Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg
Children, Young People and Education Committee10/05/2023
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Buffy Williams MS|
|James Evans MS|
|Jayne Bryant MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Ken Skates MS|
|Laura Anne Jones MS|
|Sioned Williams MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Georgina Haarhoff||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Is-adran y Cwricwlwm, Asesu a Gwella Ysgolion, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Curriculum, Assessment and School Improvement, Welsh Government|
|Hannah Wharf||Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr yr Is-adran Cymorth i Ddysgwyr, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Deputy Director, Support for Learners Division, Welsh Government|
|Jeremy Miles MS||Gweinidog y Gymraeg ac Addysg|
|Minister for Education and the Welsh Language|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Jennifer Cottle||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Sarah Bartlett||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Tom Lewis-White||Ail 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 yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod am 09:37.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The public part of the meeting began at 09:37.
Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg heddiw.
Welcome to today's meeting of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee.
I'd like to welcome you all this morning to the Children, Young People, and Education Committee. The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and the Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. There are no apologies this morning. Are there any declarations of interest from Members? I see no declarations.
We'll move on to the first item on our agenda this morning. Just before I welcome the Minister, I'd like to thank Ysgol y Strade, Ysgol Aberconwy and Blessed Carlo Acutis Catholic School for facilitating visits to Members on 27 April. It was very much appreciated, and I know that Members very much enjoyed their visits and really appreciate the evidence that was given, so diolch yn fawr.
So, I'd like to welcome the Minister this morning, Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, and your officials with you this morning, Hannah Wharf, who is the deputy director, support for learners division, Welsh Government, and Georgina Haarhoff, deputy director, curriculum, assessment and school improvement, Welsh Government. Thank you very much for joining us this morning.
So, we'll move on to questions straight away. Members have a number of questions to put to you, Minister, and I'll make a start, with quite a general one, on the pressure on staff and the system more generally. We have had some written evidence from some teaching unions that presents a picture of an education system under huge pressure and struggling to cope with the demands of implementing the new curriculum and the additional learning needs system. How would you respond to those suggestions and those issues?
Bore da. Diolch am y croeso i fod gyda chi y bore yma i roi tystiolaeth ichi. A gaf i longyfarch y pwyllgor ar y ffynonellau o dystiolaeth y mae'r pwyllgor yn gallu tynnu arnyn nhw er mwyn edrych ar yr ymchwiliad hwn?
Good morning. Thank you for the welcome and the opportunity to provide evidence this morning. May I congratulate the committee on the sources of evidence that it can draw on in conducting this inquiry?
I think it's great that the committee's having such a wide range of evidence from a range of different perspectives, which is really important when we're looking at such significant reforms as curriculum reform and additional learning needs reform. It's, in many ways, a system change, isn't it? So, hearing from different parts of the system with a range of different perspectives that participants with their own responsibilities will have, certainly, we find it very useful as a Government. So, I'd just congratulate the committee on that approach.
I think there is a wealth of evidence, whether from Estyn, from evidence that we've commissioned by way of the early insights and a range of other sources, that gives us a good picture of how the system is responding, both to curriculum reform and additional learning needs reform. I would say introducing reforms at this scale is a system change. It's also a culture change, isn't it? So, clearly, that is going to be challenging in many respects. If the concerns that you're identifying in the letter from teaching unions relate to pressure on staff, we have an ongoing discussion with partners in the teaching unions and the education unions more broadly on how we can make sure we're constantly looking at the question of workload. We have committed to the reforms that we're undertaking, and those reforms will continue, but there will be workload implications in the aggregate, and we, obviously, have a process for working through those with teaching unions and local authorities as well, and I dare say we'll come on and talk about some of the specifics. We've got a specific piece of work, for example, in relation to the workloads of additional learning needs co-ordinators, so by the end of this year we hope to have a body of work that we can draw on in relation to that. We've also provided more flexibility in relation both to curriculum reforms, so providing secondary schools with the option of starting this academic year or the next academic year, and providing more time for additional learning needs transition and, obviously, significant funding. So, there are many ways in which we've sought to mitigate some of those pressures. But let's also remember that the reforms, particularly in the context of curriculum reform, also mean taking away a lot of other burdens that previously were in place. So, I think it's important to see the whole picture.
Thank you, Minister. You talked about the two reforms—ALN reform and the curriculum reform. Do you think that one faces more significant challenges than the other?
I suppose the common set of challenges that both strands of reform have faced, clearly, is the impact of the pandemic, which obviously has affected preparation for reform, and to the extent that we're still living with the consequences of aspects of it, that is still a feature of school life, isn't it? You will remember the discussion we had when I was making the decision about whether to continue with the pace of curriculum reform or postpone that, and you will also remember the discussion about the experience during COVID reflecting many of the principles of the curriculum. So, that was very much a live set of judgments at the time.
