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Education

South West Wales Virtual Open Day 8 July

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Welsh local authorities, schools, colleges and work-based learning providers will be hosting
a series of Virtual Open Days for Year 11 pupils for the first time this month.

An event specifically for pupils from Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath
Port Talbot, Llanelli, Swansea and Powys will be held on Wednesday 8 July and will cover a
series of sessions on post-16 options including A Levels at sixth form or college as well as
work-based qualifications.

Jonathan Davies OBE will host the sessions on apprenticeships and traineeships and will be
on hand to field questions about how to apply and get the most from industry-led training
opportunities.

Other sessions will be led by Pembrokeshire College, NPTC Group of Colleges, Coleg Sir
Gar and Coleg Ceredigion as well as Careers Wales and local authorities.

The spread of COVID-19 has not only meant a break in students’ learning, but also the
cancellation of many planned events like open days which were scheduled to take place
throughout the summer.

Open days are vital ways of helping Year 11 pupils to understand all their options for
continuing their education and deciding on the right path for them. It’s also the way pupils
make connections with new people and different environments to support them in making
their decision.

With no indication yet of when face-to-face events might be able to go ahead again, over
220 schools, colleges and work-based learning providers across Wales are partnering with
the Welsh Government to hold virtual sessions for all Year 11 pupils in Wales to make sure
nobody misses out.

Organised by Welsh Government and hosted by Working Wales, the Virtual Open Days will
enable young people across Wales to discover the options for furthering their education in
their area, including what school and college courses are available, as well as training
opportunities like apprenticeships and traineeships, and access to careers advice from
Careers Wales.

Live sessions will be held for each region across Wales from 7 – 10 July, with lots of
additional content available throughout the second week of July and beyond. There will also
be the opportunity to put questions to local careers advisors and learning providers who
know about the provision in your area.

Virtual Open Days will be hosted online, but those without internet access at home will have
the option to phone and speak directly with schools, colleges and work-based learning
providers.

Welsh Government will be providing information about the full range of Virtual Open Days,
as well as links to partner websites and content, on Working Wales where there will also be
advice for those students who are unsure of what they want to do next.

Kirsty Williams, Minister for Education, said: “Now more than ever, it’s vital that young
people are equipped with the skills, information and training they need to find fulfilling work.
“If you’re a young person, you may be unsure of what you want to do after school, or
whether you want to continue in education at all. Open days can play a vital role in helping
access the right education or training, providing a vital insight into the different courses and
ways of learning that are available to young people considering their next options.

“Virtual Open Days are a really innovative way to explore options digitally and will help
young people in deciding what to do next. Whether you are shielding at home, returning to
school to say goodbye for the summer, or are not sure what to do next, our national virtual
open days will ensure learners in every region of Wales have the opportunity to engage and
ask questions at this important time.”

Nikki Lawrence, chief executive of Careers Wales, said: “Deciding what the next step is with
your education is an important time for young people across Wales and we want to make
sure that they are still able to explore the different options that are available.

“During the four days we will be offering additional support from our expert careers advisers
who will be available via our live web chat. This will enable young people who are not sure
what the next step is to get the advice and guidance they need.”

To find out more about Wales’ Virtual Open Days, call Working Wales on 0800 028 4844 or
go to www.workingwales.gov.wales/start-your-story.

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Education

£18m to support children and young people with additional learning needs

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NEW funding to support children and young people with Additional Learning Needs has been announced by Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language.

£18m will be made available to provide extra support for children and young people with ALN who’ve been affected by the pandemic and to help educational settings as learners move to the new ALN system from this month.

£10m of the funding will be used to support learners with ALN affected by the pandemic and to improve their wellbeing. During the pandemic, many disabled children and young people, including learners with ALN, continue to experience a negative impact on their mental health and difficulties accessing education.

The funding will add to existing support for ALN learners, such as intensive learning support and speech and language therapy. The funding can also be used to provide extra resources to target the impacts of the pandemic, such as mental health support and tailored support to help with attendance.

£8m will be allocated to schools, nurseries, local authorities and Pupil Referral Units to move learners from the old Special Educational Needs (SEN) system to the new ALN system, as the roll-out of the Additional Learning Needs Act continues.

The new ALN system, being rolled out over three years, will ensure children and young people with ALN are identified quickly and their needs are met. The Act makes provision for new individual development plans, designed to put the views of learners at the heart of the decision-making process, alongside those of their parents or carers.

Minister for Education and Welsh Language Jeremy Miles said:

“We are determined to deliver a fully inclusive education system in Wales – a system where additional needs are identified early and addressed quickly, and where all children and young people are supported to thrive in their education.

“Schools and nurseries are already doing a fantastic job of supporting their learners, but we know they need more resources to do this. That’s why I’m announcing this additional investment to support learners to overcome the effects of the pandemic and prevent the entrenchment of inequalities on their education, employment opportunities, their health and wellbeing.”

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Education

Over £100m of new funding will help make schools and colleges Covid-secure

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Schools and colleges to receive additional funding

SCHOOLS and colleges will receive £103 million in Welsh Government funding, as learners return for the January term.

