Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg - Y Bumed Senedd
Children, Young People and Education Committee - Fifth Senedd25/02/2021
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Dawn Bowden MS|
|Hefin David MS|
|Laura Anne Jones MS|
|Lynne Neagle MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Sian Gwenllian MS|
|Suzy Davies MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Gareth Evans||Cyfarwyddwr Polisi Addysg, Prifysgol Cymru y Drindod Dewi Sant|
|Director of Education Policy, University of Wales Trinity Saint David|
|Luke Sibieta||Cymrawd Ymchwil yn y Sefydliad Astudiaethau Cyllid a’r Sefydliad Polisi Addysg|
|Research Fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Education Policy Institute|
|Professor Chris Taylor||Athro Addysg a Chyfarwyddwr Academaidd y Parc Ymchwil y Gwyddorau Cymdeithasol (SPARK), Prifysgol Caerdydd|
|Professor of Education and Academic Director of the Social Science Research Park (SPARK), Cardiff University|
|Professor Dylan Jones||Dirprwy Is-Ganghellor a Deon Gweithredol yr Athrofa, Prifysgol Cymru Y Drindod Dewi Sant|
|Deputy Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Institute of Education, University Wales Trinity St David|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Sarah Bartlett||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:15.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:15.
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I've determined that the public are excluded from the meeting in order to protect public health. In accordance with Standing Order 34.21, notice of this decision was included in the agenda for the meeting, published on Monday. The meeting is however being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, with all participants joining via video-conference. As usual, a Record of Proceedings will be published. Aside from the procedural adaptation relating to remote proceedings, all other Standing Order requirements for committees remain in place. The meeting is bilingual, and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. If we become aware that there's an issue with the translation, I'll ask you to pause for a moment while our meeting technicians reset the system.
We've received no apologies for absence, but I know that Suzy Davies MS needs to leave the meeting just before 11. Can I ask if there are any declarations of interest, please? No. Okay. Thank you. Can I then remind Members that, if I drop out for any reason, it's been agreed that Dawn Bowden MS will chair while I try to rejoin?
That takes us on, then, to item 2 this morning, which is an evidence session on statutory education. I'd like to welcome Luke Sibieta, who is a research fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Education Policy Institute, and Professor Chris Taylor, who is a professor of education and academic director of the Social Science Research Park at Cardiff University. And just to say, before we start, the purpose of the session is, obviously, to discuss the impact of COVID on children and young people and how we ensure that we recover from that. And the committee is particularly keen to hear constructive, realistic and practical suggestions for the way forward as we do this. So, if it's okay, we'll go straight into questions, and the first ones are from Dawn Bowden.
Good morning. Morning, both. Luke, in your report, you identified that pupils had lost something in the region of 13 weeks' schooling since October of last year, but what do we actually know about the extent of the damage that COVID-19, really, has had on children's education? Does it go just beyond the amount of time they've not been in school? What's the extent of it, do you think?
So, firstly, thank you very much for inviting me this morning. I look forward to talking about this subject, which is very, very close to my heart. So, up until July last year, as you said, children in Wales have probably lost about 13 weeks of face-to-face schooling. There has been large disruption during the autumn, and then children will have lost already at least six weeks of further schooling for the first half term of the new year, which makes it about half a year of normal schooling.
In terms of its actual educational impact on children in Wales, we don't actually have that much specific evidence relating to educational attainment and skills in Wales. What we have is mostly from England, the US and the Netherlands, which suggests that children, for about half a year of schooling, have been about two to three months behind in terms of where we expect them to be in terms of educational progress, and those problems are probably worse for younger pupils, worse for disadvantaged pupils, and worse for maths than they are for reading skills. And that sort of pattern has been remarkably consistent across all the evidence. As I said, it's all for other countries—for England, for the US, the Netherlands—but I would expect those to translate across to Wales quite strongly and maybe to a larger degree, to some extent. But, as you say, it's not just about educational impact as well; it's also about mental health impact and attitudes to education and motivation.
Perhaps one of the most concerning things I've seen so far has been two pieces of evidence that have looked at the distribution of educational scores, and it's found much bigger levels of inequality and particular problems at the very bottom of the distribution, with some pupils just not being able or willing to engage with tests in the first place. That was quite a clear part of the—
Sorry, Luke, what did you mean by that—the bottom of the distribution?
So, there was a very large number—a much larger number—of pupils with extremely low scores on some of these numeracy and literacy tests.
Okay, I'm with you.
And the tests—. The people doing the tests were reporting that some pupils were just not really willing to engage with the tests at all, and that's kind of been seen across two pieces of evidence now. And if that is a real thing, it's incredibly concerning, because it's the kind of impact that's very, very hard to turn around afterwards.
Sure. And is that different age groups, or is this fairly consistent across the groups?
So, I think that that has been a general thing, rather than by age groups. I'm not aware of evidence that's broken that down by age groups. It largely relates to something like 5 per cent of pupils having very low scores, as opposed to 2 per cent in normal times. So, it's kind of a small impact, but if it's a real thing that there are a slightly larger number of pupils with just very low motivation, then that causes problems further down the system.
And is that—? The pupils with the lower motivation, that kind of brings me on to another one of my questions. Is that—? Again, is that across the piece, or do you identify that predominantly in more disadvantaged areas, amongst disadvantaged learners? Because I know, Chris, you picked this up in your report as well, so is that part of the difficulty as well?
So, I think the honest answer is that there's not as strong evidence to say that. I'd expect it probably is amongst more disadvantaged learners, because they have been falling further behind on most of the tests and things that have been coming out. We don't know it for certain, but I'd expect so. And I think of particular concern in Wales has been the level of disruption that happened in the autumn as well. So, there were a number of local authorities where attendance was relatively low throughout the autumn—for example, Swansea, Neath Porth Talbot, Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr, Newport, where attendance was really low—all down to disruption caused by the virus, rather than anything else, but that kind of pattern of pupils who will have had two weeks out because they were self-isolating in October, maybe getting, in November and December, one week of online learning around the half term and then before Christmas. It will have caused huge disruption, and been much harder for pupils to keep having to re-engage with school each time.
Sure. Chris, did you want to add anything to that?
Yes. The evidence we've collected and used on the log-ins to Hwb platform, for example, which is, if you like, an objective measure of engagement with learning during the lockdowns, suggests that schools serving more disadvantaged areas have had the lowest take-up of Hwb log-ins, so that suggests that pupils in those schools are less likely to be engaged with that learning. I think that, as Luke's said there—I'll just reinforce the point—there is a lack of systematic evidence in this area, particularly around educational attainment and learning. A huge amount of evidence around well-being and mental health issues, but almost nothing of any systematic, robust nature in Wales, and, to some extent, internationally too. It's a big issue, accessing kids during the lockdown, researching with them and researching what's happening in schools.
Some evidence I've got suggests that where schools are measuring engagement—and that's simply just engagement, not anything to do with the quality of the learning experience—the figures are down below 50 per cent in terms of engagement currently, and that's in secondary schools, where they're still, in effect, locked down, which suggests really low engagement and high levels of disengagement. We worry—all of us worry—about how kids are going to return to school and whether they will return. Even with schools reopening between now and Easter for the older age groups, or after Easter for the younger secondary, high school kids, will they return? Will they return at full-time capacity? Some kids have lost their motivation for learning, and that's the real concern. Again, we haven't got good evidence on it, but I think this is the sort of question we should be asking.
And is that also true—? So, you've got the motivation issue, but you've also—. Particularly, Chris, in your report, you talked about access or digital exclusion, and you've just touched on that again now. Again, are the motivation and the digital exclusion linked, or are we talking about two different things there?
Again, there's not very clear evidence about the processes that young people have been going through in terms of their experience of their learning. I think there are two issues, though. I think digital inclusion is clearly a kind of infrastructure issue; if you haven't got the access to the digital equipment or the internet, then your access to learning is going to be limited, And we've got evidence of young people moving their learning into the evening, because that's the only time they can have access to clear broadband and access to computers if their parents are using them, for example. So, in those cases they're using learning that has been left for them to do, so they're not getting the face to face. Now, that could also be because young people really do not want to engage with face-to-face learning via the internet, with their teachers and with other pupils. There is a big issue with young people not switching on their cameras, for example, not engaging through interactions with their learning on those face-to-face sessions. And actually, for many young people, they've much preferred the self-study approach to learning.
But the other key factor in this is the home learning environment. We have plenty of evidence from the past that shows that there are striking differences between families in terms of their ability to support young people in their learning: the resources they have around them, the enthusiasm, the engagement, the commitment. The purpose of education just might be missing in many of those households, and so, digital access or not, if you don't have that kind of scaffolding for learning inside the home, you're not going to make any progress. I think many schools have started to recognise that there are two groups of young people. There are those who can continue with their learning, but for the rest, this is about treading water, I mean, this really is about just making sure that, when they left the school, they are still at that ability now. That shows, given that they are expected to make progress during the school year as we progress towards the end of the school year into the next national curriculum year, whichever year they're in, for those who are treading water, it clearly shows that they are now months behind—months behind.
What's your assessment, then, of the Welsh Government's interventions around all of the things you want to be talking about, and the blended learning arrangements and so on? You know, the effectiveness, the timeliness—what's your assessment of that?
Well, access to digital equipment has been very welcome, and I'm sure that there are many young people who have now access to equipment to help them access the learning from the school. Of course, that resource has not gone as far as addressing the home learning environment issues that I've just outlined, and I've not seen any evidence of that. Schools have been doing, if you like, remedial work in this area themselves, but I think even they recognise that there is only so much that they've been able to do, and a good indication might be, in time when we look back over this period, is how much money schools have saved, and an inability to spend resource to support young people during this period might actually reflect that they knew at that time that, actually, just throwing resource at it doesn't really address the issue. These are long-standing, deep-rooted concerns that we have clearly demonstrated were not being addressed before the pandemic even began.
That's helpful. I don't know if you've got anything to add to that, Luke, or I can just move on.
Nothing to add, bar that I think you've got to consider digital exclusion in the wider home learning environment, as Chris said. Providing equipment is one thing, but children also need a quiet study space and someone to help them when they get stuck, and a teacher who can kind of keep an eye out in the classroom that someone isn't quite engaging with the material because they're finding it hard, and doing that online is—well, I'm sure that teachers have tried, but it's really, really hard.
Yes, I think—[Interruption.] Sorry, Chris, go on.
Just one more point on the resources. So, obviously, there's been money available for an increased number of staff. Again, this is really interesting. We don't really have much of an idea of what that's been spent on and who that's been spent on. Again, there's some anecdotal evidence that that's been spent on high-level teaching assistants to just simply make the phone calls to homes to try and find out where the children are in their learning. That, itself, is simply just getting them to the door, if you like, of the online learning platforms; it's not encouraging or supporting them in their learning. So, again, it's that very low-level remedial work—necessary, absolutely necessary, but it clearly demonstrates that that resource hasn't touched in terms of the quality of the teaching and learning that could be delivered through online learning processes.
I get that. I understand. Two quick questions to finish off from me, if I could. Can I just have your thoughts, if you've got any, on the current planned timeline for return across all the age groups? And then, my last question would be about the examination and assessment system for 2021 and how confident you are that that's going to deliver what we hope it will.
Who would like to start? Luke.
I'll happily start, and I'll start with the very difficult question about when it's safe for pupils to return. I should preface my answer by saying that I'm an expert on the educational matters, I'm not a public health expert, and I can't provide advice on that basis. Having said that, it is very clear from the latest school surveillance report that cases amongst school-age children are now very, very low, and that's a good thing and provides some headroom. I think the Welsh Government was absolutely right to prioritise the return of the foundation phase on 22 February; it felt like the right time, and it is absolutely the right age group, who would probably struggle more with home learning. I should declare a personal interest with a daughter who has been absolutely delighted to go back to school from Monday and is a changed girl from the last two months.
