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Education

WG promotes universities overseas

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Professor Iwan Davies: Chair of the Global Wales Board

THE WELSH G​OVERNMENT​​ is investing £3.5m in a programme run by Wales’ universities to drive international partnerships and promote Wales as a study destination in a post Brexit world, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced.

The new funding is for Global Wales, a partnership between Universities Wales, British Council Wales, the Welsh Government and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. The support is via the Welsh Government’s £50m EU Transition Fund to help business, public services and others prepare for the impacts of Brexit.

Established in 2015, Global Wales promotes Wales’ universities in priority overseas markets: Vietnam and the United States. This funding will see a significant increase in the scope and scale of the programme to deliver the Study in Wales brand globally, develop existing activity in the US and Vietnam, and to expand to other markets. The aim is to drive education exports and boost Wales’ profile as an outward-facing knowledge-economy.

Both Vietnam and the US have been identified as two increasingly important markets for a post-Brexit Wales. The funding will reflect this by supporting a Wales-Vietnam scholarship programme, identifying areas for joint-research and promoting Wales as a distinct study destination for Vietnam,the United States and other key markets, including Europe.

The Education Secretary’s announcement coincides with the visit to Wales by His Excellency Tran Ngoc An, Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK, which will see discussions on strengthening educational links between the two countries.

Kirsty Williams said: “I am very pleased to announce this funding for Global Wales so that they can strengthen the developing relationships we have with both Vietnam and the US.

“In a post-Brexit world we need to make sure that our HE sector continues to reach out to new and emerging markets.

“Our universities have so much to offer so we need to make sure that we look further afield to capitalise on the growing demand for higher education globally.

“I’m proud to welcome His Excellency Tran Ngoc An to Wales and hope that this announcement will be the beginning of a very productive partnership between our two countries.”

Ambassador Tran Ngoc An said: “As Ambassador of Vietnam to the UK, I highly appreciate the announcement of the Welsh Government to establish a fund for promotion of education co-operation between Wales and Vietnam. I am confident that with strong political will and join effort, our education co-operation will certainly be further developed.

“Our Minister of Education and Training is looking forward to welcoming HE Mrs Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary of Education to Vietnam to lay a foundation for our education co-operation.”

Prof. Iwan Davies, Chair of the Global Wales Board, said: “I am delighted that the Welsh Government is making this significant new investment in Global Wales. The announcement today represents an important vote of confidence in our world class universities and the role that they, along with the Global Wales partners, play in helping to underpin the economy of Wales.

“Overseas students, international research collaboration and global institutional partnerships all help build trust and goodwill for Wales around the world, which in turn, has the potential to have a transformational impact on the Welsh economy. In the uncertain context of Brexit, this new investment in Global Wales will strengthen the major contribution that higher education plays to Wales’ international engagement and reputation for years to come.”

Education

Primary school children hit all the right notes at popular festival of music

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MORE than 400 Primary school children took part in the Pembrokeshire Music Service Valero Primary Music Festival last weekend.

Pembrokeshire Music Service welcomed pupils from across the county to share their musical talents with a delighted audience at Ysgol Caer Elen on February 24th.

St Oswalds School pupil Alice Thomas, age eight, was crowned overall winner of the festival following an outstanding performance of Galop by Charles Bohm on her violin.

This year’s event included the addition of a “Come and Play” class, where learners who were at the start of their musical journey could come and share their music with each other.

Philippa Roberts, Head of Pembrokeshire Music Service said: “It was wonderful to listen to the performances of all the young musicians, particularly those who are new to playing. Congratulations to each participant for their commendable efforts.

“The implementation of the New Music Plan for Wales has enabled Pembrokeshire Music Service to offer essential progression opportunities for our pupils which includes our new Second Steps ensemble who delivered an outstanding performance at the spotlight concert. Da iawn pawb!”

The Spotlight concert opened with a bang as 45 players from across the County’s Second Steps ensembles came together for their first public performance. These ensembles, for children in Years Three to Six, only began in September.

Open class winners who performed at the Spotlight Concert included Matthew Picton, of Gelliswick School, who performed Allegro Vivace by Singelee on his Saxophone; Mali Macfarlane, who performed A Whole New World by Alan Menken on the Cornet and Amber O’Connor, Ysgol Eglwyswrw, who performed Concerto by O’Carolan on the Harp.

Griff Nicholas, from Ysgol Casmael, performed She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult on Drums and the ensemble winners were Golden Grove School’s Wolfgang Evans and Betsy Adamiec who performed a piano duet of Faraway by Allan Bullard.

Events coordinator for Pembrokeshire Music Service, Miranda Morgan, added: “We are extremely grateful to Valero, as always, for sponsoring our event. When our last primary festival was held, the current Year Six pupils would have been in Year Two, so this was the first time performing in the festival for every single child present. They should all be very proud of themselves.”

