Starting Afresh

Education has certainly changed since my last blog and thoughts. I have also changed, had some edges rubbed off me by the ever changing tide.

I was recently taken back to remembering my NQT year as a mature student. The school where I was working was training students all fresh faces, with excitement in the explanations and reasons for teaching. Watching them over the few weeks of their placement was a reminder of just how hard we worked, how interested  we were in our subject, how we wanted to change young peoples lives.

Everything they did helped me put back into perspective what I do daily and why. It suddenly dawned on me that the NQT is still inside, but changes to policies, head teachers with differing focusses, practice, theory being rewritten and technological developments have made me try and become the perfect textbook teacher (isn’t that what  OFSTED,ESTYN, Performance Management are really about)? What I had lost was the spontaneity with a  group, sharing my own passion for designing and making, and starting debates that may lead nowhere, but at least we have thought about the question posed. That is why with my current year 10 I have a plastic bag and weekly I go shopping. the first week they were quite bored, with comments like do you really like shopping at the 99p shop? However as the weeks have gone on, I noticed recently that some heads were actually turning the whole way around to see what was in there before I got the item out. Last week I was poorly and  didn’t do it and there were murmurs of “where’s your shopping, miss”.

What was inside my bag?  Nothing special, just items that either r allowed me to talk about design or our current topic,  biomimicry. My current favourite are the cactus inspired erasers, whereas the young people preferred the shark ruler, possibly because they were researching sharks themselves, their way it allowed their minds to think differently.

What shall I take this week? I am not sure but it is sure to be Easter inspired. Off to the shops I go…..

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Science report KS2 and 3 Wales

Just in… Estyn have shared their information giving recommendations on what Science lessons should look like and the responsibilities of the appropriate parties. All good information which confirms that those who have English as their second language should also be challenged and given scientific experiences.

Summary

The report has a context in the Welsh Government’s vision for scientific research, science teaching and the commercialisation of research set out in the Welsh Government document ‘Science for Wales – A strategic agenda for science and innovation in Wales’.

This report also provides evidence for the Welsh Government in relation to a recommendation from the Enterprise and Learning Committee’s report on science, technology, engineering and mathematics: ‘We recommend that the Welsh Assembly Government should carry out a study of why science in primary schools may be experiencing a decline and should explore with Estyn how best to assess science performance in the future.’

Recommendations

Primary and secondary schools should:
provide challenging science opportunities to stretch all pupils, particularly the more able, and eliminate tasks that are too easy;
provide more opportunities for pupils to pursue their own scientific interests;
ensure that assessment and marking practices provide pupils with meaningful advice on how to improve their scientific understanding and skills; and
work with other schools to share effective approaches to teaching and assessing science.

In addition, primary schools should:
make sure that pupils are taught science for at least two hours a week; and
provide training for teachers with weak science subject knowledge.

In addition, secondary schools should:
plan to use a wider range of numeracy skills in science lessons.

Local authorities should:
provide more professional development, support and advice to schools on science teaching and learning; and
support schools to share best practice in science education.

The Welsh Government should:
improve the reliability and validity of teacher assessment by reviewing assessment criteria and introducing an element of external moderation; and
review the National Curriculum subject orders for science to include essential content.

Best practice case studies

You can read the following examples of best practice in the main body of the report:
Cefn Saeson Comprehensive School, Neath Port Talbot
Pontarddulais Primary School, Swansea
Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Gartholwg, Rhondda Cynon Taff
Darland High School, Wrexham

ESTYN – To focus on Literacy and Numeracy

Do you want to know when you will be inspected if you are in Wales? If so this link to ESTYNs site and their inspection dates for primary schools will be very useful.

http://www.estyn.gov.uk/english/inspection/inspection-schedule/#Primary_Schools

and for Secondaries

http://www.estyn.gov.uk/english/inspection/inspection-schedule/#Secondary_schools

from September the following have been reported on the website.

Estyn changes for September 2013

Estyn changes for September 2013

Estyn inspection changes 2013

That means that schools must now ensure they focus on literacy and numeracy to ensure good practice is embedded before the Inspections start in the new academic year.

Embracing bilingualism helps school achieve Good OFSTED report.

What great news that a school in Peterborough has improved so greatly in the past months that OFSTED have now deemed them as good. So remarkable that news papers Peterborough Today and the Daily Mail and even the radio station R2 have today run the story.

 

Readers of this blog will not be surprised that by embracing bilingualism and using it to benefit your teaching improves and speeds up the rate that the pupils learn English. I have gathered information about its benefits and the results are now starting to come through. The head teacher clearly supports this view of bilingualism and her results show that by embracing it results can be improved quickly. I believe this is the start of the educational culture change which so many schools and LA officers were resisting up until a year or so ago.

 

Head Christine Parker, 54, said: ‘More and more  of the world is  going bilingual. The culture at our school is not to see  bilingualism as  a difficulty.’

I am also hopeful that this great result will also make sure that gone are the conversations littered with  I only have one or two! or what can I do I don’t speak their language? as an excuse is changing. Gone and evidently going are the teachers plodding along teaching what is comfortable for them in such a way that it takes longer than necessary for the children to pick up the language.  Children pick up social language quite easily and it is the schools job to ensure the curriculum is taught and academic language is known and understood. In the future we should now be able to say that  Every Student does Matter.

There will be difficulties along the way as the head describes here;

‘Sometimes parents have tried to help  their  children learn English but their own isn’t too good,’ she said.  ‘The outcome is  the children aren’t fluent in their own language. If  they haven’t got a good  foundation [in their own language] it can be  very difficult to build on  that.’

but by sharing and supporting each other we can ensure that this becomes the reality.

 

Welsh children should all have a chance at bilingualism

Further to my post last week I see this press report from Wales Online again about ESTYN’s findings and the writer supports my belief that we should encourage bilingualism but the policy and strategy for ensuring this including the training of teachers with the level of Welsh needed to be more fluent in English-speaking Welsh schools.

As a parent I for one was pleased that Welsh schools were embraced and that I had the choice of sending my child to a Welsh-speaking school even though English was our main family language. Just as important for my other family members was the choice not to send their child to a  Welsh school but to and English school that taught Welsh. I am sure this is still a really good compromise for most of the Welsh people.

This is just food for thought unless everyone just speaks Welsh in Wales then dual language and the balance between the two must always be measured against the needs of the children and society and not a group that wishes just to promote the language.  Whilst there is a place for this they can alienate if they try to impose their wish. My family members are mainly happy that they speak English and have no wish for their children to learn Welsh apart from an awareness of it and an acceptance of bilingualism.

The report finishes on these notes to which I totally agree.

Whatever action the minister decides to take on the basis of the findings, he  needs to ensure that the excellent work done by his Government doesn’t slip  between the cracks.

 

The Welsh-Medium Education Strategy is a case in point, as are the powers in  the School Standards and Organisation Bill. At long last, the framework is in  place to hold local authorities to account in terms of their Welsh education  strategies – so please, let’s not abandon ship now.

 

For those still young enough to soak it up, to those of us a little more  advanced in our years, including all school staff, the support needs to be in  place to give everybody the opportunity to grasp bilingualism with both  hands.

Read more: Wales Online http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education-news/2013/01/31/all-must-have-chanceto-grasp-bilingualism-91466-32713956/#ixzz2JdY5Kj5I

 

 

Children in Wales are making progress in developing their Welsh Language skills

A report out today says that at Foundation stage the children in Wales are acquiring Welsh language skills but the focus now needs to be on improving reading and writing skills.

The report says that

 In the best schools, teachers are highly skilled, passionate and plan fun and stimulating activities that engage and excite the children, but in a minority of schools and settings staff are not devoting enough direct teaching time to developing the Welsh language and there are gaps in practitioners’ knowledge and skills that are inhibiting the children’s learning and development.

This is a difficult one if the teacher’s do not speak Welsh fluently then the school will be unable to move further forward without either employing more natural Welsh speakers or up skilling the teachers level of Welsh knowledge. This leads me to wonder about EAL teaching how often do we as teachers/inspectors/observers assume the support assistant has the skill set but they also need up skilling not only in English but in their home language as well? ….  Just as valid is the next question that follows should we ensure we are up skilling these practitioners to support our children to get the best education?     Just an observation open for your ideas and comments.

For the full report see http://www.estyn.gov.uk/english/news/news/children-in-wales-are-making-progress-in-developing-their-welsh-language-skills-in-the-foundation-phase/ or the whole piece below.

Children in Wales are making progress in acquiring Welsh language skills, but more needs to be done to continue the upward trend in their reading and writing skills, according to Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales.
In a report published today, Welsh Language Development in the Foundation Phase, the inspectorate found that in the majority of English-medium schools most children are making good progress in speaking and listening to Welsh in the Foundation Phase, but their reading and writing skills are less well developed.
Ann Keane, the inspectorate’s Chief Inspector said,

“Welsh Language is one of the seven Areas of Learning in the Foundation Phase Framework for Children’s Learning.
During the last two years, we have seen progress being made in Welsh Language Development in the majority of schools and settings. Children are enjoying learning the language of Wales in innovative and fun ways.
In the best schools, teachers are highly skilled, passionate and plan fun and stimulating activities that engage and excite the children, but in a minority of schools and settings staff are not devoting enough direct teaching time to developing the Welsh language and there are gaps in practitioners’ knowledge and skills that are inhibiting the children’s learning and development.”

The inspectorate also found that children’s progress in Welsh Language Development is a concern in over a third of English-medium non-maintained settings. In these settings, children lack confidence in using Welsh outside short whole-group sessions such as registration periods or singing sessions and they do not use the Welsh language in their play or learning without prompts from adults.
Ann Keane continues,

“Schools and settings need to review, evaluate and plan engaging and effective ways for children to speak, read and write Welsh across all areas of learning.
In the best schools, teachers use real life experiences for children to use their Welsh language skills such as making shopping lists or writing party invitations. In these instances, children are highly engaged and are making good progress in writing Welsh.”

The inspectorate outlines a number of recommendations for schools and settings, local authorities and the Welsh Government, to address the issues highlighted within the report.
For example, schools and settings should evaluate planning to make sure that there are enough opportunities for children to use the Welsh language in other areas of learning and outdoor activities and monitor and evaluate how well children are doing in developing their Welsh language skills. In addition, local authorities need to be providing better access to Welsh Language support and training for practitioners as well as sharing good practice.
Ann Keane concludes,

“Every child in Wales has the right to access the best quality Welsh Language education. This report provides a number of best practice case studies illustrating how schools have successfully developed children’s skills in Welsh. I would encourage all practitioners to read this report and use the case studies to assess their own practice and develop new ways of improving the provision of Welsh Language Development.”