In terms of the forward-looking aspect, which is naturally the slightly more controversial aspect, I think it is a very difficult, delicate balancing act in terms of not wanting to open things up too fast, but also trying to give children access to education, which they clearly need and yearn for as well, in terms of all the evidence from the children's commissioner.
To give my personal view, I think it's a question of degrees. I think things look a bit late, if I'm honest, in Wales, in terms of when things are happening. So, all primary school children going back on the fifteenth I think feels about the right time, maybe a week either side, but it feels about the right time. I'm slightly worried about year 7 to year 10 in terms of them not going back before Easter or, potentially not full-time after Easter. I think there would be a case for bringing them in a little bit earlier than the Welsh Government has been saying so far, if only just to get some experience for schools in terms of how any testing system is going to work, just to give them some access to education, because four months of not being in school between mid December and mid April is a very long time. It's a very difficult decision, and I don't want to go firmly one way or the other, but it feels a little bit late, if I'm honest.
I agree with Luke on the question about timing—absolutely.
On the assessments, which I think is a really interesting question now, I have no concerns about the grades of students this year. Inevitably, grades will be at a level that is commensurate with previous years, because that's what happened last year, it's what will happen this time. In many ways, the level of performance across the system will look okay. Young people will have grades to get into the next stage of their learning, on average. My worry is about, still, what they've missed in terms of what they do next. So, what are the gaps in their learning when they move into the next transition, whatever that might be. Clearly, the issue is much greater for those at transition points, so those leaving high school or those leaving sixth form or further education colleges, because they are going into new environments. And remember, a lot of our young people in Wales will be going to an FE college at 16; they don't go to school sixth forms, like they do in England, as much. Consequently, that hand-holding that will be needed and the repair will be very challenging as they go forward. So, I don't think we can use exam grades this year as an indicator of how well we've managed through this pandemic at all. We can write that off, and we shouldn't even bother using that. We need to be looking at retention next year and other indicators as the real measure of academic success.
My only other point on this is that I have a real concern that the longer we're leaving young people—the older ones particularly, who have got to have assessments in order to help inform the grade, the longer we leave them out of school, the more time they'll end up spending—. As soon as they get into school, they will be given mock papers, from day 1 almost. Almost every pupil going back to school will be given some sort of assessment, because the schools are just very nervous about where those kids are in their learning. Now, that's enormous pressure to put young people under. We've given schools a massive headache here, because they don't want to necessarily be assessing their pupils from day 1, but they have to because they've got to provide evidence in order to inform the grades that the young people have. They also need to assess them in order to see what's happened to them, in terms of being able to work out what action plan they need to put in place for the young people. But that's an enormous amount of pressure on young people who are currently facing quite significant mental health and well-being issues to then find that their only experience of school is more assessments—mock papers and things like that. And I don't think we've thought that through. And a related point that is: what if you don't go back to school? What if a year 11 pupil doesn't go back to school? And we know that that would be much more likely in the more disadvantaged groups. How will the school assess their grade if they don't go in and perform and provide them with mock paper results? I just don't know how this will be determined.
Yes, that's okay, fine. Thank you.
Thank you. Suzy, you had a supplementary.
Well, just a comment, really. Chris, you began your answer there by saying that the grades last year were commensurate with the ones the year before, and actually, they weren't, that was the problem with the algorithm; it was trying to resolve an in-built inflation—I'm cautious about using that word—in teachers' gradings. So, I don't quite understand why you then go on to say, 'Well, actually, we shouldn't be looking at any external or objective measure of what our young people are up to at the moment', for their sake as much as anything, although I appreciate the points you're making about pressure.
We just know that a certain proportion of the school population will get good grades. That will remain. It doesn't matter what their ability is, there will be measures put in place by the awarding bodies to ensure that the level of attainment will look commensurate, and I am talking in general terms. Clearly, there will be some fluctuation, and we know that last year, they were out of kilter and particularly amongst particular groups. But that's no reflection on their real ability at this time, I don't think, and as I say, for me, the real indication will be what happens next year and the year after that.
Okay, thank you. We're going to move on now anyway to some questions, starting with Suzy, on what we do longer term and how we help young people recover, really, from what they've been through. Suzy.
Thank you, Lynne. We're all very concerned about catch-up at the moment, and we've already started talking about it today, but I'm quite keen to know what you think catch-up actually means. Are we talking strictly about academic achievement, or is it the motivation that you've been talking about? It's trying to get a sense of what you think is an acceptable bottom line for all of our young people at the moment.
Who'd like to start?
Just a very quick response to that one. I think there are lots of things that one might want to do with catch-up, but I think you have to discern what the priorities are going to be, and I think, Suzy, your question is alluding to that. For me, the priority is preparing young people for next year. So, actually, that's not necessarily catch-up, it's not like filling in the gaps that you've missed through this last year; it's actually about preparing young people for what they're going to be doing next year, and that is particularly crucial for those at those transition points. So, it's not really a kind of catch-up, is it? It's more of ensuring that you've got the right things in order to progress to the next stage and that might be—. And if we look at it that way, then we can think, 'Okay, attitudes towards learning is clearly central to that; we need to ensure that people have an attitude towards learning that suggests that they want to both stay on and pursue an educational career pathway'. But secondly, it might reflect that we need to start thinking about what they are going to do next year— what subjects they're going to do or study and what kind of courses they're going to go on—because rather than trying to necessarily do everything in catch-up in the last term of this academic year, maybe our best resource is spent focusing on the things that will matter for the young person in order for them to restart in September, wherever that may be, in the right frame, with the right skills for that new journey.
Thank you. Luke, do you agree?
I agree, and I would, to some extent, draw a distinction on timings here, about how to approach the issue. I think in the immediate and short run, the priority has to be to ensure that children are ready to learn, either for the next term or for the next stage of their education, or the next year group. I think it has to be a question of getting all pupils re-engaged with the system to make sure that they're in a position of being ready to learn, and where pupils have fallen really significantly behind—and there are probably more isolated cases—providing effective intervention to make sure that they're back up to work where we'd expect them to be.
But then, longer term, we're not going to be able to fill all those learning losses within the next six months to a year, and I think expecting us to be able to do, I think, would not be fair on the system or on children. But in the long run, we do want to help children catch up. The one point I'd want to make is that I think that setting a goal that's based on a pre-pandemic hypothetical benchmark—it's a very hard thing to set goals or targets around, or understand how we're progressing against it, because it's all hypothetical and backward looking. I think further into the future we need to be thinking about very forward-looking, positive goals about where we think the system should be. Do we think we should be getting the attainment gap between rich and poor back to where it was pre pandemic, or should we be setting more forward-looking goals for the system?
That's an interesting point that you made at the end there. Because what I'm slightly concerned about in what I'm hearing is I'm not getting any sense of what should happen beyond this year, apart from what you just said, and the last thing I suppose any school's going to want to be accused of is short-termism. One of you mentioned right at the beginning of this session that Wales wasn't in the greatest of places before the pandemic hit, and so it's going to be quite reasonable for parents, I think, to say, 'Well, okay, we understand that we've had COVID here, and everyone across the UK's been affected in a particular way', but as part of this planning piece now, what should we be doing to make sure that we do catch up—and I use those words this time—to what was happening before the pandemic struck? How can we use this opportunity? What are the key elements of a plan for the next five years, not the next year, that we might want to think about?
I'll start and I hope Chris will agree. It probably starts with a focus on high-quality provision throughout the system in order to try and meet a positive, longer term goal for improving the system, irrespective of whether COVID happened or not. To some extent, COVID should just really re-energise those efforts and supercharge plans to improve the quality of teaching right across the system. It will probably involve more staff, but it should involve more high-quality staff. It will probably involve better professional development and training for teachers, but also the teaching assistants as well, across the school staff. It should be a complete focus on high-quality provision wherever children are, and whatever their background. It will probably cost extra money, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.
I draw two historical examples here. In West Germany in the 1960s, they implemented two short school years to try and change their school year over to September to September from having been an odd historical example, but they did it in a pre-planned way and made sure that they covered all the curriculum within that year. Some pupils had to repeat the year because they weren't quite up to speed, but they ensured that pupils were actually able to meet all the curriculum, and it ended up having no long-term impacts on employment or earnings, partly because it was pre-planned to ensure that the quality of the system was maintained.
The other example is hurricane Katrina. Now, Wales isn't New Orleans's school system of the early 2000s, which was in a terrible state, but the immediate impact of hurricane Katrina was that pupils missed out on quite a lot of education because their schools were destroyed, and their immediate test results were really quite poor, reflecting a lack of school and complete emotional distress. But in the long run, a lot of these pupils ended up moving to better quality school systems, and the New Orleans school system got better as well, because it energised efforts to actually sort out this problem. Those children ended up doing better than they would otherwise have done. So, disruption can lead to positive change if you're willing to make the effort.
I just want to say something about the context to the question about five years, because of course we have a new curriculum coming down the line, and I and colleagues have identified and highlighted an issue we have that the new curriculum hasn't been designed to address the attainment gap. We've done our own research on this, to look at how the pioneer schools are developing the new curriculum. So, if this is an opportunity to catch up—the big, long-term catch up—how is the new curriculum going to help in this process? I've not seen any evidence so far that suggests that the new curriculum itself will help this. All the things that Luke suggested are all absolutely right—teacher quality, professional training and other initiatives like that—but we've also got to implement a new curriculum. We've got to train people into new pedagogical approaches. There's so much to do in the next five years in Wales that I am deeply concerned that we are not going to be able to repair the damage of this pandemic in that short-term period. We have to make some bold decisions, I think, probably now over the next 12 months about those next five years, about what is the priority and what are we going to do about addressing those inequality gaps, I really do, because if we leave it too late we cause massive scars on society as a result of this, and we need to do something about it now.
Thank you. Yes, it's a catalyst. I share some of your concerns, Chris, about how the curriculum fits into all this as well, despite its ambitions, and, obviously, I'm very interested in changes to the school year. I wonder if one of you can just mention whether you think the thought of summer schools, should teachers be willing to do that, is a useful short-term response to this. And then, finally—and I expect it'll have to be fairly general—how do we assess need? Because both of you have said that the current position is so variable at the moment, where on earth do you start to assess need?
On assessing the need, we need a significant amount of resources added to the system in order to at least identify that need, and then address those wide variations now. Almost every child will have particular needs now as a result of the pandemic, and that is unprecedented. We're not talking about 5 per cent of the school population; we're talking about everybody—everybody will have some need, and I think that the level of resource required is going to be enormous.
On the summer school issue, it would be great, wouldn't it, to have some summer school programmes in place. I just don't see it happening in Wales. I just don't think the schools and the teachers are going to agree to it. I think changing the school year might be a good solution; maybe restarting early, having a longer winter break, for example, which I think might be necessary for another wave of the pandemic in the winter. But we therefore look at community-based initiatives for the summer school programme. There will be community groups, non-governmental organisations that will be helpful in setting up summer programmes. That will help with non-cognitive learning and ability, but it won't really address some of those learning attitudes, and it certainly won't help them think about curriculum issues and subject-based issues.
I think the best way of addressing this is to focus attention on accelerated learning programmes from September onwards. But the key thing is ensuring there is a link between those accelerated learning programmes in September with where the child left when they left in July. And if you've moved school, institution or establishment, or even out of the system, how do you join those two things up? How do you ensure that that accelerated learning programme is suitable for you when they are not even the same teachers, the same schools or the same institution providing them? I think there's a lot of joining up to be done during the summer. I think that's probably a better investment of teachers' time than actually just getting them to do more teaching during the summer.
I have nothing to add to what Chris has said, and I completely agree with him.
That's very easy. I'm sure the Chair's delighted we've saved some time there. Thank you, both.
Thank you. Before we move on, can I just probe you a bit on how we maintain the right balance between learning catch-up and children and young people's mental health and well-being? We had the announcement yesterday of big money in England, but they're talking about summer schools, tutoring and what have you, and one of the things I'm worried about is that we don't have a negative narrative in Wales that puts more pressure on children and young people, because none of this is their fault, is it? Talking all the time about catch-up in very traditional terms could add to their pressure. Have you got any comment on how we maintain the right balance, really, and how that catch-up should be structured on that basis?
I'd just reiterate the point I made earlier about rather than focusing on catch-up, but focusing on what you need in order to progress to the next stage, because that changes the narrative. So, it's not saying to the child, 'You are behind'; it's saying, 'We are identifying what you need for the next step. This is to help you move to the next step.' It's not a deficit approach, therefore. I'd reiterate what I said earlier about focusing on the future and preparing people for that, rather than looking back and going, 'What have you missed? What do you need to catch up on?'
Okay. Luke, have you got any comments? Do you think we should have summer schools, or is there a better way of doing it?
I would agree with what Chris has just said, and I think I'd go back to my point earlier about focusing on the short-term needs of pupils versus their longer term academic needs. I think the priority for the next few months has to be helping pupils re-engage with the education system, being able to meet their friends again, and just being in a happier place, because they've had to sacrifice a lot, and I think trying to help them get into that position where they're ready to learn for the future, and then focusing on, as Chris said, what they need to know, how we're going to deliver the same curriculum that we promised, to ensure that they're able to continue going forwards.
Okay. Thank you. Siân.
Bore da. Jest i droi at y seilwaith sydd ei angen ar lefel genedlaethol i symud y gwaith yma ymlaen, beth ydych chi'n meddwl ydy rôl y Gweinidog Addysg a rôl y Llywodraeth yn y cyfnod nesaf?
Good morning. Just to turn to the infrastructure that is needed at a national level to move this catch-up work forward, what do you think is the role of the Minister for Education and the role of the Government during this next period?
Who would like to start? Chris, you referred to some bold decisions being needed. Maybe you could elaborate on those.
The role of the Minister is leadership in terms of what are the priorities for the next two to three years, certainly, if not the next five, and we need a clear narrative about what they're going to be. When I meant bold decisions, I think that has to put the curriculum and reforms into some sort of context. It has to recognise what are the immediate ambitions. There are lots of initiatives across the Welsh Government education department, on all sorts of wide-ranging things, and I think that needs a lot of consolidation. We need to consolidate around a number of core, key things. That helps with capacity and resource; certainly, the capacity of civil servants to, if you like, enable us to move forward, but also using the resources to provide for schools and initiatives to progress what's needed over the next few years, I think.
I mean, it's a difficult question. I'm not the Minister for Education, nor do I wish to be, and of course there's a good chance we'll have a new Minister—well, we will have a new Minister for Education come September. It's a very challenging time to take it on. I have many reservations about the current ability of the current national infrastructure to take this forward. I'm willing to share those, perhaps, at another time. That's not where the emphasis has to be. Schools are going to have to be the ones responding to this, and teachers, and staff in schools. We need to give them the initiative to take things forward. We need to share resources around appropriately. But I think the last thing they need is more national-level decision making for them, without there being a removal of other things. There's no doubt about that in my mind. There has to either be consolidation or silence, if you like, from the national level.
What about this idea of a catch-up tsar that England are talking about?
I'll let Luke answer that. We both share a very similar view on this.
On the role of the catch-up tsar and then more generally on national infrastructure, Sir Kevan Collins is a very able and very intelligent person and has a very strong background in improving education in very, very difficult circumstances. I think he's done an absolutely excellent job in terms of focusing on the long run and the positive changes. Yesterday's announcement for schools in England involved a bit of extra money for tutoring and for summer schools, but for me the biggest aspect was the UK Government and Sir Kevan Collins saying that this is just the beginning and this will be part of a long-term plan. I think what he's been able to do so far is focus on that long term, and he also commands cross-party respect, he has credibility with schools and teachers, and part of his brief is to bring schools and teachers with him as he argues for any radical changes. So, I think his role has been largely positive. It's not to say that that role can't be done by a Minister who commands respect across parties, across the profession, but it is a very different sort of role, because it is very much outside politics. So, it does—. That role has benefits, but it has to be the right person, who can do all the things that Sir Kevan Collins can do as well.
In terms of the wider national infrastructure, I think there's clearly a number of roles for Welsh Government: firstly, providing necessary resources, because all of this, whatever is implemented going forward, it's going to cost money and it will require additional funding, which will almost certainly have to be a permanent part of the system, rather than a temporary element, and it's probably best to say that from the outset; secondly, in terms of being able to recruit more staff and more high-quality staff. So, Welsh Government will have a particular role in terms of perhaps expanding the numbers going into initial teacher training, expanding professional learning opportunities for teachers and teaching assistants, and that's probably best undertaken through the regional consortia, but with Welsh Government being confident that they are providing high-quality professional development. And then it's about Welsh Government setting those long-term goals and ambitions that everything else feeds into.
Around the education tsar point, the context in England is very different to the one in Wales. We have a very strong local authority sector in Wales, unlike in England, in terms of the education infrastructure. We also, of course, have regional consortia and quite a lot of other middle-tier organisations. I think to suggest that we need a tsar for this, if you like, gives those with co-responsibility the ability to just withdraw from having to worry about it and I think that is a dangerous move when we already have the infrastructure in place that should be addressing these issues, in my mind. And, if anything, it will just make it even more top-heavy, the system in Wales.
Ocê, diolch yn fawr. Yn amlwg, yr allwedd ydy yr arian, ac mae Luke wedi gwneud gwaith ar hyn yn ddiweddar ac wedi darganfod, wrth gwrs, bod yr arian catch-up yn llai y pen yng Nghymru nac ydy o yn y gwledydd eraill yn y Deyrnas Unedig. Faint o gyllid ychwanegol sydd ei angen? Ydyn ni yn gwybod pa ymyriadau sy'n barod i fynd, yn effeithiol, y gellid gwario'r arian yma arnyn nhw?
Okay, thank you very much. Clearly, the key to this is the funding, and Luke has done work on this recently and has demonstrated, of course, that the catch-up funding is less per head in Wales as compared to the other nations of the United Kingdom. So, how much additional funding is needed? Do we know what interventions are ready to go, effectively, that that could be spent on?
Okay. Do you want to start, Luke? You have mentioned some eye-watering sums in some of your reports.
Yes. I'll start on that. So, Welsh Government so far has allocated about £80 to £90 per pupil, focused on specifically catch-up interventions. That includes the accelerated learning programme, but also targeted support for exam year groups. That's similar to the amount that's been provided in Northern Ireland and is also quite focused on disadvantaged learners, which I think is absolutely the right approach. It's quite a lot lower than what's been provided in Scotland, which is about £200 per pupil and now it's about £230 in England. And I think the Welsh Government—. Well, to be frank, I think the Welsh Government should be providing more. But I think, right across the UK, we need to be providing a lot more. And as I said, one of the things I found encouraging yesterday from the announcement in England was not necessarily the additional money; it was the commitment to a longer term plan, and, hopefully, the understanding that that longer term plan would be funded. So, I think, rather than saying, 'We need to spend £700, £800 per pupil', it should be, 'What would be the best long-term plan in order to meet positive ambitions that we set?' and then, essentially, paying for that. I think it will involve quite a lot more than what's been provided either in Wales or in the other nations of the UK, but I think it will be worth it.
Thank you. Chris.
Yes. Just one point on what to spend the money on. An observation here is that, often, the idea is that you just put more people into the system—so, you put the money in, you provide more staff into the system—and, as Luke particularly raised earlier, one of the key factors of any system is its quality of teaching and learning and the quality of the provider. By having more people in the system, you will simply lower the quality down; you don't raise it up, necessarily. So, you have to be very careful about where you put new staff into the system. Now, I suppose that might mean—and we've had a brief conversation about this, Luke and I—a kind of division of labour, if you like, within the workforce, in terms of going, 'Well, okay, you can have more staff', but it is for a particular purpose, where they are going to be improving the quality of the system overall, not necessarily, if you like, lowering the quality down. We don't need to lower the average quality; we need to be raising it. And so you need to think about where you're going to find people with the right skills who are going to advance what we need to do, rather than simply just pack in more people who are like what we already have, I think. So, I think trying to come to the solution where you can deliver both high-quality product, as well as putting more resource in to help support what you need, is the answer to this. Now, that's clearly a very challenging thing to do, but I think, if you can work these things through, there are some obvious answers to that.
Suzy, you had a supplementary.
[Inaudible]—Chair, until Siân's finished.
Yes, so—. Okay. What we're going to be told is that we have to wait and see what money we've got. Is that the right approach? Should we not be, in Wales, thinking, 'This is what we need to do, and this is the kind of level of money that we need', and do it that way round? What I'm asking is: is there a lack of ambition, and just sort of a waiting to see what happens over the border kind of mentality here in Wales?
The focus—. If you focus on the resource, then you're distracted by trying to get the resource. If you start by saying, 'What's the need, and what can we do to, if you like, fill that need?', then you worry about resource second, and I think that's what we need to do. We could spend a lot of time worrying about whether we've got the right resources or not—and I think Luke's already identified that we are way short on what's needed. So, if we haven't got it, then we have to start thinking about, 'Okay, what do we want to do? What are the solutions we need to do?' And if that means reprioritising existing resources, then so be it, if we're not going to get new ones. But I think that comes back to my point about consolidating around certain key aspects of what we need to be spending our resources on—and not so much the resource, but the capacity of our staff, and people in the community and within the schools and within the education system as a whole, to divert on particular activities and challenges.
And do you have a sense that that planning is happening?
Okay. So, the Welsh Government would say that they've got this scheme—
—recriwtio, adfer a chodi safonau.
—recruit, recover and raise standards.
So, they are starting to do something. What do you think of this scheme?
Who'd like to start?
I'll start by saying that I very much want to associate myself with the remarks Chris has just made—I think he's put it very eloquently, in terms of focusing on the level of need and what we need to do, and not necessarily not worrying about funding or resources, but making that kind of secondary. Because I think that that is absolutely the right approach. And if there isn't money to pay for it, given the way that the Welsh Government's budget is determined and the uncertainties about money coming through the Barnett formula, then that's the point at which we say we can't fund what we think we need to do. But I think starting with the level of need and what we need to do is the right priority.
But then, in terms of—. Sorry, I've lost my train of thought, slightly.
The programme that is in place now.
Yes, absolutely, yes. So, I think it's encouraging, in the sense that it's focusing on extra staffing and focused more on disadvantaged pupils. I still—. I'm uncertain about whether it's—. It's definitely not enough, and whether there's sufficient focus on the quality of what's being provided I think is uncertain as well. So, it's welcome, but it's relatively small and limited.
I would like to see some really innovative thinking going on. And the first thing that needs to happen is that the colleagues in Welsh Government who are making these decisions need to open the doors and they need to let people in to inform those decision-making processes. And they need to reach out to people in the communities, in non-governmental organisations, in academia, amongst parents, pupils themselves, and genuinely engage in a conversation about what needs to happen next. I've been here 20 years now, and there is a real danger that departments close ranks during crises, and this is the wrong time to be doing that. We need to be looking for new ideas, innovative thinking from outside. We can't just simply hope that writing something down into a programme, a plan, based on what we already know, is going to be sufficient. Because what you already know is where you've got to. We need to be thinking about learning something here, about learning about new ideas, new approaches and new ways of doing things, and you can't do that with an insular, siloed approach.
The current programme, it's supposed to be financing 600 extra teachers and 300 extra classroom assistants. Is there any evidence that that's happening?
