The Committee received for consideration an interim report on the Post-16 Education Review which had been undertaken in response to the aims of the Education and Children’s Service Business Plan to create strong and inclusive schools and services committed to excellence, equity and well-being.
The report outlined the progress made to establish overarching Learner Entitlement Principles for evolving the post-16 landscape in Carmarthenshire and proposed a remodelled governance structure based upon the feedback provided by secondary schools in terms of what learners valued within their educational provision and experience. In this regard, a synopsis of the key themes which formed the basis of those principles was provided to the Committee as follows:
· Relationship, Belonging, Well-Being and Ethos.
· Improved Pathway Guidance and Skills for Independence and for success in academic, work and life.
· Equity through More Welsh Language options.
· Equity through a wide range of options especially Vocational options.
In considering the report, it was noted that the findings were directly in line with the recommendations emanating from Estyn’s Review of the current 16-19 curriculum in Wales.
Reference was also made to the consultation workshop held on 10 February 2023 which provided Committee Members with an opportunity to provide feedback on the post-16 education review.
The issues/observations raised by the Committee were addressed as follows:-
Concerns were raised in respect of the ongoing National recruitment shortage of teachers which could prevent the Authority in meeting the demand for additional course options. The Head of Strategy and Learner Support referred to the recent Welsh Government announcement of £800,000 grant funding available across Wales, by way of a competitive bidding process, to recruit and train teachers for the provision Welsh-medium education. Furthermore, the Curriculum and Learning Network Manager clarified that the Authority was exploring the further development of hybrid learning, including the ‘e-sgol’ initiative to ensure the provision of a range of subjects for learners across Carmarthenshire.
In recognition of the feedback provided by learners in respect of the value placed on relationships, an assurance was provided to the Committee that pupils would experience a mixed model of learning, with core subjects available face to face at a local level, and additional subjects being delivered mainly on-line, with an element of face to face learning provision, to provide a fulfilled experience to prepare young people for higher education, whilst also maintaining a sense of community and belonging.
Reference was made to a report published by the Welsh Language Commissioner which indicated a significant reduction in the number of newly qualified teachers able to deliver Welsh-medium education. The Head of Strategy and Learner Support outlined the measures available to the Authority to build capacity by way of a comprehensive training system for teachers to learn Welsh or improve the confidence in delivering lessons through the medium of Welsh.
In response to concerns raised in respect of the high level of students not competing their Postgraduate Certificate in Education, the Head of Strategy and Learner Support endorsed the suggestion made to further explore the possible introduction of taster sessions, or workplace experience as Teaching Assistants for university students to further understand the requirements of the role in order to make informed career choices.
Following an enquiry regarding governance arrangements, the Director of Education and Children’s Services clarified that following a review of meeting/group structures, the Education and Children’s’ Services division had introduced specific focus groups to deal with various aspects of the business within the department, with appropriate representation to ensure effective input and the best outcomes for young people.
Reference was made to the STEM learning pathways, whereby it was suggested that the Youth Construction Ambassador Scheme for primary school pupils could be extended to secondary and higher education students as a means of providing practical learning and community engagement.
UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVED that the Interim Report on the Post-16 Education Review be endorsed and referred to the Cabinet for consideration.