Pembrokeshire Music Service Primary Valero Music Festival 2024 Results

Woodwind

Initial Grade:

1st – Seren Holder, Hafan y Mor

2nd – Eva Frearson, Hafan y Mor

3rd – Eifion James, St Oswalds

HC – Jessica Lynch, Casmael

Grade 1:

1st – Oliver Davis, Johnston

2nd – Annabel Ladd, Croesgoch

3rd – Evie Towe,  St Dogmaels

Grade 2:

1st – Angharad Chinn, MHCPS

2nd – Autumn Shepherd, Coastlands

3rd – Saphire Cook, MHCPS

Open:

1st – Matthew Picton, Gelliswick

2nd – Elin Rodriguez, Hook

3rd – Sasha Aulehla-Atkin, Caer Elen

Brass:

Initial Grade:

1st – Iolo Sims, Caer Elen

2nd – Henry Woods, St Dogmaels

3rd – Polly Summers, YPD & Penny Ibberson-Senior, Roch

Lower Brass Grade 1:

1st – Isaac Phillips, Saundersfoot

2nd – Aria White, Saundersfoot

3rd – Thomas Codd, Glannau Gwaun & Archie Llewellyn, Tenby VC

HC – TJ Stewart, Glannau Gwaun

Trumpet & Cornet Grade 1:

1st – Zoey Pyart, Prendergast

2nd – Isla Griffiths, Saundersfoot

3rd – Ella-Mae Kurby, MHCPS

HC – Freddie Coleman, YPD

Grade 2:

1st – Henry Slade-Davies, Llanychllwydog & Eilidh Frazer, Tenby VC

Open:

1st – Mali Macfarlane, Caer Elen

2nd – Idris Leeming-Hicks, Caer Elen

3rd – Elizabeth Davies, Saundersfoot,

HC – Elin Jones, Bro Ingli

Strings

Initial grade:

1st – Ashley Cristobel, Prendergast

2nd – Efa Britton, Johnston

3rd – Bella Carrier, St Oswalds

Grade 1:

1st – Lily Kingaby, Casmael

2nd – Vivienne King, Hafan y Mor

3rd – Celeste Watts, Roch

HC – Isla Griffiths, Saundersfoot

Grade 2:

1st – Leila Powell

2nd – Genula Wickramaarachichi, Prendergast

3rd – Harrison Shepherd, Caer Elen

Open:

1st – Alice Thomas, St Oswalds

2nd – Nina Powell

3rd – Chloe Jenkins Simms, Hafan y Mor

Piano & Harp

Initial grade:

1st – Gwen Porter

2nd – Mia Rogers, Lamphey & Ffion Fenrich, Cilgerran

3rd – Alice Ng, Caer Elen

 HC – Eva Allen, Lamphey

Grade 1:

1st – Poppy Hammersley, Brynconin

2nd – Jessica Lynch, Casmael

3rd – Annabel Ladd, Croesgoch

HC – Darcy Taylor – Lamphey, George Thomas, Layla McGilloway – Lamphey, Phoebe Ritchie – Caer Elen, Haydn Griffiths – Caer Elen, Noah Worrall, Scarlett Chandra – Caer Elen.

Grade 2:

1st – Eva Evans, Wiston

2nd – Millie Griffiths, Wiston & Cadi Haf Marshall-Jones, Bro Preseli

3rd – Elsbeth Slade-Davies, Llanychllwydog

Open:

1st – Amber O’Connor, Eglwyswru

2nd – Mischa Orford, Tavernspite

3rd – Roberta Gale, YPD

Percussion

Initial Grade:

1st – Maddie Wright, Saundersfoot

2nd – Harri George, Casmael

3rd – Charlie Cheeseman, Saundersfoot

HC – Efan Rees, Casmael & Alfie Hughes, Tenby VC

Open:

1st – Griff Nicholas, Casmael

2nd – Edward Batchelor, Caer Elen

3rd – Max Griffiths, Caer Elen & Alex Youngs, Johnston

HC – Owain James, Casmael & Sasha Aulehla-Atkin, Caer Elen

Ensembles

1st – Golden Grove piano duet (Wolfgang Evans & Betsy Adamiec)

2nd – Bro Preseli Harp Duo (Cadi Haf Marshall-Jones & Elen Davies)

3rd – Piano ensemble (Roberta Gale, Seren Reason & Poppy Burton)

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Education

College lecturer shortlisted for two WorldSkills UK EDI Hero Awards

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ESTABLISHED in 2020, the WorldSkills UK Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Heroes Awards honour the individuals and organisations that promote and embed innovative practices, projects, and initiatives, making a positive impact on learners, workplaces, and the wider skills system.

With seven categories including: Rising Star, Role Model, Inclusive Skills Development, Skills Competition Diversity Champion, Network of the Year, Skills Competitions Advocate, and Initiative of the Year, Ben Blackledge, CEO for WorldSkills UK commented: “These awards are an amazing opportunity to highlight and celebrate the difference being made by organisations and individuals across the skills sector.

“We are passionate about championing the need for inclusive opportunities that give all young people the chance to succeed in work and life, and that is why we are thrilled to come together in person in a few weeks to celebrate and hear first-hand who the winners are.”