I guess, in terms of what the respective challenges are, one set of reforms, I suppose, will touch the experience of every single learner, and one will touch the experience of a large cohort, but not every single learner, and they're working to different time horizons. So, in that sense, the challenges are, I think, slightly different. But it is important that we're doing the two together. I think that brings many, many benefits.
So, you think, on balance, doing both of these reforms at the same time has more advantages than disadvantages?
I do, for the following reason: I think they're both premised on the idea of an inclusive education system where the individual needs of every learner are reflected in teaching and learning. I think that is a common, underlying principle for both strands of reform, and, in designing the curriculum at a school level, a school will understand the needs of its cohort of learners in a way that will better enable that school to identify additional learning needs. So, there are complementarities in the design of the two reforms. From the early insights work that we've done, which we've shared with the committee, there is evidence that school leaders, in particular, feel that there is much more opportunity through the Curriculum for Wales to be able to address some of those questions around identification of particular needs that pupils have.
But, on the other side, just to complete the picture, there are clearly challenges that come with doing the two together. There's more reform for the system to respond to. But we hear pretty consistently from committees, from stakeholders and others, of the importance of not taking a siloed approach to what we are doing. I think that it is possible to mitigate the pressures that come from doing the two together. I have outlined some of them already and I'm happy to talk more about those, Chair.
Thank you, Minister. I'm sure that we will come on to some more points later on. What consideration have you given to the impact of the curriculum and ALN reforms on disadvantaged groups and those with protected characteristics? For example, how fully are schools complying with their public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010 in the way that they are implementing those reforms?
So, the design of the reforms has, at its heart, identifying the needs and meeting the needs of each individual learner, and that will encompass learners with particular protected characteristics. But also, I passionately believe that the Curriculum for Wales is a really important tool, if you like, in how we get to grips with meeting the needs, particularly, of disadvantaged learners and closing the attainment gap. Speaking personally—and I am sure that others, I hope, will reflect this from their own experience as constituency MSs—I speak to heads who have high levels of free-school-meals eligibility, for example, in their schools and they are very passionate about the potential of the curriculum to address the needs of disadvantaged learners in particular.
That's at the design end, but I think that your question was really about the implementation and how we make sure that the delivery of it meets the needs of the cohorts that you talked about. I suppose that what I would say on that is that we are, as I have mentioned to the committee previously, working on a programme of national monitoring, which will be a sample-based analysis of progress in delivering the curriculum across Wales. That will look at a range of impacts, but that will include the experience of disadvantaged learners and the experiences of learners with particular protected characteristics, as the curriculum is rolled out.
At the moment, we are at the stage where we are configuring the specification and developing how that will look. We will want to pilot that. You mentioned the EHRC in your question. We would want to work with them on the specification for that, so that we can capture the points that they have very recently made in relation to the public sector equality duty as well.
Brilliant. Thank you. I will just bring in Laura Jones now. Laura.
Thank you, Chair. Just while we are talking about putting the two things into schools at the same time, it has, in my experience of visiting schools, obviously caused a great deal of pressure for our staff there. Minister, do you believe that there are enough staff in our schools to be able to cope with the added pressures of doing both at the same time, particularly the ALN reforms, which in the round I see as good?
With that added pressure on the needs—. There are needs of pupils in classes right now that are not being met because identification is taking too long. The funding isn't following in time for those children to get what they need. The outcome of that, of course, is that schools need more staff, but the money just isn't there on stretched budgets. How would you go about rectifying that?
Well, there are budget pressures in schools as a consequence of inflation and the cost-of-living pressures. We have discussed this in other contexts, and I've made it clear that we have a commitment as a Government to prioritise education spending and school budgets, which we have. But there are pressures on public sector funds right across Wales—in fact, right across the UK—as a consequence of choices being made by the UK Government, principally, about the level of public financing.
On school budgets, in particular, what we have been able to do is increase the funding that has gone to local government, which, as you will know, is responsible for allocating that funding at a school level. Where my portfolio, my budget, is able to make a direct contribution in relation to that—so, the two most obvious examples are the pupil development grant and the Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards funding—we have either kept that at a steady level or increased it, where, obviously, in other parts of the UK, that has been reduced.
But that is not to underestimate the pressures that schools are under. I know that schools are talking to their authorities about how they can use some of the reserves that they have had for short-term pressures. But I just want to reiterate that I absolutely recognise that that is a short-term solution only. But the basic question that you have is: are there enough staff in the system to deliver the reforms? And the answer to that is, 'Yes, there are.' And the funding that I've made available specifically for additional learning needs has, in fact, led to more recruitment in that space. But as I say, it's a very ambitious programme of reform, and I don't underestimate that that can, of course, be challenging.
Okay, thank you, Laura. Questions, then, from Sioned Williams. Sioned.
Diolch, Gadeirydd, a bore da, Weinidog. Cwpwl o gwestiynau gen i am ddiwygio’r cwricwlwm yn gyffredinol. Rŷn ni wedi clywed pryderon drwy'r dystiolaeth dŷn ni wedi ei chasglu bod yna amrywiaeth ym mhrofiadau'r disgyblion o ganlyniad i natur Cwricwlwm i Gymru. Felly, hoffwn i ofyn pa fath o ddilysu neu fonitro sydd yna o'r cwricwlwm y mae'r ysgolion wedi bod yn gyfrifol am ddylunio a mabwysiadu, gan gydnabod bod rhai ysgolion ddim wedi cyhoeddi'r crynodeb yr oedd gofyn iddyn nhw ei wneud.
Thank you, Chair. Good morning, Minister. I have a few questions about curriculum reform in general. We've heard some concerns in the evidence received that there is variation in pupils' experiences as a result of the approach to the Curriculum for Wales. So, I'd like to ask what kind of validation or monitoring takes place of the curriculum that schools have been responsible for designing and adopting, and particularly given that some schools have not met the requirement to publish a curriculum summary.
Wel, mae elfen o amrywiaeth, ond mae elfen o amrywiaeth yn gynhenid mewn unrhyw system addysg, ac mae’n beth da eich bod chi'n cael yr amrywiaeth. Dyw cael amrywiaeth o safon ddim yn beth da, wrth gwrs, ond mae cael amrywiaeth o brofiad yn sicr yn beth da. Dŷn ni ddim eisiau gweld—dwi ddim eisiau gweld, ac rwy'n cymryd nad yw'r Aelod chwaith yn moyn gweld—rhyw fath o cookie-cutter curriculum, lle mae'r un peth yn cael ei orfodi ym mhobman. Holl bwynt y cwricwlwm yw ymbweru athrawon, ymbweru arweinwyr ac ysgolion i allu dylunio cwricwlwm sydd yn gweithio ar gyfer y cohort o ddisgyblion sydd gyda nhw, ac yn adlewyrchu'r cynefin a'r gymuned ac ati, felly mae hynny’n elfen bwysig iawn o sut rŷn ni wedi mynd ati i ddylunio'r cwricwlwm.
Ond dyw'r cwricwlwm ddim yn free-for-all; mae gyda ni strwythur cenedlaethol—cwricwlwm i Gymru yw hi. Felly, mae gyda ni un Deddf, mae gyda ni un fframwaith, un cyfres o statements of what matters, un cod, un corff arolygu, ac mae canllawiau newydd Estyn o ran arolygu'n edrych ar ba mor llwyddiannus mae ysgolion yn dylunio cwricwlwm sydd yn eang, ond gyda chydbwysedd hefyd. Felly, mae’r gwaith yna i gyd yn rhan o'r gwaith cenedlaethol.
Mae gyda ni system genedlaethol o ran national network; mae pobl yn dod o bob rhan o Gymru i fod yn rhan o hwnnw. Mae gyda ni system genedlaethol o ran dysgu proffesiynol. Mae gwefan newydd gyda ni ers diwedd y llynedd, sydd yn rhoi mynediad i athro yn unrhyw ran o Gymru i gynnwys gan gonsortiwm yn unrhyw ran o Gymru am y tro cyntaf. Felly, mae’r darlun cenedlaethol hwnnw'n un pwysig.
Un o’r elfennau rwyf eisiau'i phwysleisio yw pa mor bwysig mae cydweithio rhwng ysgolion, y clusters, yn hyn o beth hefyd. Mae e wir yn bwysig bod hynny’n gweithio'n llwyddiannus ar lawr gwlad. Roeddwn i mewn ysgol yng Nghaerdydd yr wythnos diwethaf yn edrych ar sut oedd un o’r clusters fanna yn cydweithio ar elfen o’r cwricwlwm, ac roedd e'n ysbrydoli, a dweud y gwir. Roedd cydweithio da iawn, cryf, cydweithredu, ac mae hynny hefyd yn rhan bwysig o hyn er mwyn sicrhau cysondeb ar yr un pryd â'r gallu i ymbweru'r proffesiwn.
Well, there is an element of variation, but that is inherent in any education system, and it's good thing that you have that variation. Having variation of standards is not a good thing, but having a variation of experience certainly is. I don't want to see—and I assume that the Member doesn't want to see—some sort of cookie-cutter curriculum where the same thing is enforced everywhere. The whole point of the curriculum is to empower teachers, leaders and schools to design a curriculum that works for the cohort of pupils that they have and reflects the community and the cynefin of that area, so that's a very important element of how we have designed the curriculum.
But the curriculum isn't a free-for-all; we do have a national structure—it is a curriculum for Wales. We have one Act, we have one framework, one series of statements of what matters, one code, one inspection body, and the new Estyn guidance in terms of school inspection does demonstrate how important it is to look at how successful schools are at designing a curriculum that is broad, but also balanced. So, all of that work is part of the national approach.
We have a national system of national networks; people come from all parts of Wales to participate in those. We have a national system in place in terms of professional learning. We have a new website since the end of last year, which gives a teacher in any part of Wales access to content by consortia in all areas of Wales and that's for the first time. So, that national picture is very important.
One of the elements I want to emphasise is how important collaboration between schools is—the clusters. It's hugely important that that works successfully on the ground. I was at a school in Cardiff last week looking at how one of the clusters there was working on an element of the curriculum, and it was quite inspiring, if I'm honest. There was very good strong collaboration and co-operation, and that's an important part of this to ensure consistency whilst also providing that empowerment for the profession.
Ie, yn amlwg, cysondeb o'r safon yn bwysig, yntefe, yn hytrach nag unffurfiaeth?
Yes, and, clearly, it's that consistency of quality that's important, isn't it, rather than being uniform?
Ond un o'r pethau sydd wedi codi yn hynny o beth yw, ie, mae yna gydweithio arbennig yn digwydd, mae'n ymddangos, mewn rhai llefydd, ond roedd peth o’r dystiolaeth dŷn ni wedi'i chasglu yn awgrymu efallai fod y gefnogaeth yna ddim yn gyson o ran, er enghraifft, cydweithio yn y clwstwr, neu o ran cefnogaeth consortia. Ac un o'r pethau mawr sydd wedi dod mas o'r dystiolaeth dŷn ni wedi'i chasglu yw dysgu proffesiynol—bod hynny wedi codi fel mater o bryder; hynny yw, bod yna bwysau gwahanol, bod ysgolion mewn lle gwahanol o ran cyllid, o ran medru rhyddhau athrawon oherwydd bod yna fylchau yn sgil trafferthion recriwtio. A dŷn ni wedi cael hefyd—roedd yna arolwg gan yr NASUWT o'u haelodau nhw yn dweud bod athrawon yn cael 11.5 awr o ddysgu proffesiynol y flwyddyn ar gyfartaledd, o'i gymharu â 14 awr yn Lloegr, er bod hyn yn flaenoriaeth ddatganedig yng Nghymru, ac wrth gwrs, yn sgil y lefel yma, roeddech chi'n sôn fanna am bwysigrwydd y dysgu proffesiynol yma. Felly, ydych chi'n cytuno gyda'r pryderon yna yn y maes yna o ddysgu proffesiynol ar hyn o bryd?
But one thing that's arisen in that respect is that, yes, there is really good collaboration working in some areas, but some of the evidence received suggested that perhaps that support wasn't consistent, for example, with co-operation in the cluster, or with the consortia. And one of the things that came from the evidence received was also about professional learning—that was brought up as a point of concern; that there were different pressures and that schools were in different positions in terms of financing, some had fewer teachers, and there were gaps in terms of recruitment, and difficulties in that regard. And we've also seen a survey from the NASUWT membership indicating that teachers receive 11.5 hours of professional learning on average, compared to 14 hours in England, despite this being a stated priority in Wales, and of course, in terms of this level, you mentioned there the importance of professional learning. Do you therefore agree that there are concerns in that area of professional learning at the moment?
Wel, dyw e ddim yn taro fi fel rhywbeth sydd yn amlwg, i fod yn gwbl onest. Un ar ddeg awr ddywedoch chi, onid e?
Well, it doesn't strike me as being an obvious problem. I think you said 11 hours, did you?
Un ar ddeg pwynt pum awr yng Nghymru, yn ôl arolwg yr NASUWT o'u haelodau nhw o ddysgu proffesiynol y flwyddyn, o'i gymharu â 14 awr yn Lloegr.
Eleven point five hours in Wales, according to the NASUWT survey of their members in terms of professional learning per year, as compared to 14 hours in England.
Dwi ddim yn gwybod faint o unigolion sydd wedi ymateb i hynny, felly mae'n anodd gwybod faint o bwysau i roi ar y canlyniad hwnnw. Efallai fod y ffigurau gyda chi, dwi ddim yn gwybod, ond dwi ddim yn gwybod faint o unigolion sydd wedi dweud hynny, a dweud y gwir. Mae hynny'n bwysig o ran faint o bwysau rŷch chi'n gallu rhoi ar y pethau yma. Ond mae gyda ni fwy o ddiwrnodau INSET nag sydd mewn 11 awr, felly dwi ddim cweit yn gweld sut mae hynny'n gweithio, i fod yn gwbl onest. Rŷn ni wedi ceisio ffeindio ffyrdd o ychwanegu at gapasiti'r system i ymroi i ddysgu proffesiynol. Felly, ers 2019, mae diwrnod ychwanegol nawr, so mae chwe diwrnod o INSET gyda ni, ac rŷn ni'n mynd i barhau â hynny am y tair blynedd nesaf, felly mae hynny'n sylweddol uwch, rwy'n credu, na rhannau eraill o'r Deyrnas Gyfunol.