Well, I can only talk about anecdotal evidence about what's happening in some of the high schools I've seen, where they are reserving funding because they see no point in spending some of this resource at this time. And, where they are spending it on new staff, it's about, as I said, attendance officers. It's making sure people will get into school. It's about the outreach that they serve within the community. The educational purposes are secondary to that process. There are lots of things that are going to make this a much worse crisis in the near future—an exodus of staff. This pandemic is not going to go away. We're going to have to live with viruses. This is the third in only seven years. We need to be ready for this sort of thing to happen again, and we need to build infrastructure around that. Now, that just needs a very different approach to simply just throwing numbers at the game. Putting more players on the pitch doesn't help; as I say, it generally lowers the quality.
I think I share the frustration that I'm hearing coming from both of you.
A gaf i ofyn am y grant datblygu disgyblion? Beth ydy eich barn chi am hwn yn ystod y cyfnod COVID-19? Ac a oes yna ddadleuon dros ddefnyddio'r arian yma ar ffurf rhyw fath o gronfa dal i fyny?
May I ask about the pupil development grant? What is your view on this grant during the COVID-19 pandemic? And are there arguments to be made to use this funding in terms of some sort of catch-up fund?
I'll start there. I'm already on record, in my review of school funding for the Welsh Government last year, that I think there was a strong case for more funding for disadvantaged pupils, including through the PDG, and I think that case remains and has probably become a lot stronger. So, I think there will be a strong case for a larger pupil development grant going forwards, but also thinking about the extent to which we can look at wider measures of deprivation that aren't always captured by free school meal eligibility.
Well, it's interesting. Again, there's not a strong, robust evidence base to this, but, again, from what I've seen, money that's coming from the recruit, recover and raise standards programme is being used to spend on things that the PDG would have spent money on. It feels like duplication of effort in many cases and, again, not a clear direction or distinction. So, actually, some schools are probably saving PDG because they're now using the recruit, recover and raise standards money to pay for additional equipment funding. These are the sorts of things that school were paying for with the PDG. That, for me, reflects how the PDG funding wasn't being used as appropriately as it could have been. Again, it's often been used as repair and remedial action, rather than long-term sustainable change within the school system to reduce the attainment gap.
We did an early evaluation of the PDG several years ago. It showed that many schools didn't really use any evidence for how they might apply that PDG. That has not been—. As far as I'm aware, no further evaluation has been undertaken. No analysis or robust systematic data collection has been taken about how schools are spending that money, looking at best practice, what's been successful, what's not. We've spent a lot of money and we've learnt nothing. It's very hard to see how you can make a decision going forward about how to spend more of it and what we should be spending it on, when schools have been recently just propping up their school budgets with it. That's the genuine picture, isn't it? As Luke's analysis shows that funding levels in Wales are much lower than elsewhere.
But Luke argues that it should continue, and with a bit bigger pot of money behind it, whereas maybe you're saying it's time to take it away and—
No, absolutely not. No. Absolutely, don't take it away. It's about knowing what we're going to spend this on and giving good advice about how it should be spent. There are some clear principles in the original design of the PDG, which are absolutely right. It's about sustainable change. But almost every action and every way the money's been spent—the annual budgeting for PDG doesn't lend itself to long-term sustainable change. And of course, the other thing to remember is that it's trying to address an issue that resides outside the school system. Schools can only do so much. However, the pandemic has highlighted that actually schools do a hell of a lot—they do an enormous amount, as we're beginning to see now, because when they're closed, societies and communities tend to start falling apart.
Okay. And finally from me, Lynne: Luke, I'd like to ask you about your work on the crisis in lost learning, calling for a massive national policy response. You say that extra resources must be focused on ways to increase learning time, so what do you mean by that? And then, you also say that there's strong evidence behind the National Tutoring Programme in England. What lessons can we learn from that?
So, starting with the second part on the National Tutoring Programme, there is good evidence on the role of small group and one-to-one interventions in terms of helping younger pupils with clear problems with literacy and numeracy to catch up back to where we might expect them to be for their age group. That evidence base is really, really strong and I think there would be benefits to adopting a similar approach in Wales. And the people who run the National Tutoring Programme are all focused on expanding capacity and expanding the market, and it includes tutors who are resident at school, which might be more attractive if you want them to be part of the school staff and the school ethos and it also includes external ones. So, I think that there are big benefits to tutoring.
I think the evidence is less good on secondary schools, not necessarily because it has no impact, but because there is less evidence on the role of one-to-one and small-group tuition in secondary schools. So, we're slightly applying it—. Assuming we can do it for secondary schools is kind of extrapolating a little bit beyond where the evidence base is at the moment, but it could be part of the process.
In terms of expanding instructional time, I think I'd probably see it as much more wide than that in the sense that we need to be ensuring access to high quality instructional time. If it's about adding an extra two weeks in the summer because we can add two weeks of what we call, 'school time', but it's not providing that sort of rich educational experience, then that probably won't help pupils to catch up. And I think that goes back to what Chris said earlier in terms of the fact that summer schools could have a big role to play on the non-cognitive side, but we shouldn't fool ourselves to think that it can automatically lead to academic catch-up, which can only be provided with access to a high quality teacher, and that has to be part of the approach.
Chris, is there any role for volunteers in the catch-up—people like myself going into the local primary school, helping a child with learning, listening to them reading?
Yes, absolutely. I think the civic response is actually core to this. I've mentioned it before in terms of the summer programme. I don't think this is something that schools will necessarily want or will be able to do. I think there has to be a civil society response. How it's co-ordinated, I don't know—it would be great to have local authorities really step up, I think, in this instance, but they then need to be supported to administer that and to make sure that we put things in place. The worry for me is, often, with civil society, those who are most capable and engaged can engage with civil society activities and social participation are those with the material ability to do so and the question is: are they going to be the right people to address some of the particular challenges in the particular communities where the most disengaged learners are? And I think as long as we are—and this is not to say we shouldn't do it, but we must recognise, if you like, the biases within the civil society itself and make that part of the design to ensure that we don't just simply reinforce some of the inequalities that already exist there.
Thank you. Laura.
Thank you. Firstly, I'd like to say thank you for your presentations so far, because I'm a parent of an 11-year-old, and you have, far more eloquently than me, put forward my concerns today of what I've been worrying about as a parent, as well as a politician. I mean, you've very much covered very comprehensively the first question that I had, and that was on increasing the number of teachers. Now, we all would like to see more teacher-to-pupil contact. I don't think anyone would say that was a bad thing. That's what we'd all like, and that's what the private schools have, and it is definitely a good thing, and that's what we want to achieve. But as you have also said—as Chris has said quite a number of times—it's important that we utilise those teachers in the right way, and have some sort of national plan like they have announced in England. It's been really covered on this one, but you raised some concerns earlier. What's do you think the focus should be—where the teachers should be? And what sort of role do you see them playing? If I gave you two more teachers per classroom, how would you use them?
Laura, I think it's a really good question. For me, the most innovative teaching and learning activities that are taking place inside schools are where schools have been very flexible in the way they've utilised staff across the year groups and across the school. So, we've seen that with the foundation phase, for example. Just having one teacher to a classroom does only get you so far, but once you start to put that into smaller groups, you rotate groups of young people with different staff members during the course of the day, transferring year 2 teachers into year 1, I think that's where you get some really exciting outcomes.
Then in the secondary schools, the same applies. So, I'm very fortunate that I'm a governor at one of the most exciting schools in Wales, and they have an outstanding headteacher who has some really great ideas about moving to large-group teaching in some instances, in order to free up the staff time to do small-group teaching and learning within the school day. Now, that doesn't necessarily require more staff—that's utilising your staff to their best ability and what their ability is. So that, for me, is all about raising quality, not just about putting numbers into the game. And I think there can be some very exciting things. Now, I think that probably happens in lots of schools. I think there are lots of schools doing that kind of work. Again, we don't know. We haven't collated or reviewed and looked at how that's being used across Wales to see whether there are some really good best-practices cases there.
It doesn't help that, in many schools, we have a very constraining infrastructure and school environment that doesn't allow for large-group teaching. There aren't many schools where you can teach more than 60 children at a time. They don't have lecture rooms or spaces like that. Some of the new builds have built that in, but not all of them. Again, we've just not learnt from lessons about how we could use the environment in different ways to try different types of teaching and learning processes and activities.
I completely agree with what you said. There are some schools who are shining examples of best practice of what you just said, and I'm aware of some of them, and it does work, and pupils benefit from that more one-on-one contact in little groups—I 100 per cent agree you on that one. So, for me, it seems that that would work alongside the new curriculum quite well. So, that sort of information needs to be collated now, in my view. A national plan needs come on, making sure we use the resources in the right way without costing more money, actually.
Laura, can you ask some questions, please, because we are short of time?
Yes, okay. I'm just moving on to my final question, Chair—the implications of the pandemic on the new Curriculum for Wales. So, that sort of plan working alongside the new curriculum seems to me to be a good idea. Do you think, because we want the focus to be on catch up—? There's, obviously, going to be a lot of focus on this new curriculum and training teachers and retraining teachers. Do you think that the September 2022 timetable is still viable?
Yes, because I think, at the end of the day, you've just got to go ahead. This new curriculum wasn't going to be ready and baked on day one. It's the beginning of a process. So, to some extent, I'm in the camp that says, 'We might as well just start that process.' A new curriculum will exist in 10 years' time—that's the way we've got to look at it. You're not going to get it straight away. You could delay, and that might give some people a feeling of, 'That's good, because we can focus on other things.' But if you recognise this is just the beginning of a process, and we're not expecting to deliver it almost automatically from day one, then I think you might as well just start it and get the ball rolling, get people engaged with it. I mean, many schools will say that they've probably been thinking about it all this year as well, even though they've been in this current pandemic. Their ability to try and test things, though, has been almost non-existent, and that for me is the real test, because the new curriculum requires teachers to try things, test things, experiment with them, evaluate them, work out whether they're worth keeping or not. If they don't do that robustly and don't see this as a learning process, then we will never get to that point in 10 years' time; we'll just be treading water, with a curriculum that nobody is really confident about, for many, many years. So, that evidence base is really essential to it. But that kind of self-improving school, which is, obviously, one of the key strategies of the Government, has to build that in in terms of developing its new curriculum.
Thank you. Luke.
I fully agree with Chris's points there: if we feel the Curriculum for Wales is the best approach for the future of teaching and learning in Wales, delaying it, I don't think, would be the right approach. If it requires more resources in order to ensure that it can happen on time, then that should be the right approach. But if you think it's the right approach for the future, then delaying it, I think, will be the wrong response.
Okay. Thank you. Some final questions now from Hefin David.
Can you hear me okay?
Right, okay. Sorry about that. I'll declare an interest here, Chair, as a father of a daughter with additional learning needs, with quite severe autism. And with regard to additional learning needs, one of the things we noticed at the beginning of the pandemic was that a lot of ALN children were not being invited into school settings during the first lockdown. And then, the Welsh Government, through some lobbying that happened in Caerphilly, actually, broadened the definition of 'vulnerable children', and we saw a lot more children with ALN given places during the latest restrictions. Indeed, I can testify to that: my daughter had a place from January. Is that typical across Wales? Has that happened across Wales, are you aware of? And I'd like to put that question first and then just ask about the wider issue of additional learning needs and the ALN Bill after that.
So, your understanding of the position is the same as mine in the sense that there were clearly a lot fewer children in school during the first lockdown, more generally, and quite a lot fewer with ALN as well, and that has, I think, been higher this time around. I'm not aware of specific evidence from the Welsh Government on attendance of vulnerable pupils. They may well have expanded their statistics, and that's something I'd be very happy to look into, but I'm not aware of wider, more reliable evidence on that yet.
Yes. It would be helpful to understand that, because we're not out of this yet, so to understand how ALN children are being introduced back during lockdown would be good, and also whether that picture is consistent across Wales. So, some further understanding of that, if you could share that at a later date, would be very good.
Yes. Very happy.
