The Welsh Conservatives will call on the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay to do everything it can to make sure that reform of the school day and year is the correct approach and backed up by evidence, following the announcement that extra school sessions are to be trialled in Wales.
Education Minister and Welsh Language Minister Jeremy Miles announced that over 1,800 learners will take part in the trial, benefitting from five hours of extra activity per week over a ten week period.
The trial, which follows a government commitment to explore reform of the school day, is focused on supporting disadvantaged pupils and schools particularly affected during the pandemic. The plans draw on international models and proposals made by the Education Policy Institute.
Speaking about the trial, Education Minister Jeremy Miles said: “We know from research that young people can gain in confidence and well-being from this approach, especially disadvantaged learners.
“The trial is a great opportunity to gather further evidence on how we use and structure time at school and how that might evolve in the future.”
In the Senedd today (01/02/2022), Shadow Education Minister Laura Anne Jones MS will respond to the Education Minister’s statement on school reform.
In an effort to ensure that the voices of experts and parents are listened to, she will ask the minister questions including:
• Will the Government consider filling this time with sport and physical exercise?
• Will this extra time take on a blended approach which mixes studies in with it?
• Would trails be undertaken to assess the effects it has on learners studies and outcomes?
• Will the Minister be presenting an array of different options that cater to each student’s needs?
As part of the trial teachers will decide how and what is delivered in each of the thirteen schools during the trial period.
One of the schools involved in the trial is Abertillery Learning Community who will be providing after-school provision for an hour a day as part of the trial.
The new scheme is a commitment of the Welsh Government’s Co-Operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru.The results of the trial and the next steps will be considered with Plaid Cymru as part of the Co-Operation Agreement.
Commenting on the debate, Laura Anne Jones MS – MS for South Wales East – said:
“The youngest in our society have sacrificed so much during the pandemic to protect others at a huge cost to their own life chances. So we have to make sure that any changes will truly benefit learners, work for those families with younger siblings, consider the working day implications and improve children and young people’s educational outcomes.
“There are various different options and routes to look at, with many parents keen for young people undertake more sport, community projects, hobbies or enjoy local clubs like the scouts/guides or cadets.
“I want the approach to be backed-up by evidence, with the views of parents, children and teachers being sought, as well as looking at other countries such as France and Japan, and the differences in private schools.
“We have to make sure we get this right and it needs to have cross party support, this can’t be factional or done to appease certain unions, this has to be done correctly as we only have one attempt to at this.”
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