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Termly Notification: Spring Term 2009

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The termly notification newsletter is designed to keep schools and their governing bodies fully informed of forthcoming consultations and documents sent to schools. This will help schools to forward plan and manage their workload.

Forward Look from the Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills

Spring Term 2009

As we look forward to 2009, my main priorities for the year ahead are to make sure that education is at the forefront of activities to tackle economic pressures and to listen and take on board the views of our children and young people to ensure their needs and aspirations are met.  

In difficult economic times, it is more important than ever to invest in our education system.  We need to give our children and young people the best opportunities to gain the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to respond to the challenges ahead.  This is why Wales is committed to creating 21st Century schools which foster the best learning environment.  The school capital programme will receive an additional £24m in 2009 from the Welsh Assembly Government, building on the existing £168m a year investment.  

Our qualification system has to help young people develop the ability and aptitude to make an immediate impact upon entering the workplace.  The Welsh Baccalaureate focuses on the transferable skills such as teamwork, problem solving and communication that employers look for.  The qualification includes vocational and community based learning experiences.  It’s excellent to see so many schools and other learning providers recognising the benefits of the Welsh Baccalaureate, with a total of 168 centres across Wales ready to welcome 30,000 learners.  The Welsh Bac now covers all three levels of the Welsh Baccalaureate Qualification, Key Stage 4 provision and new applied Principal Learning and Project Qualifications.  

The new Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) in Wales, England and Northern Ireland focuses on reforming vocational qualifications with more flexible, credit based learning.  The new framework should improve the skills base in Wales, as the modular approach to the award of vocational qualifications is more relevant to the needs of employers and more accommodating to learners needs.  Furthermore, under the new framework learners, and the credits that they gain, will be fully recognised across the three countries, which will allow for transferability across borders of qualifications.  The QCF replaces the National Qualifications Framework to form part of the Curriculum and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW).  You will hear more about the development of the QCF over the next few months.

Reading is an essential life skill and we must focus our efforts on literacy as a priority.  The new 'Time Troop' comic, produced by the Basic Skills Cymru team, is a fun and colourful publication, designed to encourage learners - especially boys - to develop their literacy skills. The comic has been delivered to schools throughout Wales and is part of the Read a Million Words Together in Wales campaign, which focuses on making reading more accessible to boys in particular. The comic provides teachers with a useful additional resource to help improve boys’ literacy and enjoyment of reading, as evidence suggests that reading a range of materials such as comics and magazines motivates boys and reluctant readers.

Creating a positive school ethos is essential for effective learning.   There was a fantastic response to the recent anti-bullying week competitions, so thank you to all those who took part.  Details of the winners and runners up for both the poetry and spoof news competitions can be found on our website - www.wales.gov.uk/respectingothers.  New consultations on Emotional Health, Anti-Bullying and also tackling poor behaviour will be carried out this term.  

The groundbreaking Welsh Sabatical scheme was commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government to raise the number of bilingual practitioners across Wales.  It is an unique opportunity for individuals wishing to teach through the medium of Welsh or bilingually, to build confidence in the use of Welsh and provide them with the specialist terminology to do so.  During the spring term, Dr Cen Williams, founder of the course, and Carol Williams, one of the original course tutors, will be available to offer information sessions to teachers, headteachers, welsh language co-ordinators and other interested parties who have an interest in the scheme.  To arrange a visit or for further information, please contact the Sabbaticals Team on 01443 663770 or sabbaticalscheme@wales.gsi.gov.uk.  

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’s Monitoring Committee recently examined progress in implementing the UN Convention in the United Kingdom and Overseas Territories.  As part of its review, the Committee included a consideration of the progress that we have made in Wales in securing children and young people’s rights under the Convention.  The concluding observations were received in October 2008 and full consideration is still being given to them.  In Wales we intend to work with our partners and key stakeholders to prioritise the concluding observations and this will form the basis of an agreed action plan for Wales.  There will be a conference in Cardiff on 12 March 2009.  If you’re interested in attending, please email UNCRC@Quadrant.uk.com.

The All Wales Convention has been set up to find out what the people of Wales think about the way Wales should be governed in the future and how Wales should make laws.  They would like to invite young people in Wales to get involved in this debate.   Schools are encouraged to ask pupils to submit their thoughts on the National Assembly and the future of Wales.  The best responses will be published on the Convention’s website and representatives from the school with the best ideas will be invited to visit the Senedd in Cardiff.  Leaflets explaining more about the convention’s work are available to interested organisations.  The work is aimed predominantly at secondary schools because of the nature of the debate – however primary schools are welcome to get involved too.  For more information contact Anwen Lewis on 029 2089 8187, visit the Convention’s website www.allwalesconvention.org; or email them at info.convention@wales.gsi.gov.uk.

A communication providing advice on changes to the current vetting and barring schemes was issued by the Welsh Assembly Government in December 2008.  In case you did not receive this very important document, information is also available on the Welsh Assembly Government website – http://wales.gov.uk/topics/health/socialcare. Further guidance on the Vetting and Barring Scheme will be issued to schools as soon as it is available.  The ISA website - www.isa-gov.org.uk provides background information on the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act and The Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).  If you register with site they will provide you with regular updates on the new barring scheme.

I would like to wish everyone an enjoyable and successful Spring Term.


Jane Hutt
Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills