THINGS have gone from bad to worse for Torfaen’s education department in the past year. If you need help Bob or Mary please just ask.

All I can say is what a shame. It had such good foundations and structure what has gone wrong? One person who throughout my life I have aspired to follow is Mary Barnett who has been steadfast about ensuring the right education for the children must be devastated by this news.


“Greater change and pace are required in order to bring about further improvement.”

It goes on to criticise a failure by the authority to spot underperformance and its impact on learners, and says that: “the authority does not identify clearly for schools, managers and elected members the extent of the improvements required or the pace at which progress is needed.”

Good Old Bob, but why and how did it happen? or are these just the fall guys for a broken education process?

Council leader Bob Wellington and Ms Ward said: “We accept we have fallen short  of our own expectations, the expectations of residents and the minister’s  expectations, for which we apologise.

Read more: Wales Online


Torfaen council leader Bob Wellington told BBC Radio Wales they accepted the report’s findings and were prepared to work with whoever was appointed to help the authority.

“Patently it hasn’t improved enough and it hasn’t gone deep enough, or indeed, been fast enough,” he said.

“We don’t accept that we didn’t make any improvements. In, fact we consider that we had made improvements.

“A lot of people have put a lot of effort in to this, certainly at a managerial level and other levels.

“I think we’ve done everything we can to try and improve, but we recognise that we need external assistance in the same way that the other local authorities that are in the same place are receiving now.”

If you ever need help from me Bob you know you only have to ask.



Pembrokeshire County Council’s education services for children and young people have been judged to be unsatisfactory

JFI news report

17 December 2012

Pembrokeshire County Council’s education services for children and young people have been judged to be unsatisfactoryin an Estyn report published today. As a result of this report, Estyn has recommended to Welsh Ministers that the authority be placed in the category of an authority requiring special measures.

The ‘Report on the quality of local authority education services for children and young people in Pembrokeshire County Council’ identifies important shortcomings in leadership of the authority’s education services. It states that corporate leaders and senior elected members have been too slow to recognise key issues in safeguarding and to change the culture in, and improve, education services. The report also finds that the authority’s arrangements for supporting and challenging schools are not robust enough and have not had enough impact on improving outcomes.

The Estyn inspection team was joined by inspectors from the Wales Audit Office (WAO) and from the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW). The inspection also involved taking into consideration evidence from the joint recent investigation work by CCSIW and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) into Pembrokeshire. Estyn also took evidence from the WAO in relation to their ‘Special Inspection – Implementation of Safeguarding Arrangements in Pembrokeshire County Council’ which is published by Wales Audit Office today.

The Estyn inspection followed up on a similar inspection of the local authority’s education services for children and young people carried out in June 2011 which recommended that Pembrokeshire was placed in the category of being in need of significant improvement, due to shortcomings in the important areas of safeguarding and corporate governance.

Different languages force the brain to perceive reality and describe it in different manners and having a common language erases borders.

Growing up in Wales, speaking Welsh sometimes in school reading bilingual signs for what seems to be forever is what reminds me of my childhood. There was no fear just acceptance that that was the way it was. Luckily at this point I didn’t know about the Welsh not and was horrified when I learnt of it during my late teenage years and remember not understanding why we went through that process in our history.

This news item interested me because the languages that are bilingual are not commonly put together today and also in many ways it mirrors some of the facts and experiences of my childhood where Welsh and English were part of daily life. In my experience some people knew only Welsh, some only English and others were on a path between the two.

Here is the story.

Languages have always fascinated me.  From an early age I realized that different groups of people spoke different languages–and the words they used provided a window into unique worldviews.

This was because I grew up in a bilingual community in Western Kansas.  To visit Hays, Kansas, today, a person might not realize, but in the first half of the twentieth century, a majority of the population did not speak English as a native language, but rather German.  The German speakers were descendants of as group called the Volga Germans, Bavarians who had immigrated to Russia for nearly a century, and then immigrated to the Great Plains of the United States.

My family owned a lumber yard and hardware store.  All of our store clerks were bilingual in German, since most of the farmers only spoke German, and many of the contractors preferred German for their daily needs.  Although my family was also of Germanic origin — we came from Switzerland in the mid-nineteenth century — we had abandoned our language nearly a century earlier.  My father had to make do with what he called “kitchen German.”

My best childhood friend came from a German-speaking family.  Although his parents were fully bilingual, his grandparents much preferred German.  There were kids in my class who spoke a very heavily German accented English, even though they were third generation Americans. In spite of being surrounded by German, it just never found its way into the language center of my brain, except for a few stock phrases, and (sadly) swear words.

As a result of a quirk of fate, my father had begun travelling in Mexico when he was in college, in the late 1930s.  My parents honeymooned in Mexico, and in the early 1950s we began to vacation in Mexico every year at Christmastime.  As a result, from a very young age, I was also introduced to Spanish, and being a small child immersed in the language, I began to pick it up, in a manner that never happened with German for me.

Growing up in a multilingual environment was a gift to me, and certainly affected how I view the world. So it felt natural to concentrate on language during my university studies. I served as an assistant instructor of Spanish and went on to pick up Nahuatl (the Aztec language) as I studied early colonial Latin America earning my doctorate. It was an interesting challenge to learn a complex language like Nahuatl as an adult, compared to how seemingly simple it had been to pick up Spanish when I was a boy.

Growing up in a multilingual environment is very beneficial for the intellectual development of a child.  Folks used to think that if a child grew up in a multilingual home, the child would suffer from never achieving true fluency in either language, or perhaps confusing one language for the other.  Modern research has proven just the opposite.  Children keep track of languages very efficiently.  Rather than diminishing their language skills, it enhances them.  This might be because different languages force the brain to perceive reality and describe it in different manners.  This confirms the old saw: “The brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised.”

My wife and I saw this first-hand.  Our older son was raised in a bilingual environment, learning both Spanish and English from infancy.  When he was a toddler, we had great difficulty when he spoke to us in Spanish, because neither of us had learned Spanish baby talk.  Folks around us had to interpret for us.  As a Spanish teacher myself, it was very exciting to hear our son make exactly the same grammatical errors that his little friends did; errors which a native English speaker would not usually commit when learning Spanish, but perfectly in line with language development in Spanish. His Spanish skills have gone on to serve him very well in adulthood..

The study of foreign languages is simply the gift that keeps on giving.  It provides a person with multiple perspectives from which to view the world.  It actually strengthens the mind.  It allows a person to travel to other countries, which is also a great gift.  Most importantly, having a common language erases borders.  It allows one to put others at ease.

Even translators make errors

Even translators make errors !

A sign erected in Swansea that was supposed to read: “No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only”.

Instead, the message read: “I’m not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated”.

and then …

A Welsh language road sign in the Vale of Glamorgan urges drivers to “follow the
entertainment” rather than take a diversion.

and also…

The signs put up in Rhoose by Network Rail contractors also use the non-existent
word “acses” to mean access.

The full story here.

Education Consultation – Wales

Wales needs feedback about ensuring term dates are agreed on a Wales-wide basis and also home based education.

Read more here:

Plans to harmonise term dates for all maintained schools in  Wales have been unveiled by the Welsh Government.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews wants to place a legal duty on local  authorities to agree school term dates on a Wales-wide basis.

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation on the proposals which, if  supported, would allow ministers power to ensure “appropriate” term dates are  set.

Despite years of discussion between teaching unions and directors of  education, the uniformity of school holidays remains an issue in Wales.

Variation in term times impacts particularly on families of teachers, where  parents teach in different, often neighbouring, counties.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of teaching union ATL Cymru, welcomed the proposals  which he hoped would address the “immense problems” for staff and children.

“There is often little reason why different dates are chosen by local  authorities and it is obviously ludicrous that in a country as small as Wales  there could potentially be up to 22 different dates,” he said.

“It’s good that the minister is inviting stakeholders to sort the matter out  themselves, but he is right to say that he will do so if they do not. Parents,  teachers and children will welcome this more robust approach.”

In a separate development, the Welsh Government has also launched a  consultation into the monitoring of home-based education.

Mr Andrews wants to ensure children who are educated at home receive a “suitable education” correct to their age, aptitude and ability.

The move would create a compulsory registration system, but would not force  home-schooled children to follow a particular curriculum or take national  exams.

Mr Andrews said: “I believe the current legislation surrounding elective home  education has shortcomings because there is no legal requirement on the parent  to tell a local authority that a child is receiving education at home.

“In the absence of this requirement, it is very difficult for local  authorities to carry out their duties to ensure that children are receiving a  suitable education. For these reasons, I am proposing the introduction of a  compulsory registration and monitoring scheme for home-educated children.”

Figures released last week by the Welsh Government revealed that 986 pupils  were taken out of local authority education to be taught at home last year – compared to 896 in 2010-11.

Both education consultations run for 12 weeks and close in November

Read More