Rwy wedi sôn eisoes am y buddsoddiad rŷn ni wedi'i wneud i mewn i ddysgu proffesiynol. Llynedd, rwy'n credu, £36 miliwn wnaethom ni wario arno fe, a'r rhan helaeth o hynny'n cael ei wario ar lefel ysgol, felly mae'r buddsoddiad yn sylweddol iawn. Yr her nawr, os caf i fod yn gwbl onest, rwy'n credu, yw nid cymaint â hynny faint sydd ar gael, ond pa mor hawdd yw e i'w ddarganfod e, a hefyd ei ddilysu fe. Felly, mae gwaith eisoes yn digwydd—rwyf wedi trafod hyn gyda'r pwyllgor yn y gorffennol—i sicrhau ei fod e'n hawdd dod o hyd i'r hyn sydd angen ichi fod yn edrych arno fe fel athro, a hefyd mae proses o ddilysu yn digwydd ar hyn o bryd, rhyw fath o kitemarking, os hoffwch chi, fel ei bod hi'n hawdd ichi ddod o hyd i'r hyn rŷch chi eisiau yn gyflym. Ond chi'n gwybod, mae o yn flaenoriaeth ein bod ni'n buddsoddi mewn dysgu proffesiynol yn sicr.
I don't know how many individuals have responded to that, so it's difficult to know how much weight to place on that result. You may have those figures, but I don't know how many individuals were involved in that survey. That's important in terms of how much weight you can give it. But we have more INSET days than there are in that 11 hours, so I don't really see how that could work, if I'm entirely honest. We have tried to find ways of adding to the system's capacity in terms of professional learning. So, since 2019, there is an additional day, so there are six INSET days now, and we will continue with that for the next three years, so that is substantially higher than in other parts of the UK.
I've already mentioned the investment that we've made in professional learning. I think, last year, we spent £36 million on that, and that was mostly spent at the school level, so the investment is very substantial indeed. The challenge now, if I can be entirely honest, is not so much of how much is available, but how easy it is to access and validate that professional learning. So, there is work ongoing—I've discussed this with the committee in the past—to make sure that it's easy to access what you need as a teacher, and also there's a validation process happening at the moment, some sort of kitemarking, if you like, so it's easy for you to find what you're looking for quickly. But it is certainly a priority that we invest in professional learning.
Sorry, Sioned, just to come in on that. Just to say that the survey and the results are published in the NASUWT's written evidence to us. If you want to have a look at that and interrogate that any further, you'll be able to find that there. Sioned.
Thank you, Chair.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Ie, o ran adnoddau, mae hynny yn thema sydd wedi dod drwyddo yn y dystiolaeth hefyd, i gefnogi athrawon, ac yn benodol o ran cyfrwng Cymraeg, fe glywon ni rhai yn sôn—yn benodol, glywais i, er enghraifft, am yr addysg cyd-berthynas a rhywioldeb, bod adnoddau dysgu ddim ar gael mor hawdd yn y Gymraeg a ddim o'r un safon yn y Gymraeg ag ydyn nhw yn Saesneg. Rŷn ni wedi clywed hefyd lot o athrawon yn sôn am y gwaith cyfieithu sy'n mynd ymlaen. Dwi'n gwybod bod yna waith yn mynd rhag blaen o ran cywiro hynny a bod y Llywodraeth yn buddsoddi yn hynny, ond mae yna hefyd, wrth gwrs, fylchau mawr, rŷn ni'n gwybod, a thrafferthion recriwtio yn y maes cyfwng Cymraeg. Gwnaeth un pennaeth ysgol cyfrwng Cymraeg uwchradd ddweud wrthyf i ei fod e'r gwaethaf mae e erioed wedi profi fel pennaeth yn y 30 mlynedd oedd e'n dysgu. Felly, roedd e'n teimlo bod hynny yn cael effaith, nid yn unig ar ryddhau athrawon ar gyfer dysgu proffesiynol, ond yr amser sydd gyda nhw, maint yr adrannau, maint y cover sydd ar gael, er mwyn i athrawon medru gwneud hyn o fewn eu diwrnod gwaith. Ac fel roeddwn i'n sôn, safon yr adnoddau yn creu gwaith, mewn gwirionedd, ar gyfer cyfrwng Cymraeg. Felly, hoffwn i jest gwybod os oes gyda chi unrhyw sylwadau ar hynny.
Thank you, Chair. Yes, in terms of resources, that's a theme that's come through the evidence also, to support teachers, and specifically in terms of the Welsh-medium resources, we heard some people mention—specifically, I heard, for example, about the relationships and sex education that the learning resources weren't as readily available in Welsh and weren't of the same quality as the English-medium resources. A lot of people have mentioned the translation work that goes on for teachers. I know we've mentioned this as a priority in the past, that the Government is already investing in that and rectifying that, but of course there are big gaps, as we know, and there are difficulties in recruiting in the Welsh-medium sector. One head of a Welsh-medium secondary school said that it's the worst time he's ever experienced as a head in all the 30 years that he'd been teaching. So, he felt that that was having an effect, not only on releasing teachers for professional teaching but also the time they have, the size of the departments and the availability of cover, so that teachers can incorporate this into their working day. And as I mentioned, that the quality of resources really creates more work for Welsh-medium teachers. So, I just wanted to know whether you had any further comments on that.
