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NUT welcomes newly announced curriculum reforms

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has welcomed the Welsh Education Minister, Huw Lewis's reforms of the curriculum.

We welcome the fact the Education Minister has accepted the principles of the Donaldson review in full. We also welcome the very sensible approach the Minister has taken in not setting unrealistic timescales for implementation.

The proposals are a radical departure from how the curriculum has been delivered in the past and will require a major change, not only in how the teaching profession go about their work, but also in how local authorities, regional consortia, Estyn and the Welsh Government act.

– Owen hathway, NUT Cymru
  1. Tom Sheldrick

Education Minister confirms curriculum overhaul

The Education Minister has confirmed that Wales will press ahead with plans to overhaul the school curriculum here.

Proposals include making digital skills a priority, giving teachers more freedom, and making smoother transitions between subjects and year groups.

Huw Lewis told Assembly Members this afternoon he will accept the recommendations from Prof Graham Donaldson's report in full.

Education Minister Huw Lewis has not put a timescale on implementing curriculum changes.

We need a curriculum which is ambitious, engaging and fit for the challenges of the twenty first century.

The national curriculum of 1988 has served an important purpose, but we can no longer address the weaknesses of the current curriculum through a 'patch and mend' approach.

– Huw Lewis, Education Minister

He announced a search for pioneer schools who will help shape the new curriculum, and an Independent Advisory Group that will oversee progress.

  1. Tom Sheldrick

Curriculum overhaul expected to be given go-ahead

The Education Minister, Huw Lewis, is expected to confirm later that Wales will press ahead with a major shake-up of the school curriculum, as proposed by Prof Graham Donaldson in February.

The proposals include:

  • Making digital skills a key priority across all subjects
  • A less prescriptive curriculum - with teachers given more freedom around what to teach
  • Smoother transitions during different stages of education than the key stage we have currently
  • Broader areas for learning replacing individual subjects
  • External testing being kept to a minimum
Digital skills will join literacy and numeracy as key priorities. Credit: PA

The proposals are broadly similar to the curriculum model used in Scotland, and would likely take close to a decade to see fully implemented here.

The recommendations have been broadly welcomed, although there are fears they will create another period of upheaval for schools, teachers and pupils.

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  1. Nick Powell

Councils shake-up: 'Dramatic' council tax rise warning

The Welsh Local Government Association has said that today's proposals to shake up local councils offers no further assurances for council tax payers in Wales. It warns that bills could rise dramatically without a clear approach to how council tax will be adjusted when there's a merger between councils that have been setting different rates.

The WLGA says there's no consensus between the councils and the Welsh government about today's proposals. It says they add to the maps and options set out in the Williams report last year but do not provide additional clarity or certainty. The councils say that with no political agreement, reorganisation will take at least five years and warn that disruption, distraction and uncertainty will continue.

We call on the Welsh Government today to work closely with the WLGA and hold an urgent summit of the 22 council leaders and senior ministers, to discuss the future of local government in Wales. This summit could debate the way forward in terms of structures, but more importantly set in place a new vision for local government which is currently at the epicentre of public sector funding cuts and is having to carry a disproportionate share of the huge austerity burden.

The sustainability of authorities in Wales is in question over the next three years and it is time to examine all options for reforming public services across the board. This means looking at greater integration of health and social care, freeing up authorities from Government bureaucracy and regulation and also empowering local communities through their councils.

– WLGA Leader, Cllr Bob Wellington
  1. Nick Powell

New council map announced in shake-up proposal

The Welsh Government is proposing eight new counties, with the option of Conwy and Denbighshire forming a separate authority. Credit: Welsh Government

The Welsh Government has published its plans to shake up local government. The current 22 local authorities would be replaced by either eight or nine new councils, with the only question left open is whether north Wales should have two councils or three.

The plans go further than the Williams Commission proposals for between 10 and 12 councils. The idea of following health board boundaries has also been rejected, with Bridgend grouped with Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil rather than Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

But to get its plans through, Labour will have to win an outright majority at next year's Assembly election or do a deal with another party. All the opposition parties have other ideas so today's map is not yet a done deal.

This announcement provides further clarity on the future configuration of local authorities in Wales. It sets out our preference for the future structure in south, mid and west Wales while facilitating further discussion around north Wales. The case in north Wales is finely balanced between two or three local authorities. We therefore feel that there is a case for a further debate and would welcome views. I want to emphasise this is not a final decision. It is the next phase in our public debate.

– Public Service Minister Leighton Andrews AM

The full list of proposed mergers is:

  • Gwynedd, Anglesey and Conwy
  • Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham
  • Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire
  • Swansea and Neath Port Talbot
  • Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil
  • Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan
  • Newport, Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly

Powys would remain unchanged and the option of merging Conwy and Denbighshire into an additional county is also on offer.

Welsh primary school attendance 'improving' but still behind rest of UK

Attendance in Wales' primary schools is improving but still lags behind the rest of the UK, according to a new report by education watchdog Estyn.

The report found attendance in Wales' primary schools is improving but still lags behind the rest of the UK. Credit: PA

The report suggests that the key to tackling poor attendance is to adopt a variety of strategies, such as having a clear attendance policy and engaging well with pupils and parents, rather than focusing on one particular approach.

Inspectors found that schools with consistently good or improved attendance:

  • Created a welcoming environment for pupils
  • Had a clear attendance policy
  • Engaged well with pupils and parents
  • Analysed and monitored data about absence and the reasons for it
  • Evaluated the impact of attendance strategies
  • Developed strong links with community support services
  • Had specified staff responsible for improving attendance
  • Used appropriate rewards and incentives
  • Involved school leaders and governors in evaluating attendance strategies

"Although there has been an improvement in attendance rates over the last year, pupils in Welsh primary schools still miss more school than those in the rest of the UK. Effective school leaders understand the importance of attendance to pupils' life chances. I am confident that the strategies outlined in the report will help schools to improve pupils' attendance and continue the upward trend in attendance rates."

– Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector
The Welsh Government says it recognises that work still needs to be done. Credit: PA

The report recommends that schools implement all the strategies identified to make sure that pupils across Wales attend school regularly.

The Welsh Government says it welcomes the report and recognises that work still needs to be done.

“We take this issue extremely seriously as evidence shows that attendance impacts on learner attainment and is key to raising standards across the board. We would encourage schools, local authorities and consortia to study the report and consider how they can use this best practice to continue to improve attendance. In line with the recommendation of the report , we will work to further raise awareness of our current guidance on attendance within schools, local authorities and regional consortia.”

– Welsh Government spokesperson
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