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Education

Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society launches 2022 Student Bursary Award

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WOULD you like some extra financial support to assist with your chosen college or career path? Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society’s Student Bursary Award is now open for applications.

The £1,000 bursary is open to all qualifying students studying agriculture, veterinary science, agricultural engineering, food technology, forestry or other subjects clearly allied to agriculture.

The bursary is tax free and will be awarded to the student who, in the opinion of a panel of judges, has submitted the best dissertation on how the bursary will assist them to complete their course of study.

The last winner of the award was 21-year-old Gracie Morris, of St. Davids. A former pupil of Ysgol Croesgoch and Ysgol Dewi Sant, Gracie was in her fourth and final year at Harper Adams University studying BSc agriculture with crop management at the time of winning the award.

Gracie said, “It was an honour and a privilege to have been awarded the Pembrokeshire County Show student bursary award in 2019. The bursary enabled me to undertake research towards my final year dissertation on biofumigation to control Rhizoctonia solani in potatoes.”

“The bursary allowed me to be financially secure during my last year of studies. Most of my spare time was spent researching for my dissertation so having a part-time job alongside university was not not possible for me.”

Gracie recommends qualifying students apply for the award. She said, “I would urge all Pembrokeshire students who study subjects that are clearly aligned to agriculture to apply for this bursary as it won’t only assist with your studies but will also give you great experiences such as undertaking an interview which is a key employment skill. It will also assist in your future career within the agriculture industry.”

Qualifying students must not have won the student bursary on a previous occasion, the applicant must be studying or has been accepted to study agriculture or allied subjects at a UK college or university at A-Level or higher and the applicants’ family home must be in Pembrokeshire.

Rob James, Chairman of the Society’s Bursary Committee said, “A panel of independent judges, chaired by a representative of the society, will draw up a short list of candidates who will be interviewed and the winning candidate will be asked to give a short presentation at a future meeting of the society’s show council.

“The standard of applications has always been exceptional which gives a lot of heart that there are a lot of very talented young people in our community. We are very much looking forward to receiving applications for this year’s bursary and hearing from the younger generation.”

To enter, students must submit a dissertation of 1,000 words entitled ‘How the bursary will assist my career progression.’

Further details and the entry form can be found on the website: www.pembsshow.org or by calling the show office: 01437 764331. The closing date for applications is Friday, 1 July 2022.

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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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Education

Castle School closure certain now rescue plan has failed

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PARENTS have been informed that the highly regarded Castle School, a beacon of independent education since its establishment in 2009 in Cresselly, is on the verge of closing down, with no rescue plan in sight.

The institution, which began with a mere 22 secondary-aged pupils, saw significant growth over the years, relocating to Narberth in 2015 and later to Haverfordwest. The school, known for its broad curriculum catering to pupils from the age of three to 18, prides itself on an ‘exceptionally high academic performance’, boasting an average of 95 per cent A*-C grades at GCSE.

Despite its academic success, the school announced earlier this month that it would be shutting its doors to the majority of its pupils come July, though it will remain operational for current GCSE and A Level students until their examinations are completed the following year.

Harriet Harrison, the headteacher and proprietor, expressed that the decision to close was made with a ‘heavy heart’ and after considerable deliberation. The news has left many parents in a scramble to secure alternative educational arrangements for their children.

A glimmer of hope appeared when Dr Mark Boulcott, a local dentist and retired army officer with a daughter at the school, presented a rescue plan. “I am doing what I can as quickly as I can. I am doing my very best to stop the closure of a great school,” Dr Boulcott stated, signalling his commitment to prevent the closure.

The school was envisioned to transition into a charitable organisation, with Dr Boulcott collaborating with Mrs Harrison until the end of this academic year before assuming full leadership in July. Unfortunately, this plan has been rendered unviable, with Dr Boulcott disclosing that from a business standpoint, the school’s recovery from the Covid crisis was insurmountable under the current conditions, making the prospect of taking over ‘untenable’.

In an earnest letter to the parents, which was obtained by The Pembrokeshire Herald, Dr Boulcott lamented that the challenges of establishing the school elsewhere were too great, necessitating a considerable investment and an estimated two years to navigate bureaucratic hurdles.

“It is with regret that without immediate extensive capital investment, something we do not have, school purchase resurrection or reorganisation is impossible,” Dr Boulcott concluded in his correspondence with the parents, effectively extinguishing the last embers of hope for the school’s survival.

As the community grapples with the impending loss of Castle School, the situation underscores the continuing pressures faced by independent educational institutions in the post-pandemic landscape.

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