Rŷn ni'n gwybod bod yr her i recriwtio yn benodol yn y sector cyfrwng Cymraeg, yn un sydd yn hysbys. Rŷn ni wedi trafod mewn cyd-destunau eraill y gwaith sydd yn digwydd er mwyn i ni fynd i'r afael â hynny—a diolch i'r holl rhanddeiliaid ar draws Cymru sydd wedi bod yn rhan o'r gwaith hwnnw ac sydd yn ein cynorthwyo ni i yrru hynny yn ei flaen. Wrth gwrs, mae angen sicrhau bod gennym ni ddigon o athrawon sy'n gallu dysgu trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg er mwyn creu'r gofod hynny hefyd i wneud y diwygiadau sydd mor bwysig.
O ran adnoddau, mae'r darlun yn gwella yn gyson. Un o'r prif bethau roeddwn i eisiau gweld Adnodd, y corff newydd, yn ei wneud, yw trafod gyda rhanddeiliaid a chael adborth ynglŷn â sut i flaenoriaethu pa adnoddau i gael yn y Gymraeg yn gyflym, os hoffwch chi, er mwyn ein bod ni'n gallu sicrhau, lle mae bylchau, ein bod ni'n cau'r bylchau yna cyn gynted â phosib. Ar hyn o bryd, mae rhyw 5,000 o adnoddau ar Hwb. Mae swyddogion yn gweithio gyda rhanddeiliad i fynd trwyddyn nhw i sicrhau bod hyn yn gymwys a'u bod nhw i gael yn ddwyieithog, felly mae hynny yn gynllun mawr, wrth gwrs. Rwyf eisiau hefyd clywed, fel rhan o'r—beth bynnag yw'r term Cymraeg am 'formative evaluation'—hynny yw, y broses o fonitro a gwerthuso’r cwricwlwm, wrth ei fod yn esblygu dros y blynyddoedd nesaf, bod hynny'n edrych, fel un o'r blaenoriaethau, ar brofiad dysgwyr a staff drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg yn benodol.
We know that the recruitment challenge, particularly in the Welsh-medium sector, is well known. We've discussed in other contexts the work that is happening to tackle that, and I'd like to thank all of the stakeholders across Wales who've been part of that work and have supported us in driving that forward. Of course, we need to ensure that we have a sufficient number of teachers able to teach through the medium of Welsh to create that space for the reforms that are so important.
In terms of resources, the situation is improving consistently. One of the main things I wanted to see Adnodd do, and that's the new body, is to have discussions with stakeholders and get feedback on how to prioritise what resources need to be available in Welsh quickly, so we can ensure that, where there are gaps, we close them as soon as possible. At the moment, there are some 5,000 resources on Hwb. Officials are working with stakeholders to ensure that these are appropriate and are available bilingually, so that's a major programme, of course. I also want to hear, as part of the formative evaluation, the process of monitoring and evaluating the curriculum as it evolves over the next few years, that that, as one of the priorities, looks at the experiences of learners and staff in the Welsh-medium sector particularly.
Diolch. Dwi jest eisiau gwneud un sylw bach. Dwi jest eisiau bwydo nôl am Hwb, achos fe glywais i hyn gan athrawon, llywodraethwyr, a rhieni: mae Hwb yn anodd o ran bod yna lot o stwff arno fe; mae e'n anodd i ffeindio'r hyn rŷch chi ei angen. Felly, roeddwn i jest eisiau bwydo hwnna nôl, achos fe wnaed apêl i fi i fwydo hwnna nôl i chi.
Thank you. I just wanted to make one last comment. I wanted to feed back about Hwb, because I heard from teachers, governors and parents that Hwb is difficult, because there's so much on there, it's difficult to navigate and find what you need. So, I just want to feed back on that, because it was an appeal to me that I feed that back to you.
Rwy'n cytuno gyda chi, fel mae'n digwydd. Mae'n ffantastig; mae Hwb yn adnodd hollol ffantastig o ran bod popeth ar gael i staff, a dyw e ddim ar gael mewn rhan fwyaf o wledydd yn rhyngwladol. Ond yr her sydd yn dod fel flip side i hwnnw yw bod lot o gynnwys. Felly, dyna'r pwyslais ar navigability, i sicrhau ei bod hi'n hawdd dod o hyd i bethau. Mae'r gwaith yna'n digwydd nawr.
I agree with you, as it happens. Hwb is a superb resource in terms of everything being available for staff, and it's not available in most nations internationally. But the flip side of that, of course, is that there is a great deal of content. So, that's the emphasis on navigability, to ensure that things can be easily accessed, and that work is ongoing.
