Archive | January, 2017

5 Hopes for Welsh Education in 2017

16 Jan

Class Sizes

As part of my look ahead to 2016 I put the issue of class sizes on the agenda.  It remains one of the issues that teachers and parents raise most with me but was largely absent from the political debate, despite class sizes slowly but surely increasing year on year.

With Kirsty Williams becoming the Cabinet Secretary for Education and class sizes being a central plank of the Lib Dem education offering at the election it seems we finally have this in the spotlight.

Hopefully we will have further announcements about how the policy will be developed in future and how it will be piloted.  It is important that if you are a critic of the proposals that you give them fair opportunity to show their worth.  This means not making rash judgments over short-periods of time but listening to the qualified feedback of the profession, looking at the wider impacts the policy has on pupil and teacher well-being and how it both directly and indirectly can contribute to standards.  For those of us that are supporters of the decision to make reducing class sizes a firm Welsh Government commitment it is also important we reflect honestly on the findings of the policy in the early stages.  That means recognizing both its successes and potential failures, assessing where changes and developments can be made to improve its delivery and working with the Welsh Government to ensure it succeeds.  It also means acknowledging if indeed it has been a success or not.

Supply

As with class sizes my 2016 blog was hopeful that we may finally get concrete action on supply.  As with class sizes we also made some real headway in regards to putting this issue front and center of the education debate.  The Children’s committee deserve a lot of credit for their report which, whilst potentially could have been more direct, made it quite clear that the current system failed pupils, parents and teachers and needed a radical overhaul.  The Welsh Government to their credit fully accepted the report and set up a task-force to make recommendations.

Those recommendations are in according to Kirsty Williams at the last education questions session in the Senedd.  We hope not to hear what the findings will be and that ultimately they lead to a system that is far fairer for those working in that sector, that offer a better provision for schools and lead to a more motivated and supported workforce.  If that can be achieved we have the potential to serious unlock a missing piece of the puzzle on education reform.

The Curriculum

This seems to me a never ending feature on these blogs but that just goes to show how crucial it is to get this reform right.  With the Diamond review findings having come and gone and the PISA rankings published, curriculum delivery remains the big hurdle for Kirsty Williams to maneuver.

Pioneer schools are still working on their proposals, with 25 new pioneer schools having joined the work in recent weeks highlighting that this is not easy to get right.  My big hope here is that without having seem any real framework thus far, and without seeing any firm plans to deliver the sort of sector wide professional development which will have to be undertaken to take a sector who have lived under prescriptive micromanagement in recent years to a freer more innovative workforce, time is given to getting this right.  I have always felt the timescales were short for proper delivery.  Being adaptable to change must be in the mind of everyone involved here.

Recruitment

This issue is one that must be viewed on several levels.  Firstly that we make the whole sector appealing.  Cuts to pay and pensions have undoubtedly forced many graduates to think twice about entering the profession.  The added workload concerns only exacerbate that problem.  The fact that we have failed to reach the target for secondary training places for each of the past five years, including falling a third short in the latest figures, shows that while this isn’t currently a crisis it is a growing concern.  We need to make teaching as a career and vocation viewed with the high standard of esteem that it has been in the past.  That means properly respecting the role and offering the sort of support throughout a career that reflects the importance it has in driving our education system, our economy and our communities.

It is also important we target the right type of recruitment.  As the recent science graduate story shows there are pockets of missing expertise.  Drawing more individuals with specific backgrounds into the profession is vital.  Naturally of course tackling many of the problems in part A of this conundrum will address those in part B also.  However, there must also be specific campaigns and measures considered for the unique challenges of making teaching an appealing choice for those from backgrounds that have not traditionally taken up the role.

Pay

With the Wales Bill comes the devolution of pay.  This has massive implications for the teaching workforce.  The Welsh Government have been very positive in their words and pledges around this issue.  That has, to an extent, appeased some concerns from a profession that has by and large been skeptical of such a move.  Getting this right may be both the biggest challenge and biggest success of education in the devolution era.  It presents the opportunity to stop the rot of declining terms and conditions.  It presents the opportunity to empower a profession and create a workforce and Government in dual commitment.  It presents the opportunity to put social partnership at the very heart of public sector delivery.  It presents the opportunity to make the Welsh teaching workforce the most attractive in the UK, drawing in the very best in talent and the most motivated and respected teachers.  Of course it also presents the risks of the alternate in every option should the Welsh Government fail to make it work.

4 Hopes for Education in 2016 Revisited

10 Jan

At the start of last year I posted a blog with my hopes for education in 2016.  I thought it would be worth revisiting that to see what progress was made.

1. Class Sizes.

When I originally wrote about this the issue it was largely being ignored.  I reflected at the time that Kirsty Williams AM had raised it in the chamber and I hoped it would lead to a wider discussion on the subject.  Little did I know that a few months later Kirsty Williams would be the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and this would be a central plank of her reforms.

We are awaiting the full details of how this policy is to be delivered but clearly it is going to be a significant policy for the Welsh Government in a way we haven’t seen for a number of years.  It is something teachers and parents alike will widely welcome.  Undoubtedly it faces challenges.  A number of Labour backbenches have already shown some dissent and opposition parties are skeptical, however I hope the pilot will be well designed and it will be given time to prove its value.

