law Part 1 and 2 received a special mention in the House of Lords when it was being debated. I am aware of just how important their letters were in persuading Government ministers to throw their full weight behind the new law.”

Deputy Head, Vicky Brown said: “We are so proud of all the children have achieved. This project has been so exciting and is one that neither the children or I shall ever forget. We’d like to thank all the people that have supported and encouraged the children in this campaign. They have proved to the children that no matter what your age, you can make a difference.”

The new maximum penalty will enable courts to take a firmer approach to cases such as dog fighting, abuse of puppies and kittens, illegally cropping a dog’s ears and gross neglect of farm animals. As well as a prison sentence, offenders can also receive an unlimited fine.

The measure is also widely supported by animal welfare groups including the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. The Private Members Bill was introduced by Chris Loder MP in February 2020 and with the full support of UK Government has now passed into law.

Photograph shows the online meeting that was held with Stephen Crabb and Redhill School’s year 3 and 4 pupils to talk about their brilliant work in promoting Finn’s Law Part 2.

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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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