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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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Education

Welsh schools plan to work from home after Christmas

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Jeremy Miles MS

SCHOOLS across Wales have been told by the Education Minister to prepare for at-home learning starting in January.

Jeremy Miles MS has repeated the Welsh Government’s aspiration to stick to in-person learning in schools. However, he added that some measures may need to be taken to protect children and staff members.

He has written to schools, suggesting they have preparations in place to move to remote learning if needed.

Schools will be given two days at the start of the spring term to create plans for all children to return to school.

Colleges have also been given the option to use the two “planning days” at the start of term, and have been advised they can move to some online learning from January.

The use of face coverings in schools will continue, as well as an increase in taking Lateral Flow Tests. Secondary school pupils and staff are expected to test at least three times a week.

Schools have also been given permission to stagger starting and finishing times in the new term to help combat the spread of the Omicron variant.

Mr Miles has said: “Our collective priority continues to be to minimise the disruption to education, and ensure where possible learners continue to receive in-person learning, as well as protecting staff, learners and communities,

“I know that the autumn term has been particularly challenging for school staff, learners and their families, and the level of disruption due to staff capacity has resulted in some schools having to make the difficult decision to move certain classes or year groups to remote learning for short periods.

“In recognition of the challenges that schools and colleges have faced, and the current levels of uncertainty regarding the impact of Omicron, I have today written to all schools and colleges to provide as much clarity now as I can to enable them to plan and prepare for the return in January.

“I am providing all schools with two planning days at the start of the spring term. This will allow time for schools to assess staffing capacity and put the necessary measures in place to support the return of all learners.

“Schools will be asked to make use of the planning days to ensure they have robust plans in place to move to remote learning if required – this could be for individual classes or year groups or possibly for the whole school.

“Schools will be asked also to use this opportunity to revisit contingency plans, ensuring exam years are prioritised for on-site provision should there be a need to restrict in person learning at any time and consider what arrangements might need to be in place for vulnerable learners and the children of critical workers during any periods of disruption.

“This is a fast evolving situation and we continue to monitor the latest data and evidence.

“I would like to reiterate my thanks to all in the education community for all they have done during these most challenging of times.”

Commenting Laura Anne Jones MS, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Education Minister, said:

“The youngest in our society have sacrificed so much during the pandemic to protect others at a huge cost to their own life chances.

“Therefore, it is essential we do everything we can to ensure schools are kept open at their normal capacity.

“Education is not expendable, especially for vulnerable children where their time away from home is their only respite from abuse.

“There are legitimate concerns over workforce availability if a significant wave hits the country, and that’s why the priority and energy of government must be directed at rolling out the booster jab programme as quickly as possible.”

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