2. Election of Ideas.

My big hope for the Assembly election was that we would have an election of ideas in education rather than the often tribal and scaremongering rhetoric you see within the health debate.  As I reflected at the time I think for the most part we achieved that.  I ran a number of blogposts reviewing the manifesto commitments of each parties.  All of them had something within them that sparked debate.  That was certainly a positive outlook.

At the same time while the political parties put forward ideas worth debating that debate still did not really materialize, which was a shame.

3. The Supply Question.

I wanted supply to take a central stage in 2016 and it did.  We have more scrutiny and more action on the supply sector now than we have in the past decade.  The arguments against the existing system have been won and it is just a question of ensuring that we reform in a way that better supports individuals working in that sector and schools who rely on their provision.

The Supply Task Force was due to report their findings in December of last year but that remains outstanding.  It can only be hoped that the delay is due to a combination of the volume of evidence and a reflection of the importance of getting this right.  We should see the taskforce’s report in the immediate future and no doubt it will be a vitally important piece of work for Welsh education throughout the coming 12 months.

4. Pioneer Schools.

My hope for pioneer schools would be that they would be given the time and space to work effectively on the curriculum.  That, thus far, appears to be the case.  The fact that this week the Welsh Government announced that a further 25 schools or so would be joining the work perhaps reflects that this is a bigger job than originally anticipated.  We can take some positives of pioneer school work over the past 12 months but it remains vital that they are supported in the work they do in future months.

All in all I think the hopes have been positive to reflect on, which perhaps echoes the fact that the sector as a whole has a slightly more upbeat feeling in 2017 than it did at the start of 2016.  Over the next few days I will post the hopes for this coming year as has become an annual tradition.

Books of the Year

3 Jan

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Over the past few years I’ve done a books of the year list from what I read over the prior 12 months.  At the start of this year I began blogging reviews of each book as well as charting how I leave the books I’ve read for strangers to find in public places.  Sadly my passion to keep that blog going wavered after I got to 98 books and still only had a response from one person who had found a book I’d left.  I’ll keep leaving them but as I pass the 100 mark I’m less hopeful.  Anyway……here is this years list.  There have been some brilliant read in there.  My love of Keigo Higashino and Haruki Murakami continued to grow thanks to some superb entries from them.  Overall I must say I think both on quality and quantity (I failed to reach a book a week for the first time in 3 years) this was a poorer year than the last.  2016 though eh.  Am I right!

The Best 

Journey Under The Midnight Sun – Keigo Higashino

Disclaimer – Renee Knight

The Taliban Shuffle – Kim Barker

I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh

Hear The Wind Sing – Haruki Murakami

The Second Coming – John Niven

Murder On The Orient Express – Agatha Christie

I Saw A Man – Owen Sheers

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

Nomad – Alan Partridge

The Best of the Rest

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson

The Amateurs – John Niven

The Actual One – Isy Suttie

Fade Away – Harlan Coben

The Let Downs

Jonathan Unleashed – Meg Rosoff

The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

Bullet Points – Mark Watson

The Ghost Writer – Philip Roth

Full reading List

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada (1)

Reasons to stay alive – Matt Haig (2)

Disclaimer – Renee Knight (3)

Personal Days – Ed Park (4)

Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy – John le Carre (5)

The Girl In The Red Coat – Kate Hamer (6)

The Taliban Shuffle – Kim Barker (7)

11/22/63 – Stephen King (8)

The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson (9)

Kill Your Boss – Shane Kuhn (10)

Jonathan Unleashed – Meg Rosoff (11)

The Amateurs – John Niven (12)

Hear The Wind Sing – Haruki Murakami (13)

The Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George (14)

Pinball – Haruki Murakami (15)

The Second Coming – John Niven (16)

Concussion  – Jeanne Marie Laskas (17)

Murder On The Orient Express – Agatha Christie (18)

Bullet Points – Mark Watson (19)

Shoot The Messenger – Shane Kuhn (20)

Stay Close – Harlan Coben (21)

The Actual One – Isy Suttie (22)

I Saw A Man – Owen Sheers (23)

Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby (24)

Deal Breaker – Harlan Coben (25)

Hitman Anders and The Meaning of It All – Jonas Jonasson (26)

Prey – James Carol (27)

The Long Dry – Cynan Jones (28)

Drop Shot – Harlan Coben (29)

Fade Away – Harlan Coben (30)

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson (31)

I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh (32)

Ways To Disappear – Idra Novey (33)

The Ghost Writer – Philip Roth (34)

Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (35)

The Girl With a Clock For A Heart – Peter Swanson (36)

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami (37)

Journey Under The Midnight Sun – Keigo Kigashino (38)

Animal: The Autobiography of the Female Body – Sara Pascoe (39)

Back Spin – Harlan Coben (40)

A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman (41)

The Decagon House Murders – Yukito Ayatsuji (42)

A Midsummer’s Equation – Keigo Higashino (43)

Nomad – Alan Partridge (44)

The Green Man – Kingsley Amis (45)