And how do you think the pandemic is going to influence the introduction of the ALN Bill, and particularly, things like individual development plans and how all that is happening? Because, again from experience, I know that ALN children are still waiting for statements, and the previous system is still happening and still being delayed in its implementation because of the pandemic. Will the ALN Bill solve some of those problems, or do you think there's going to be an issue of delay?
I'm not an expert in this area at all, Hefin, but it would seem obvious to me that there are going to be delays in the statementing, because there's just going to be increasing pressure on the system, isn't there? So, there'll be a backlog of cases for a start, so that's going to cause a delay. I don't think it's going to delay the Bill, and I don't think it's going to stop schools from implementing the learning plans. But I think, as I've said before, the pandemic will hit every child in different ways, and we just don't know in what ways they are, i.e. I think there are some priority groups in there where the impact will be much greater than others, no doubt about it, but for the school to really address this, they've got to identify the individual learning needs of almost every pupil. Now, that as a resource and capacity issue is inevitably going to mean it's going to be very hard to do it, to get everybody on to their own learning plan, including, then, those with ALN. So, I know enough to be worried that this is going—. I think there will be delays to the implementation, but beyond that I don't have much else to say, really.
From an academic point of view, getting that data together about what happened to that one fifth of children with ALN throughout the past 12 months would help inform what happens next, because, I think, to understand the future you've got to understand the past, and how ALN children were targeted and supported during the year of the pandemic so far.
Well, I have to say, at the very beginning of the pandemic, there was a small group of academics, convened by the Welsh Government, to provide expert advice. We met just twice, and in those meetings we very clearly stated that an adverse childhood experiences audit needed to be introduced from the outset, which would identify the individual needs of pupils and their circumstances nationally. And that would then help you monitor the impact on different groups in a more detailed way during the pandemic, but also help schools identify where their priorities need to be. Now, as far as I'm aware, that was not taken up. I do know that some schools have introduced their own version of it—again, using their own resources and their own capacity to do so, when actually this could have been provided nationally—in order to try and rank, if you like, the young people. And then they've allocated resources to it, and then they can judge the effectiveness of those different types of initiatives against the particular learning needs. Now, that sort of thing should have been happening nationally. I worry that we don't have that data. Even if we wanted to look back on it, we wouldn't have that level of detail.
Can I say there, the issue we had at the beginning was that the children with ACEs were getting places, those adverse childhood experiences were getting places—
Yes, I was meaning ACEs for everybody. I mean—
But ALN is separate to ACEs. The children I know in the voluntary groups I'm involved with don't have ACEs, they have ALN, which is a separate issue. And I have found that the target was that those children who were vulnerable and at risk were given places; this time around it's those children plus those with ALN, not necessarily ACEs.
We were arguing for a pandemic version of ACEs. So, in effect, something that would recognise everybody's needs and everybody's circumstances, not just the traditional set of adverse childhood experiences, but actually a pandemic-related version of that, which would then apply to every child, and we would include, absolutely, ALN in that. Because, clearly, certain learning needs are going to be affected differently by online learning, and the problem is that we have no real idea which groups within the ALN categories are going to be the worst hit. We just don't know. Schools will know now, but we haven't collected that information and I don't think that data's available.
I think the initial problem was it narrowed the support for ALN—an unintended consequence of what you said—because it looked at ACEs rather than ALN, and the adaptation didn't happen. So, I think that's a key point.
Okay, we are going to have to draw this to a close. So, Luke, I don't know if you've got any comments on Hefin's question about the implications for the implementation for the ALN Act.
So, the only other comment I would make is that—. So, Chris, has already identified the point that there will be bottlenecks in the system and delays. I think there's probably a strong role for Welsh Government, in discussion with local authorities, about working out where those delays are happening, what the shortage of specific staff and assessments is, and to try and unblock those. So, I wouldn't want to see any delay in the ALN Bill at all, because it's intended to improve provision, but I think there is a role for Welsh Government in terms of trying to work out exactly where the bottlenecks are, and what it can do to unblock those.
Can I say—
No, no, no—
—it's the ALN Act we should be clear about? And different local authorities, Chair, are doing things differently, so that's a key point.
Yes. Okay. Thank you. And we are going to have to draw things to a close now, as we've taken more of your time than we were meant to. Can I just thank you for attending? It's been an absolutely fascinating session, and we really appreciate you sharing your views with the committee. As Luke knows, we'll send a transcript to check for accuracy following the meeting, but thank you again for sharing your considerable experience and knowledge with us. It's been a fascinating session. Thank you very much. And the committee is going to break now until 10:40.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:29 a 10:39.
The meeting adjourned between 10:29 a 10:39.
Welcome back, everyone, to the Children, Young People and Education Committee, to our second evidence session this morning. I'm very pleased to welcome Professor Dylan Jones, deputy vice-chancellor and executive dean of the Institute of Education at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and Gareth Evans, director of education policy at University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Thank you both for joining us this morning, we're very keen to hear your views, not just on the situation that children are facing at the moment, but what we can do to try and make things right for children and young people going forward. So, if it's okay, we'll go straight into questions, and the first question is from Suzy Davies.
Welcome, both of you. My questions, before I come to Dylan Jones, are scene-setting questions really. Effectively, can you give us a bit of an overview about what you think is the extent of the damage that COVID-19 has had on children's education in Wales?
Who'd like to start?
I'm happy to start if that's helpful. Well, clearly, there will be a significant impact on learner progression and also on the mental health and well-being of children during this pandemic, and I think it's important for us how we message that situation. I've got some concerns about the use of the term 'catch-up', for instance. It tends to label this cohort of learners and I think we need to rethink how we use that language, to give that more supportive and positive message to those, as individuals, who are facing challenging times, as they are for all us.
Thank you. Gareth.
Yes, if I just add to what Dylan has said and reinforce what he said, but I'd also just like to make the point that has been made a number of times before, that this is a pandemic that is affecting every single young person in Wales, and every child is different, so every learner's needs are different. And I think that is a really important thing that we've got to take away and learn from. Everybody has been affected in a slightly different way, to varying extents. We know that the pandemic has had an adverse effect, particularly on those from deprived backgrounds.
I speak and work with more than 100 schools across Wales, and some of the stories that I hear on my virtual travels are really worrying, really concerning. Some schools are reporting significant disengagement, learners going missing, learners who in the first few weeks of the pandemic were unaccounted for, and that is a really frightening and concerning issue that we all need to be mindful of.
But I do detect in the last two or three months, trying to put a slightly more positive slant on things, a more optimistic and hopeful outlook. Schools are becoming more adept at meeting the needs of these learners, reaching out to disengaged learners, and engagement, in my experience, is actually starting to improve. So, I think, whilst the situation has been very, very bleak over a number of months, I see it as improving, certainly since the last lockdown just before Christmas.
Thank you for that. Part of the reason that some of our children and young people are experiencing poorer mental health is because of their anxiety about what they've lost in learning, so while I accept what you were saying, Dylan Jones, about perhaps the narrative, our young people's own expectations of themselves are causing anxiety, because they know they're not doing as much as they could be doing. On that, have you got any strong views on blended learning and how well it's worked, and if it's worked well, who's it worked well for? Is it particular types of learners, or are there greater effects in different year groups, for example? I wonder if you can give us some steer on that.
I think Gareth might have more direct involvement with schools on that matter. Gareth, would you like to come in first on that one, if that's okay?
Yes, by all means. Again, Suzy, I think it's important to note that, right at the beginning of the pandemic you had learners from different backgrounds with different access to technology. In the very first few weeks of the virus, we had learners, I think, falling into three camps: those who could engage and wanted to engage, those who couldn't, and those who chose not to. I think it was a challenge for all manner of reasons to get those learners online in the first place.
And actually, I was doing a little bit of research recently and I was reading back through the OECD report, published alongside PISA in 2018, which surveyed headteachers, and headteachers then were warning of the distinct lack of access to resource and connectivity. So, even in advance of the pandemic, we knew, I think, fairly surely that Wales was slightly behind the curve here and, in terms of resourcing alone, we weren't where we needed to be. And I think that's a real blight, actually, on our system, the fact that we didn't have every child having access to that technology. It's all well and good, isn't it, encouraging learners to go away and learn at home, but if they can't get on to that learning, if they can't engage in education through no fault of their own, we have a problem.
The only other thing I'd like to add to that, if I may, is the impact on teachers themselves. I think it's also important to remember that, in the very early throes of the pandemic, blended learning was new, I would guess, to most teachers, as it was indeed to university lecturers and college lecturers. I think we all had a degree of learning, and I'm sure—I don't wish to speak to yourselves as Members, but we all had a degree of learning to do and go through in terms of our blended learning experience. Teachers have had to learn on the job over time themselves. I'm sure they would be the first to admit that they were no experts in the field a year ago, but they are now slightly further down the line and they are more experienced in delivering blended learning.
Before I bring Dylan Jones in, can I just ask you something on that? Yes, you're quite right, teachers will have their own different experiences of learning how to do blended teaching, if you like. Have you got any sense of the variability of that? Is it just based on simple things like age, or are there geographical or socioeconomic indications about which teachers have been better at this than others? 'Better' is the wrong word, but you know what I mean.
Well, certainly socioeconomic factors, for reasons we've discussed in terms of accessing resources in the first place. We know that some schools actually have been very good at supplying their learners with multiple devices. It's not sufficient, is it, to give a family with a number of children one resource, one laptop, one iPad to furnish their learning. That's not going to pass. So, some schools have been better than others. Surely resourcing is a significant issue here. I don't see geography as being a massive issue. I think all schools across the country have faced similar issues, but certainly in terms of the younger learners it has, I think it's fair to say, and from experience of working with a number of primary schools, been harder to engage the younger learners, simply because they are less adept at engaging for long periods of time via technology. Their foundation phase learning is more practice based, it's more physical and it's not quite so transferable to the online world, as it were.
Thank you for that. Dylan Jones.
Yes, I just wanted to come in, just to explain a little bit more, if that's okay, what I meant by the catch-up and the narrative. It was a recognition of the anxiety that young children feel. And, as an ex-headteacher, so much of education and effective education is making young people feel that they can achieve and that they are able to progress. I think we must be careful that we don't add to that anxiety by mentioning or labelling them as a deficit model. That's what I was getting at—recognising, as you say, that the anxiety is there, but I think we need to make sure that we help remove that anxiety by feeling that they can catch up, they can do it, they can succeed, rather than say that they are the problem, as such. That's what I was trying to get at. My apologies.
Diolch am hynny.
Thank you for that.
Just to finish off on disadvantaged learners, then, because Gareth Evans has covered a fair bit of this for us. Have you got any sense of the extent of this and who we might actually consider to be a disadvantaged learner, because I suspect we've all got an idea in our heads, but there will be, presumably, learners from wealthier backgrounds who are also being lost in this process? I'm curious to know, particularly because a lot of the talk is about targeting resources at disadvantaged learners—and I completely understand that's how it should be done—who we might be missing in all of this and how we assess need. You started off by talking about needs being very variable.
I would think there will be a theme seen in the OECD report about enabling schools and supporting schools to do this. I think that the best way forward is to support schools and they will know who the individuals are; they will recognise them, and being there to support schools in achieving this and supporting the pupils would be the best way, I would suggest. Because I'm not quite sure, I'm not familiar with the detail of the evidence, but I think the best way forward is to talk with schools and for schools to identify that process and then support them in meeting the needs of those. And you're right to say, I don't think it's a simplistic view; there will be nuances there that we need to address. And on a regional and national level, it's difficult to do so without that knowledge that schools and professionals will have with the children who they know and they've worked with previously.
Okay, thank you.