Iawn. Dwi jest eisiau troi yn gyflym at addysg blynyddoedd cynnar. Sut mae cyflwyno'r Cwricwlwm i Gymru yn mynd, yn benodol mewn lleoliadau blynyddoedd cynnar? Yw'r cyfle'n cael ei gymryd i symud i system bolisi unigol ar gyfer plant hyd at bump oed, os ydyn nhw yn y sector gofal plant neu'r sector addysg blynyddoedd cynnar, fel mae'r Mudiad Meithrin wedi galw amdano?
Okay. I just wanted to turn quickly to early years education. How has the introduction of the Curriculum for Wales gone, specifically in early years settings? Is the opportunity being taken to move to a single policy system for children up to five years, and is that regardless of whether they're in the childcare sector or the early years sector, as Mudiad Meithrin have called for?
Os cewch chi gyfle i weld y cwricwlwm ar waith yn y settings blynyddoedd cynnar, mae e wir yn ffantastig. Mae'n gyson gyda'r approach rŷn ni wedi'i ddefnyddio am flynyddoedd yn y cyfnod hwnnw. Mae dros 500 o settings nawr yn defnyddio cwricwlwm y blynyddoedd cynnar, a byddwn i'n dweud bod y cynnydd yn gynaliadwy ac mae'n gadarnhaol. O ran y cwestiwn penodol, sut ydyn ni'n mynd i'r afael â chael darlun cyson dros bob setting, rŷn ni'n gweithio ar gynllun gweithredu ar hyn o bryd sy'n gwneud yn union hynny. Felly, mae rhai o'r tîm gyda fi, mae rhai o dîm y Dirprwy Weinidog Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus yn gweithio ar hwn hefyd. Rŷn ni'n gobeithio—ac mae cynrychiolaeth ar hynny gan fudiadau fel Mudiad Meithrin, er enghraifft—bod mewn sefyllfa i allu cyhoeddi hwnnw cyn diwedd y flwyddyn, a bydd hwnnw, wedyn, yn dwyn ynghyd, os hoffwch chi, yr holl elfennau sydd yn digwydd o ran gwaith cwricwlwm yn y blynyddoedd cynnar. Felly, bydd hynny'n rhoi rhyw fath o fap ffordd, efallai, os hoffwch chi.
If you have an opportunity to see the curriculum at work in those early years settings, it's fantastic. It's consistent with the approach that we've adopted for years in that sector. There are some 500 settings using the early years curriculum now, and I would say that the progress is sustainable and very positive. In terms of the specific question as to how we get a consistent picture across all settings, well, we're working on an action plan at the moment that does exactly that. So, some of the team are with me and some of the team are working with the Deputy Minister for Social Services. So, we are working with organisations such as Mudiad Meithrin, for example. We hope to be in a position to publish that before the end of the year, and then that will draw together, if you like, all of the elements that are happening in terms of the curriculum work in the early years. That will give us the road map, if you like.
Diolch. Sut fyddech chi'n crynhoi'r cynnydd sydd wedi'i wneud o ran sefydlu dealltwriaeth gyffredin o ddilyniant, o dan y Cwricwlwm i Gymru, ers ichi gyhoeddi'ch cyfarwyddyd chi haf y llynedd i'r rhai sy'n gweithio ym myd addysg, i hyrwyddo a chynnal dealltwriaeth ar y cyd o'r hyn a olygir gan ddilyniant?
Thank you. How would you summarise the progress that has been made in establishing a shared understanding of progression under the Curriculum for Wales since you issued your direction last summer to those working in education, to promote and maintain such a shared understanding of what is meant by progression?
Wel, mae dilyniant yn un o ddau o bethau, efallai, sydd yn brif flaenoriaethau o ran cynnwys a hyfforddiant a darparu adnoddau; asesu yw'r ail o'r ddau beth hynny. Gwnaethom ni gyhoeddi adnoddau'r llynedd; mae mwy yn cael eu cyhoeddi eleni. Mae gwaith cynllun Camau yn darparu adnoddau hefyd o ran dealltwriaeth o'r cynnydd. Mae rhai o'r heriau, efallai, efallai yn benodol yn yr ysgolion uwchradd, lle mae jest mwy o staff gyda chi—eich bod chi'n gallu sicrhau bod dealltwriaeth gyffredin o ddilyniant. Felly, mae angen approach penodol am hynny. Ond gwnaethoch chi sôn yn gynharach am waith clwstwr. Dyma un o'r ffyrdd pam mae gwaith clwstwr mor bwysig, ein bod ni'n sicrhau dealltwriaeth gyffredin o ddilyniant.
Beth rwyf eisiau edrych ar yw a oes mwy y gallem ni ei wneud i sicrhau dealltwriaeth gliriach o ddilyniant yn y cyfnodau trosiannol, os hoffwch chi, o ysgolion cynradd i ysgolion uwchradd. Felly, rŷn ni'n edrych, ar hyn o bryd, os oes angen inni wneud mwy yn hynny o beth.