£50m will be provided via local authorities through the Sustainable Communities for Learning programme. The funding will help schools carry out capital repair and improvement work, with a focus on health and safety measures, such as improving ventilation. The funding will also be used to support decarbonisation.

£45m of revenue funding will also help support school budgets, assisting schools as they continue to deal with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and to prepare for the requirements of the new curriculum.

An additional £8m will be provided to further education colleges, to ensure learning can continue safely and ensure the most disadvantaged learners are not further impacted by the pandemic.

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

“I know schools and colleges have faced a very difficult time and everyone across the workforce has worked incredibly hard to meet the challenges of the pandemic. This funding will further support our schools and colleges to keep settings as Covid-secure as possible.

“While we want to support the sector in recovering from the pandemic, we also have to make sure we continue to plan for the future, and help all education settings across Wales fulfil our collective goals of making Wales a net-zero nation.

“The funding announced today will help us to ensure sustainability across the sector – be that the environmental sustainability achieved through decarbonisation, or sustainability in provision.”

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Education

Union calls for ‘immediate action’ to keep schools open in January

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A TEACHERS’ union is calling on the Welsh Government to “take urgent action” to reduce the potential risk of further disruption to education as a result of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The surge of Covid cases in Wales, driven by the spread of the Omicron variant, is expected to cause significant staff absence issues when schools return next week.

Some schools need to start planning for pupils to return to online learning, Wales’ first minister said last week.

Mark Drakeford said teacher and staff illness will mean some pupils returning to home learning, but decisions would be made by individual councils, rather than the Welsh government.

The NASUWT union said its members “desperately want to be able to provide face-to-face teaching for all children and young people in the next academic term without further problems caused by the pandemic.”

While NAHT Cymru Director Laura Doel said: “The availability of staff is the biggest threat to education in January. Without the workforce fit and well, learners cannot go back to the classroom.”

NAHT Cymru Director: Laura Doel (Pic: BBC Wales)

The Welsh Conservatives want the government in Wales to “follow in the footsteps” of their English counterparts and invite “an army of ex-teachers to return to classrooms” in a bid to ease any potential pressure.

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said teachers have been “on the frontline throughout the pandemic to support pupils and students and provide them with the best education possible.”

“However, the rising number of cases of the Omicron variant could cause significant disruption in the next academic term with many teachers being forced to self-isolate.

“The Welsh Government must take immediate action to ensure that schools can continue to operate safely and provide high quality education.

“This is particularly important to protect disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people who have often been affected most by the pandemic.”

The NASUWT is urging the Welsh Government to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission by providing government-funded air cleaning units to every school and college that needs these devices.

They are also calling on the Welsh Government to support household close contacts to self-isolate to reduce the risk of transmission and wider disruption within schools.

The union wants the government to commit to providing schools with more resources to enable on-site Covid testing.

The NASUWT has also called for improved financial support for schools and colleges to help with the cost of supply staff to cover for Covid-related absence.

Neil Butler, NASUWT National Official for Wales, said: “Teachers, pupils and students, and parents will be concerned about the potential risk of further disruption to schools caused by the Omicron variant.

“The Welsh Government must do everything it can to prevent schools from experiencing significant staffing problems next term and further damage to the education of children and young people.”
Staff availability, biggest threat to education.
NAHT Cymru Director Laura Doel said: “The availability of staff is the biggest threat to education in January.”

“Without the workforce fit and well, learners cannot go back to the classroom.”

“If LFTs for close contacts need to be taken for 7 days there must be a supply available for schools.”

“If track and trace are supposed to support the system we must ensure they have the capacity to do so and if parents are to understand what is required of them, there must be clear communication.”

“All of these elements need to be up and running next week to ensure the return to school is the success we want it to be.”

“The pressure on TTP system is an ongoing concern and therefore we maintain that classes should be designated as contact groups for testing purposes to bring consistency across all Local Authority areas and relieve the added pressure to trace close contacts, particularly in primary schools which is extremely difficult.”

“Given that staff availability has been a key area of concerns for months, NAHT Cymru believes prioritising the workforce for booster vaccinations was an opportunity missed.”

“It is too early to tell whether the new measures announced will be enough to keep schools open in January but we welcome the reintroduction of staggered session times and the planning days that will help schools manage their local situations.”

“Remote learning will remain a last resort, with staff absence and risk levels being the determining factors, but be assured that school leaders remain committed to doing all they can to support their learners and their families.”

The Welsh Conservative shadow education minister Laura Anne Jones MS said those who are recently retired, or trained as a teacher and moved career, should be asked to consider whether they can find even a day a week for the spring term to help protect face-to-face education.

She said: “Teachers have gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic, doing an inspirational job to support their pupils and communities in the face of adversity.”

“However, the disruption to school life and extended periods at home mean pupils’ education has inevitably suffered, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

“With cases of Omicron increasing across the country we must make sure schools and colleges have the teachers available to remain open for face-to-face education.”

“We have to be prepared for the new term ahead, otherwise our children will again feel the brunt. A ‘call to arms’ such as we’ve seen from Nadhim Zahawi and the Conservatives is a great idea and one we should replicate in Wales.”

“I hope the Labour Government gets such a scheme up and running so we can increase support in the classroom and minimise disruption to our children’s education.”

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