And just to add to that, Suzy, you're absolutely right, the so-called working poor are affected as well, and if you haven't got access to the relevant resources and technology and connectivity, and, indeed, supportive parenting—there's no other real way of putting it—you are going to miss out, regardless of your socioeconomic descriptors. So, I think there are issues that are widespread here, and I would certainly reinforce what Dylan says: schools will know the needs of their learners best, and I think those decisions in terms of bespoke learning support packages are best made at the site of practice, in school.
That's very helpful, thank you very much. Before I go, Chair, would it be okay for Dylan Jones just to explain a little bit about his role in the strategic education delivery group, and tell us what it's for?
By all means—dim problem. I was asked by the education Minister to chair this group, which encompasses the middle tier, as described in the national mission, which involves all those parties supporting school, and they vary from—the members of the group are: Estyn, the Education Workforce Council, Qualifications Wales, the Welsh Joint Education Committee, universities, local authorities and consortia. The aim was to try and establish an understanding of how they work together to support schools and to ensure that schools are not inundated with overlapping demands and overlapping requests, and that we make the best use of resources. I suppose, to paraphrase that, the work that we're doing is done for schools, not done unto schools. And we worked hard, pre COVID, to make sure that we had an understanding, there was a framework of who did what.
If you position yourself as a headteacher of a school or a practitioner, you realise how many—that middle tier is well populated, put it like this, and we need to make sure that there aren't conflicting demands on practitioners and leaders of schools, so that we ensure that we enable them, rather than hinder them. So, that was the aim, and we had made some significant progress in making sure that there was an understanding pre COVID. There's been some delay since, but we did work with Government in the autumn to see how their response to the most recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report fed into both the implementation plan and the recovery plan during this COVID period. So, we shall be meeting now next week, on the fifth, to see how we can work together further to make sure that there is a best use of resources, because there will be a call on resources, as you well know, so we need to make sure that we make the best use, and it does support schools in responding. And again, the OECD focuses very much on the professionalism, and this focus on schools leading the response, rather than it being done elsewhere.
Thank you. We've got some questions now from Dawn Bowden.
Can I just ask you both what you think about the current planned return to school, the timeline for that, and whether you've got any views and thoughts on that?
I'm not privy, obviously, to the data behind the decision, but it seems to me that a phased approach, keeping the confidence of both the profession and parents, is the way forward. And being able to manage that—. As a head teacher, it would be difficult to manage everybody coming back at the same time. Having said that, I think, given that there are a number of young people who have been disadvantaged more than others, I think, perhaps—I'm not sure whether this has been considered—but perhaps a nuanced approach to try and identify those individuals, and perhaps as part of that phased approach, look at them rather than looking at particular year groups. But definitely, the phased approach is something I would support in this instance as well.
But also, consider—. You know, there are different ways of supporting young people, and perhaps we need to look, as part of that nuanced approach, at whether there are other provisions that we can introduce at the same time to support their return to mental health, and so on and so forth. So we shouldn't look at it in a simplistic way, would be my response to your question.
Okay, thank you. Gareth.
Yes, I would agree with Dylan. All I would really add is that I think a phased approach is the right way to go, personally. I think the so-called big bang, everybody back together, would risk damaging public confidence. I think we need to bring everybody with us, else the whole return agenda collapses. What I would say, though, is that, given the other devolved nations have chosen a slightly different tack and are doing things slightly differently and slightly quicker, as it were, in terms of getting schools back in, I personally would like to see more detail around the decision-making process in Wales. I'm not saying it's the wrong decision, I'm not saying I disagree with it, but I think in order to build and retain the confidence of the public, perhaps most notably pupils and parents, I think we need more data around why we are delaying slightly longer than England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
So, can I ask you both—thank you for that, Gareth—what you think are the critical factors? Because we've heard lots of different issues. Obviously, there's the mental health of young people getting back, there's the learning gap, but there's also the physical ability of schools restricted by size in terms of holding the numbers of pupils safely. So, what are the key factors from your point of view?
I think there's an element of the latter, clearly—that any return has to be done safely, whilst managing the demands of both staff and pupils, but it's to do with what is possible. And hence my comment about whether we might consider alternate provision or alternate ways of ensuring that we develop that phased approach by supporting those who have been at most disadvantage, and also suffered the greatest anxiety. So, learning, obviously, would help anxiety, being part of the school curriculum and school culture, but at the same time we might consider some alternate provision that would support and target those individuals who are most in danger of suffering greater anxiety by being away from school.
Just very quickly, Dawn, only to add to that, and I'm sure we'll come on to this in a little more detail shortly, but I think we should be exploring all options in terms of the return to school: how that looks, what environment we use, staggered start times—very much a phased return. Everything needs to be on the table, including—
Yes, so would you consider things like using temporary classrooms and all of those kinds of things? Temporary buildings, other buildings? Yes?
And potentially, additional staff. We have a university here with a wealth of student teachers, for example, who I see, actually, as being really crucial to the so-called catch-up and recovery agenda. Could we make better use of them, perhaps, and educational professionals from other contexts? So, it's not just about spaces, I think it's about people as well.
Of course, yes. Thanks, that's very helpful. Can I just ask you whether you think that there are likely to be any issues around discipline in schools, and whether the impact of face-to-face learning and the relationship between learners and teachers—is that likely to impact, do you think, on discipline in schools? What are your thoughts on that?
I wouldn't expect it to be significant, but obviously, there are challenges for all of us in returning to a workplace or elsewhere where we haven't been part of the age-old practices. So, there will be some initial transition period, obviously, but I think quickly, that relationship will be rebuilt with pupils. And, obviously, if it has been done well by schools already, that relationship, will be maintained, albeit virtually, but I don't anticipate it to be that significant. There will be challenges, no doubt, and it won't be an easy process, but I would think it will be managed well by the teachers. I don't know whether Gareth would agree.
All I'd add to that is that schools, as we know, are about routine, aren't they, and about structure? And it will take, I think, learners a degree of time to get back used to those structures and those ways of working. We have been in and out of school for a good deal of time, and I think that's why, in terms of our recovery plan, starting slowly and building up is the right way to go about it. It's all about re-engaging learners back into the school environment. This academic attainment aspect of education I think can wait for a little while, let's just get them back in first and re-familiarise themselves with what education is all about.
Yes. That's helpful. thanks for that. Following on from that, then, what do you think, or do you have any concerns about the relationship between the schools and parents and carers? Because obviously, parents and carers have been very anxious through this process. They may not always have liked the approach that the school has taken, or whatever. Are you concerned at all that any of this might impact on your relationship with parents and carers?
If I kick off, there, Dawn, I've got perhaps a slightly different take on this than perhaps you are suggesting. I actually think, in my experience, the relationship between parent, pupil and teacher has strengthened over the course of this process. In my experience, teachers are reaching out more to parents, and parents are reaching out more to teachers, and pupils—. To put it plainly, I think the way in which we now consider education as being more holistic and involving lots of different actors has been very much brought to the fore. So, education is all about teaching, yes, and teachers in a classroom, but it's also about your parents, your family, your grandparents and your wider social network. So, as well as missing out on that teaching aspect, I think learners have missed out on the peer-to-peer collaboration with their colleagues in school as well.
So, actually, I see that circle being slightly firmer now. I think people recognise that it's not just teachers' responsibility to educate our children; we all have a role to play. So, actually, I think the opposite. And look, it's not going to work for all cases—I accept that—and in some cases, I mean, you see it all the time, don't you, certainly on social media, some parents are not happy and satisfied with the quality of education that their child is getting. But broadly, I think that relationship is stronger now than it was a year ago.
I think we can probably all agree that social media is not the real world, Gareth. [Laughter.]
Let's hope not, anyway. [Laughter.]
I'm glad you pointed that out, Gareth.
I'm glad you said that, Dawn. [Laughter.]
Yes. If I could add as well, the Estyn report does reflect what Gareth has said, in the sense that, initially, including ourselves in universities, it was a shock; we had to respond quickly and we didn't always get everything right. But I think as time has gone on, we've been able to adapt and I think that has been reflected in Estyn's report. No doubt, parents will be unhappy, but anybody who's had to make difficult decisions will not always please everybody, but I think that process of engagement has strengthened, as we've all been able to adapt to this new way of meeting, as we do here, but also working in general and schools as well. So, I think that has improved. And if we were to look forward, we must, all of us, take what we've learned out of that, which will be beneficial moving forward once we return to as much normality as we can.
Yes, okay. Okay, that's fine, thank you. Thanks, Chair.
Thank you. If we can move on, then, to talk about some of the more longer term issues and how we help young people to recover from what they've been through. Can I just ask you how you think Welsh Government and all of us to need to assess what is needed for children to recover, shall we say, because I entirely take on board your point about the negative narrative that's developing around the term 'catch-up'?
I think, obviously, it's going to be a multi-faceted approach. And going back to my chairmanship of the school group, what we can't have is competing expectations on the schools from different bodies. In the first instance, we've all got to identify our roles in this process so that we do support schools, and I think the most impact will come from that day-to-day learning by practitioners in schools. I think what we need to do, all of us in this middle tier, is to work together. There's a potential here to make better use of resources. For instance, Gareth mentioned that universities are training an array of young teachers; there will be a number of teachers who were trained and succeeded last year but have not had the opportunity to do their NQT year who will be available. All universities that do teacher training are in partnership with a number of schools, so there's a potential there to tap into that resource. But it has to be in supporting schools, not this sort of overdemand, competing demands, from a number of bodies that are in this middle tier. It will be crucial for the development group to make sure that we don't do that, that we actually, as I said previously, support schools in the way that the OECD report in October identified as the way forward.
I would echo everything Dylan has said there. I think, in a really short, simple sentence, we should remember that teachers know their learners better than anyone and should be responsible and best placed to draw and deliver any supplementary associated support packages. You can flip that the other way, and what I'd add to that is something that I don't think we've discussed enough today, which is the role of the teacher. Actually, as much as we talk about the catch-up and learning loss for learners, I think we also need to factor in what is being called amongst my colleagues the teaching loss. Teachers went from very creative, innovative practices, collaborative work, engaging learners in lots of different ways, to sort of reverting to the old teaching in rows, didactic instructional practices that perhaps we've moved away from. They have felt, I think, a degree of disempowerment as a consequence.
They don't want to teach in certain ways, but they're having to do so for obvious reasons, and I think we need to really factor in—and this is probably going to be one of my key 'what next?' conversations—and invest and think about the teachers that we currently have. We talk a lot about bringing in well-qualified, quality staff and parachuting in this new army of people to support us. Well, actually, I think we need to focus on the teachers we've got and support them to develop in this new environment with blended technologies. And they need help. They can't do that themselves. They need funding. They need time. They need professional learning. So, actually, I would just kind of flip it slightly and think about the teacher as well as the learner.
If I may add as well, we must be conscious also that, by necessity, perhaps, the curriculum has been narrowed because of the constraints, and those subjects that enable personal development—be they creative subjects like PE, drama or whatever—need to be supported and enabled as part of this return to work as well, to help those individuals, maybe those youngsters who are suffering anxiety. There's a role there to make sure that the curriculum is not too narrowed either, in particular with the move to the new curriculum.
Okay. Thank you. Apart from the things that you've highlighted just now in terms of the curriculum and also the focus on our current teachers, are there any other key elements that you'd like to see in any recovery plan that you'd like to flag with the committee?
If I dive in, Lynne, just to kick us off. It's been discussed a lot this morning, the small matter of funding, and I think funding is going to be absolutely crucial. In order to support teachers to develop and implement and introduce bespoke learning pathways for every single learner, they're going to need a lot of time—time at the moment they haven't got because they're managing a crisis. So, they're going to have to find money and space to do that, which is going to be a real challenge. I think, principally, we need a real hard, grown-up conversation around our use of public funding. In the next year, two years, probably five or 10 years, there's going to be an awful lot of people competing for the same amount of money, and I think we've got to be fighting education's corner in the same realm as we do the health service, the economy, and all manner of other things. I think funding this support package is going to be crucial, and I think Dylan will agree with me that everything we do to support our learners has to be done with and for our teachers. But, in order to do that, they need to be financially supported. So, for me, I can't get away from funding. None of this will work without more sustained and targeted funding. I'll probably pass over at that point.