Pembrokeshire College Employability Co-ordinator for the Life Skills Academy, David Jones, has been shortlisted in both the Role Model and Skills Competition Diversity Champion categories for the work he does on a daily basis to encourage and inspire his learners to remove barriers and achieve their full potential.

David will now join the other finalists at an awards ceremony on 7 March at the House of Commons, where the winners will be announced. Charlotte Nichols MP will be presenting the awards and commented: “Congratulations to this year’s WorldSkills UK EDI Heroes Awards finalists!

“I am absolutely delighted to support the awards, and I’m thrilled that the award ceremony will be hosted in-person for the first time at the Houses of Parliament.

“This provides a unique opportunity to celebrate the outstanding finalists and anticipate the announcement of this year’s well-deserving winners.”

The annual EDI Heroes Awards event is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of those going above and beyond to create more inclusive practices. All awards are open to students, apprentices, employers, and employees, recognising individuals and organisations who are making a difference to the future of the industry. 

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Education

Estyn decision to scrap headline gradings has ‘lifted a burden’ on schools

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Estyn’s decision to remove gradings such as “excellent”, “adequate” or “needs improvement” from inspection reports has lifted a burden on schools, a committee heard.

Owen Evans, Estyn’s chief inspector, told the Senedd’s education committee that feedback from schools since scrapping the headline gradings has been overwhelmingly positive.

Giving evidence on Estyn’s 2022-23 report, Mr. Evans said the new approach has led to a far more professional dialogue with schools about what’s working and what’s not.

“I think that’s been incredibly refreshing,” he said. “There are several layers of pressure that come with an Estyn inspection of a school….

“The removal of summative judgements and the fact that you’re going to be labelled with that one word, has lifted a burden on the sectors that we look at.”

‘Outlier’

However, Mr Evans stressed that removing gradings must be seen as a trial.

He said: “We are a bit of an outlier. We are still the only inspectorate in the British Isles that has removed summative judgements and a lot of eyes are on us about how this is working.”

Mr Evans, who has been in post for two years, added that Estyn is likely to carry out a review to ensure the reforms have led to further improvements.

He said it was important to introduce parental reports given the removal of gradings, suggesting that reports for learners themselves could also be on the horizon.

Asked about Estyn’s funding, which has increased from £11.5m in 2021-22 to £16m currently, Mr Evans told the committee the uplift was due to the pandemic.

‘Backlog’

He told the committee the interruption created a huge backlog and Estyn needed to increase capacity to finish its six-year cycle of inspections by the end of the current academic year.

Mr Evans said 90%-plus of the uplift has gone on additional inspections and inspectors.

Arguing the additional funding should become a part of the inspectorate’s baseline budget, he told MSs that Estyn will start visiting schools twice every six years from September.

He explained that the main inspection has been slightly curtailed, so Estyn can afford to have an interim inspection after three years rather than a “big bang” every six.

“It’s imperative the budget stays at that or slightly higher,” he said. “But we realise there’s a lot of pressure on the system – we have to demonstrate the value of what we’re doing.”

‘Self-evaluation’

Laura Anne Jones, for the Conservatives, raised concerns about an emphasis on self-evaluation, saying: “I don’t think anyone’s going to mark themselves badly.”

Laura Anne Jones MS speaking in the Senedd
South Wales East MS Laura Anne Jones MS is the Conservative shadow education minister

Mr Evans shared the shadow education minister’s concerns as he warned that self-evaluation is not yet strong enough within schools for Estyn to rely on it.

The chief inspector, who was previously S4C’s chief executive and a senior Welsh Government civil servant, warned that the pandemic continues to cast a shadow.

Mr Evans said variability between schools has widened, raising attendance as an example.

“Some are coping and some are not,” he told MSs: “I think the social contract between schools and parents has, to a degree, broken down.”

‘Stubborn’

Claire Morgan, a strategic director at Estyn, said average attendance is 87.5%, meaning pupils are missing 12 days of education in an academic year “which is far too much”.

She called for more to be done to tackle “stubborn” attendance issues, saying successful schools have a strong community focus.

Mr Evans said exclusions are rising while the number of children and young people going into pupil referral units has doubled since the pandemic.  

He said pupil referral units are no longer helping learners return to mainstream education.

He said: “The wave of anecdote I hear – from everyone from headteachers to teachers and caretakers to support staff – is behaviour, particularly out of the classroom, has worsened.”

‘Relentless’

On Wales’ poor performance in the latest Pisa results, Mr Evans said he was disappointed but not shocked as he called for a “relentless” focus on standards.

He said the results reinforce Estyn’s previous annual reports, which have long raised concerns about numeracy, science and literacy.

Mr Evans suggested a focus on the new curriculum has taken away from subject specialism.

Asked about the impact of poverty on attainment, he said the pupil development grant can make a difference but he suggested the funding is being used to plug budget gaps.

The chief inspector also raised concerns about “great deficiencies” in recruiting teachers in terms of the Welsh language and secondary school subjects such as maths.

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