It's always a way to make sure that one does agree when the previous speaker says, 'I'm sure Dylan will agree'. It's making it more difficult for me to disagree, but nonetheless, I do agree. Also, what is crucial is that we are clear as a nation what we expect of the schools, and that we ease any consequential or attendant burdens that we place on schools, so that they are able to just focus on exactly, as Gareth says, that teaching and learning. There are examples still of schools being asked to make data returns and so on, which is diverging away from the main purpose, to work with the children, to make sure that they are supported in coming back to school and making the best progress possible, both academically but also personally as individuals. We should avoid all the periphery, which can become overbearing for schools. It's something where the middle tier, ourselves, need to get together and ensure that we do not do so, and that we, as Gareth says, provide the support, but not eat into that time by asking them to do things that are really not important at this stage.
Okay. Thank you. How do we make sure, then, that there's an appropriate balance between ensuring that children's learning can be recovered and their mental health and well-being? We saw a lot of money announced yesterday in England for recovery, but it was more focused on academic catch-up in the summer holidays and tutoring. What's your view on that approach? Because none of this is the kids' fault, is it, so it's really important that their well-being is at the centre of this, really.
It was behind the comment I made before about looking at alternatives or elements that go alongside the school activities, which I think is going to be crucial to this support. I don't think we should wait for the summer holidays; there's a need to do it now, and look at it as part of this phased return, so that we have that additional support around individuals and around the schools. There will be a lot that schools have to do in any event—but having those supportive activities, after school possibly, or during school time, where there are individuals in school there and ready to support. It's been a challenge in the past, but I think that's where the resource needs to be focused, in addition to those elements that we've described. I think we can't wait until the summer, we need to do it as soon as we can.
Thank you. Gareth.
I'd just like to supplement, really, what Dylan has said. In the first case, I would say that well-being is far higher up the agenda now than perhaps it was a year ago. I see that as being a really good thing, that there is a genuine interest now and a focus on the health and well-being of our learners. Moving forward, actually, I think our new curriculum gives us a real opportunity, doesn't it, to focus much more carefully on health and well-being, and, actually, we've got to start having a conversation as a nation, as a society, about what really matters. I know we have this conversation periodically over time, but really the rush to measure and gauge performance and give grades and awarding and what have you is a consequence of the society in which we live. We have all, as an education system, as businesses, as employers, as universities, gone along with this idea that you've got to get high grades to achieve. I think the curriculum gives us an opportunity to rethink some of that, and rethink learner progression, and how we value every learner's journey regardless of A* or B grades, so that we make sure that we are respecting the journey of every learner, and that learning is a sort of messy and slightly, at times, chaotic process. It's not a linear journey from one starting point to an end point. It does break up and things happen along the way. But this gives us an opportunity to consider other holistics aspects like health and well-being in the round.
If I could also add, I think therein lies the challenge to make sure that we are able to respond to this current crisis whilst, at the same time, looking forward and still continuing with the opportunity that the curriculum reform, and all the other reforms attendant to it, offers us. I think we mustn't lose sight of that and just concentrate on the here and now without thinking that the structure and implementation plan, post the OECD report, is there to help the recovery plan. I think it shouldn't be one or the other.
Thank you. We've got some questions now from Siân Gwenllian.
Diolch, Gadeirydd, a bore da. Mae'r cwestiwn cyntaf i Gareth, efallai. Beth ydy rôl y Gweinidog Addysg ar hyn o bryd, a'r Gweinidog Addysg newydd ar ôl mis Mai, o ran cydgordio’r lefel genedlaethol sydd ei angen efo'r cynllun? Nid cynllun adfer ydy o; mi wnaf i ei alw fo, felly, yn gynllun i gefnogi'r ysgolion a'r disgyblion wrth symud ymlaen. Dwi'n derbyn eich bod chi'n rhoi lot o bwyslais ar y gwaith yn yr ysgolion eu hunain, wrth gwrs, a dyna lle mae'r gwaith yn mynd i fod yn digwydd, ond beth ydy'r rôl genedlaethol ac oes angen rhyw fath o seilwaith newydd? Mae yna tsar yn Lloegr. Beth ydy eich barn chi ar hynny? Oes angen rôl benodol yng Nghymru?
Thank you, Chair, and good morning. The first question is to Gareth, perhaps. What is the role of the education Minister at present, and of the new Minister after May, in terms of co-ordinating the national level response that we need with regard to this plan? It's not a recovery plan; I will call it a plan to support the schools and pupils in moving forwards. I accept that you place a great deal of emphasis on the work in the schools themselves, of course, and that's where the work is going to be taking place, but what is the national role in this and do we need some sort of new infrastructure? There is a catch-up tsar in England. What is your opinion on that particular role? Do we need that specific role in Wales?
Diolch, Siân. To start, the role of the Minister, whoever that may be beyond May, is the same as the role of the Minister now, to be quite frank. They need to lead us through what will be a very challenging period. I don't think there's any doubt about that.
On the teaching or the catch-up—or whatever we're calling it—tsar, I actually think that's a good thing and I would support a figurehead or somebody who is independent of Government, appointed at arm's length, to lead on this. The core reason for that is that I think it will give the Welsh Government cause and need to keep returning to it. I have a slight fear in the back of my mind that with so many competing demands now, particularly financially related over the coming term, education catch-up will be not forgotten but will slip off the agenda in the next 18 months. We cannot allow that to happen. Having a full-time tsar, who is appointed specifically to look after these issues and to drive forward this agenda, I think, is no bad thing, simply because it gives priority, highlights the issues and it keeps us in the public eye, as it were.
Allied to that, what I might do as well is supplement the current make-up of the education department in Wales to include a catch-up or return agenda—or recovery, whatever you might call it—subset of the department with a team of civil servants whose sole priority it is to drive forward this agenda. In short, my underlying message is that we can't allow this to slip from the Government's list of priorities. I'm sure in an ideal world they would not wish to do so, but with so many other things on the agenda at the moment, I think prioritising and highlighting anything we can do to draw attention to and retain attention on the recovery plan would be no bad thing.
Dwi'n falch bod Gareth heb ddweud, 'Dwi'n siŵr y bydd Dylan yn cytuno', achos dwi'n anghytuno—anghytundeb iach, wrth gwrs. Mae yna ddigon o leisiau, mae gen i ofn, yn y canol yma, ac mae ychwanegu llais arall yn mynd i fod yn ormod. I fynd yn ôl at y cwestiwn ynglŷn â'r Gweinidog Addysg, dwi'n credu y byddai hwnna'n arwydd bod yr arweiniad cenedlaethol wedi methu—ein bod ni wedi methu â chael pawb ynghyd i wneud yn siŵr ein bod ni'n cydweithio i gefnogi ysgolion. Dwi'n credu, os oes yna rôl, o fy hanes fel prifathro, byddai hynny yn sicrhau bod yna ymateb cenedlaethol a'n bod ni ddim yn llithro yn ôl i gael cystadleuaeth ranbarthol neu leol, neu beth bynnag rydych chi eisiau ei alw fo, sydd yn llesteirio'r ymateb a'r gefnogaeth yna. Dwi'n credu bod yna rôl i'r Gweinidog Addysg, a'r tîm sy'n cefnogi'r Gweinidog, i wneud yn siŵr bod hynny'n digwydd. Dwi'n credu bod y cyfrifoldeb arnom ni yn y canol, megis, i wneud yn siŵr ein bod ni'n cydweithio a'n bod ni ddim yn caniatáu'r hyn y mae Gareth yn ei adnabod. Ac dwi'n cytuno; pe bai hynny'n digwydd, byddai hwnna'n drist iawn. Ond dwi'n credu os na all y Gweinidog Addysg a'r canol wneud hynny, wel, bydd yna rôl i bobl fel chithau i wneud yn siŵr bod hwnna'n cael ei ddatrys. So, dwi ddim yn siŵr os oes angen llais arall yn y canol. Mae yna ormod o leisiau yna sydd ddim yn cydgordio ar hyn o bryd.
I'm pleased that Gareth hasn't said, 'I'm sure that Dylan would agree', because I do disagree on this point—a healthy disagreement, of course. There are plenty of voices, I'm afraid, being heard, and adding another voice is going to be too much. To go back to the question about the Minister for Education, I think that would be a sign that the national leadership had failed—that you couldn't draw everyone together to ensure that we collaborate on this to support schools. I think that, if there is a role, it would be, from my past as a headteacher, to ensure that there is a national response so that we don't slip back to having regional or local competition, or whatever you want to call it, which dilutes the impact and the response. I think that there is a role for the education Minister, and the team supporting the Minister, to ensure that there is that national response, and I think that the responsibility is on us, on the middle tier, to ensure that we collaborate and that we don't allow what Gareth has identified. I'd agree that if that were to happen, then that would be very disappointing. But I think that, if the central education Minister couldn't do that, then there would be a role for you, as Members, to ensure that that was resolved. But I'm not sure whether we need another voice centrally. There are plenty of voices there that don't co-operate at present.
Diolch am hynny. O ran yr haen ganol, Dylan, rydych chi wedi sôn bod eisiau osgoi dyblygu a rhoi gormod o bwysau ar yr ysgolion o dŷ'r haen ganol. Faint o gynllunio sydd yn digwydd ar hyn o bryd o fewn yr haen yna mewn cydweithrediad, yn amlwg, efo'r lefel genedlaethol ac efo'r ysgolion ar y gwaith, ar ymyriadau ac yn y blaen? Faint o baratoi sy'n digwydd?
Thank you for that. In terms of the middle tier, Dylan, you've mentioned that we need to avoid duplication and putting too much pressure on the schools from the middle tier. How much planning work is happening at present within that middle tier in collaboration, of course, with that national level and with the schools themselves, on the work, on the interventions and so on? How much preparation is being done?
Wel, os awn ni'n ôl ychydig at y gweithgor neu'r pwyllgor rydw i'n cadeirio, roedd yna lot o waith yn cael ei wneud yn ceisio dod â phawb i gytundeb ar beth oedd rôl pawb, i wneud yn siŵr nad oedd yna gystadlu, ac roedd hwnna wedi cymryd camau calonogol iawn, mae'n rhaid i mi ddweud. Ond, wrth gwrs, mae'r pandemig yma wedi llesteirio rhywfaint ar hynny. Mae yna fframwaith wedi cael ei gytuno, neu ryw led-gytuno, ar sut rydym ni'n arwain hyn, ac mi wnaethom ni gwrdd ym mis Hydref, yn dilyn adroddiad yr OECD, i weld sut byddai'r cynllun gweithredu hwnnw a'r cynllun adfer, os mynnwch chi, yn cydblethu. Mae yna gyfarfod arall yr wythnos nesaf, a ffocws y cyfarfod yna fydd gwneud yn siŵr ein bod ni'n cydweithio. Ar lefel bersonol, nid yn fy rôl, nid yw hynny wedi digwydd yn hanesyddol fel y dylai fe wedi digwydd, a dwi'n credu mai'r cyfrifoldeb pennaf ydy gwneud yn siŵr ein bod ni yn cydweithio, achos mae dyfodol pobl ifanc ac ysgolion yn fwy pwysig na hunanbwysigrwydd y tir canol, os mynnwch chi. Mae'n rhaid i ni wneud yn siŵr ein bod ni yma i'r ysgolion ac i'r plant, ac nid i neb arall.
Well, I would go back a little bit to the working group or the committee that I chair. A great deal of work is being done to try to bring everyone together to agree on what everyone's roles are, to ensure that there isn't too much competition, and that did lead to some very heartening results, of course. But the pandemic has impacted that slightly. There has been a framework agreed, or partly agreed, in terms of how we lead on this work. We did meet in October, following the OECD report, to see how that action plan would work and the recovery plan, if you will, would dovetail. There is another meeting next week, and the focus of that meeting will be to ensure that we do collaborate. On a personal level, not in terms of my role, has that happened historically as it should have done? Perhaps not. And I think the main responsibility for us is to ensure that we do collaborate, because the future of young people in our schools is more important than the self-importance of the middle tier, if you will. We have to ensure that we are here for the schools and the children, and nobody else.
Ydych chi'n gweld, efallai, bod hwn yn gyfle, mewn gwirionedd, i gael y cydweithio yna'n digwydd yn well ac i dynnu'r dyblygu allan o'r system?
Do you see, perhaps, that this is an opportunity, truth be told, to have that collaboration, to have it taking place better and to take away that duplication from the system?
Ydw, yn bendant. Fel nifer o bethau eraill, mae'r pandemig wedi rhoi tân yn y newidiadau sydd wedi gorfod digwydd—y ffordd rydym ni'n cydweithio, yn gymdeithasol, a dwi'n credu ei fod yn un o'r pethau y dylem ni ddysgu ohonyn nhw wrth gynllunio ymlaen i wneud yn siŵr bod hynny ddim yn digwydd.
Mae yna alw, fel y dywedodd Gareth, yn mynd i fod ar adnoddau. Wel, byddai fe'n drist iawn ein bod ni'n camddefnyddio'r adnoddau hynny drwy ddyblygu'r gwaith. Ac yn y pen draw, rydym ni'n rhoi mwy o bwysau ar ysgolion. So, mae'n rhaid i ni wneud yn siŵr ein bod ni'n gwneud y defnydd gorau o'r adnoddau prin sydd ar gael, er lles yr ysgolion a'u gwaith. Nid i gamu'n ôl a rhoi rhwydd hynt—bydd rhaid bod yna atebolrwydd, wrth reswm—ond ein bod ni yna i gefnogi a bod yr atebolrwydd hynny'n gall ac yn synhwyrol.
Yes, certainly. As a number of other things, the pandemic has driven changes that have had to happen in terms of how we collaborate, socially, and I think that one of the things that we have to learn from this in planning ahead is to ensure that there isn't that duplication in future.
Gareth has said that there will be a demand for resources. It would be very sad if we were to misuse those resources by duplicating work and, ultimately, we put more pressure on schools then. So, we do need to ensure that we make the best use of the scarce resources that we have for the benefit of the schools and their work. Not to step back—there has to be accountability, of course—but we're there to support and that there is that sensible accountability.
Oes yna rôl gwbl ymarferol hefyd o dŷ'r haen ganol? Oes yna ddadl dros secondio rhai cyn-athrawon, sydd ddim yn dysgu ar hyn o bryd, yn ôl i'r ysgol am gyfnod? Ac a fyddai hynny'n gwneud lles iddyn nhw hefyd?
Is there a practical role too in terms of the middle tier? Is there an argument for secondments for former teachers, who aren't teaching at the moment, to go back to schools for a period? And would that assist them as well?
Mae hwnnw'n gwestiwn arweiniol. Dwi'n credu bod y proffesiynau eraill—. Dywedwch o fel hyn: mae'r proffesiynau eraill sydd yn hyfforddi ac yn arwain cydweithwyr yn parhau i weithio ar y ffas, megis yn y byd clinigol, yn y bydoedd eraill, ac mae yna ddatblygiad wedi digwydd yn sgil yr achredu newydd ar gyfer hyfforddiant athrawon bod yna well cydweithrediad a gwell ymwneud rhwng y prifysgolion a'u hysgolion partner, a dwi'n credu bod hwnna'n arwydd ar gyfer y dyfodol. Dwi'n credu y byddai o'n dda o beth petai'r ymwneud gyda bywyd pob dydd ysgol yn rhywbeth sydd yn gyson, a bod yna, efallai, fynd a dod, os mynnwch chi—bod y cadw'r cyswllt ar beth sy'n digwydd yn yr ystafell ddosbarth yn parhau a'i fod o'n ffres. Dyna sy'n digwydd mewn proffesiynau eraill. Ac os oes yna adnodd ar gael, efallai y dylem ni ei ddefnyddio ar gyfer cefnogi'r ysgolion.
Well, that's a leading question there. I think that the professions who train and lead the collaboration continue to work. That's happening in the clinical world. There's been a development in terms of the new accreditation for teacher training that there is better collaboration and better engagement between universities and their partner schools, and I think that is an example for the future. I think that it would be good if that engagement with the everyday working life in school was adopted consistently, and there could be that coming and going between schools and the classroom and academia perhaps. That's what happens in other professions. And if there are resources available, then they should be available for supporting schools.
Dwi'n cymryd hynny fel 'ia', felly i'r—
I take that as a 'yes'.
'Ia' gwleidyddol, efallai.
Yes, it's a political 'yes'.
Gareth, ydych chi yn cytuno bod angen bod yn bwyllog yn y ffordd mae'r haen ganol yn gweithredu yn ystod y cyfnod nesaf?
Gareth, do you agree that there is a need to be careful in terms of how the middle tier operates in this next phase?
Yes, I would agree totally, Siân. I don't think this is an issue unique to the pandemic. I think this is a historic issue that's been going on for some time. We do have what I would call an overcrowded middle tier that has a tendency at times to compete rather than to collaborate.
Just touching upon your initial point in relation to staffing, I mean, in my experience, I think we're at risk here of slightly exaggerating the number of staff employed by the regions. Certainly, some of the regions don't have the number of staff you might think they do, and a number of them are actually secondees anyway. So, I don't think it's as simple as saying, 'Right, all of you can go, en masse, back to school and help out, muck in'; I don't think that's really fair or true. All I would say is, and again, speaking from experience over the course of the past year, working very, very closely with a wide number of schools, there has been a tendency throughout for variation across regions, and regions to give out guidance, details, information that sometimes conflicts with what other schools in other regions are getting. So, I would like to see, at a real basic level, a slightly better co-ordination of some of the stuff that they are producing and giving to schools if, for no other reason, than to ensure that every school has a degree of confidence in what they're getting. I guess a spin-off to that point is that some regions, I think, are providing slightly more and slightly better materials than others.
Un cwestiwn arall jest ar gyllid, Lynne. Yr eliffant yn yr ystafell ydy faint o gyllid sydd yn mynd i fod ei angen, ac ydych chi'n gweld bod yna gynllunio yn digwydd ar lefel uchelgeisiol, ynteu ydych chi'n gweld bod yna gynllunio'n digwydd o fewn cyfyngiadau cyllid? Ac ydy'r ddau beth yna—ydy hwnna'n mynd i fod yn gweithio yn erbyn, yn y pen draw, unrhyw gynlluniau uchelgeisiol ar gyfer cefnogi'r disgyblion?
One final question, just in terms of funding, Lynne. It's the elephant in the room, of course, namely: how much funding is going to be required, and do you see that there is planning work taking place on an ambitious level, or do you see that planning is taking place within funding limitations? And are those two things—is that going to be ultimately militating against any ambitious plans for supporting pupils?
Mae'n rhaid i fi gyfaddef, does dim profiad uniongyrchol gen i i ateb hwnna ar sail tystiolaeth. Efallai fe fydd gen i fwy o wybodaeth, a bydd yna drafodaeth yn gallu cael ei rhoi gerbron yn ein cyfarfod ni yr wythnos nesaf, i sicrhau bod hynna yn digwydd. Ond bydd rhaid i'r cynllunio cyllidol fod yn hynod o ofalus, o gofio am y galwadau sy'n mynd i fod. Ac fel dywedodd Gareth, bydd yna gystadlu am bob ceiniog, oni fydd? So, bydd yn rhaid i'r cynllunio fod yn ofalus, a dwi'n mawr obeithio mai dyna ddaw yn sgil y cydweithio rydyn ni'n rhagweld y bydd rhaid ei wneud, a gwnawn ni ddechrau ar y drafodaeth yr wythnos nesaf ac efallai fydd gennyf i fwy o wybodaeth bryd hynny.
I have to admit that I don't have direct experience, to respond to that point in terms of evidence. Perhaps I will have more information and there'll be a discussion next week in our meeting then to ensure that that does happen. But the planning for the funding will have to be very careful, remembering the demands that there will be for that. And Gareth just mentioned that there will be competition for every penny of that. So, there will have to be very careful planning, and I very much hope that that is what will emanate from the collaboration that will have to take place, and I hope that we'll start that discussion next week and I'll have more information then.
Ond ydy hi'r ffordd anghywir i fynd o'i chwmpas hi, i feddwl, 'Ocê, dyma'r pot o bres sydd gennym ni, felly beth ydyn ni'n mynd i wneud efo fo?', yn hytrach na meddwl, 'Hyn sydd angen digwydd' ac wedyn, os dydy o ddim yn bosib ei wneud o i gyd, o leiaf wedyn mae yna uchelgais yna?
But is it the wrong way to go about it to think, 'Well, this is the pot of money that we have, so what are we going to do with it?' rather than thinking, 'Well this is what needs to happen', and then if it's not possible to do all of it, at least then there is an ambition set?
I fod yn deg, mae yna gynllun, dyna oedd y cynllun a drafodwyd ym mis Hydref diwethaf. Dwi'n ymwybodol mis Chwefror yw hi nawr, ond roedd y cynllun mewn ymateb i'r adroddiad OECD, a chydblethu hwnna efo gofynion y pandemig wedi adnabod beth sydd angen ei wneud; doedd dim sôn am gyllideb wrth hynny. A'r cyfle nawr yr wythnos nesaf ydy edrych i weld beth gellid ei wneud yn sgil y gofynion, ac mae yna ymrwymiadau yn y cynllun. Mae o ar gael ar wefan y Cynulliad, fel rydych chi'n ymwybodol, mae'n siŵr. Mae yna ymrwymiadau pendant, ac efallai o fanna ddylwn ni ddechrau. Rydych chi'n iawn: edrych ar y gofyn ac wedyn gweld beth sydd yn bosib yn hytrach na fel arall rownd, yn hytrach na thorri'r brethyn i siwtio'r geiniog, megis.
Well, to be fair, there is a plan, that was the plan that was discussed last October. I'm aware that it's now February, but the plan was in response to the OECD report that was dovetailed with the response required for the pandemic. It didn't acknowledge what needed to be done. There wasn't mention made of funding with regard to that, and the opportunity next week is to think what can be done, following the demands, and there are commitments in the plan. There is an outline of the plan on the Senedd website. There are firm commitments, and perhaps we should start from there. It's about looking at the demand and looking at what's possible rather than cutting the cloth to suit your budget.
Okay. Thank you very much.
Can I just quickly—very quickly, Lynne—and I'll make it snappy? Siân, if you are suggesting that we're not looking ahead far enough and not forward planning, I would firmly agree with that. I think we are still very much in crisis-management mode, looking at the day-to-day when, really, there should be somebody, or a team of people, exploring options for next year and beyond.
Okay, thank you. We're going to move on to some questions from Laura. I'd like to appeal to Members for short, snappy questions, please.
Thank you, Chair. That follows on nicely from what you just said, Gareth, actually, because what has been made apparent is that there is a possible need for a national plan. I was wondering, firstly, what both your views are on the feasibility of increasing the teaching and support staff workforce. You've touched on teachers, and not just increasing the number, but utilising and supporting the ones we have already, and that's something similar from the evidence we heard before you, actually, of using examples of best practice, and therefore that creates the need for a national plan to tell everyone what to do. And it seems to me that it would—. Do you agree with me that it would work alongside nicely with the new curriculum to teach in smaller in groups and utilise teachers in that way? So, that's my first question. I'll start with that. Thanks.
Sorry—oh, go on. Gareth, you go.