Well, progression is one of the two main priorities in terms of content, training and provision of resources; assessment is the second priority. We published resources last year; more will be made available this year. The Camau project is also providing resources in terms of understanding progression. Some of the challenges are perhaps specifically in the secondary sector, where you just have more staff—ensuring that there is a common understanding of progression. So, you need a specific approach there. But you mentioned earlier the work of the clusters, well, this is one of the reasons why cluster work is so important, that we do have a common understanding of progression.
What I want to see is whether there's more that we can do to ensure a clearer understanding of progression in those transitional periods from the primary to secondary sector. So, we're currently looking as to whether we need to do more in that regard.
Iawn. Diolch. Diolch, Gadeirydd.
Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Chair.
Diolch, Sioned. Questions now from James Evans.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Minister, we've been told that there is frustration across the teaching profession about uncertainty around future qualifications. I just want to know how confident are you that the Qualifications Wales consultation is actually going to allay some of those fears within the teaching profession.
Well, I am confident. At the end of the day, qualifications need to reflect the curriculum rather than the other way around. So, curriculum is the core purpose of teaching, to make sure that our young people have the breadth of knowledge, skills and experience, and then the qualifications are there to explain to those individuals and the world whether that has met its aim. So, I think it’s really important that we look at it from that point of view. I’ve said previously many, many times that if schools are teaching the curriculum, then they’re teaching in preparation for the new qualifications.
To your point specifically, Qualifications Wales are on course now to finalise their proposals for the new made-for-Wales GCSEs by the summer, and then by September 2024 we will be beginning to explain to schools what the new qualifications look like. They’re not taught until 2025, they’ll be awarded in 2027. So, that’s the timeline that we are on, and QW are on track for that.
Okay, thank you. Data from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data multicohort study has shown that in English-medium schools, English-medium pupils seeing the importance of the Welsh language is actually going down. In 2013-14, 64 per cent of pupils said it was important, and now this year it's down to 31 per cent of pupils in English-medium schools think the Welsh language is important in their future. I want to know how you think the new curriculum is going to help build Welsh language skills in English-medium settings.
Well, because it will require each school to teach the Welsh language, which I think is a very positive thing. I don’t underestimate the challenge that you just outlined. Elsewhere, of course, we have more numbers than ever in Welsh-medium education and the highest level of adult learning of Welsh, I think, ever. So, it’s part of that broader picture, but you will know from other discussions in the Chamber and elsewhere that one of the priorities that we’ve set as a Government together with Plaid Cymru in the co-operation agreement for the new Welsh language education Bill is to strengthen the provision of Welsh learning in English-medium schools, so that the entire education system, whether it's Welsh medium, English medium or bilingual, has as a common goal pupils leaving school confident in being able to speak Welsh. So, that’s very ambitious, but that’s part of the picture here as well.
From a curriculum-specific perspective, you’ll know that we’ve published the framework for Welsh teaching in English-medium schools, which gives a backbone, if you like, to the planning and designing and assessing of Welsh-medium provision, and that will be accompanied by resources to improve and make more consistent, if you like—. There is obviously very good practice happening in schools, but it’s not consistent enough, and that’s what we need to make sure we can deliver. But I think things like free Welsh lessons for the education workforce, the sabbatical scheme, all of those will strengthen our ability to do that.
It's very good that we do have the consistency right across Wales, and that's around teaching as well. So, are you confident that we have enough Welsh language teachers coming into the system to go into schools to make sure we are delivering that right across Wales to get that consistency that you talk about?
I’m not confident. We don’t. But that’s the task we set ourselves. We publish figures about the shortfall. We need to increase those figures and we have a plan for doing that, which we’ll be rolling out over the next 10 years, and I’ll be reporting every two years formally. We’re working very closely with local authorities to make sure that we understand what the planning needs are and that we’re delivering on that.
Okay. I want to move on to multifaith schools, if that's okay. I recently attended a multifaith school in my own community, in Clyro, and they did a did a fantastic day, bringing all different faiths into school to actually educate young children around the different cultures and everything else that goes with that to try and eliminate stigma in our schools as well, in our young people, which is really important. So, I'd be interested to know what position the Welsh Government have currently on multifaith schools and collective worship in schools, and where you see their place in delivering the curriculum.
I see it as separate from the curriculum. Collective worship is separate from the curriculum, and we have religion, values and ethics as part of the curriculum, and that is taught in a way that is pluralistic, in the way that I think you were describing in your question. And I think that's very important, and we're seeing schools really enjoy delivering that part of the curriculum. I think it's obviously very important for us as a nation to be providing that inclusive, pluralistic approach.
On the question specifically of collective worship, if I'm completely candid with you, this isn't something that, frankly, is raised with us hardly ever. So, there's a debate about it, which is an important debate, but I don't regard it, frankly, as a priority for action at this point, because it isn't something that really is raised very frequently as a concern, and of course the Estyn guidelines, as you will know, already provide for a much broader interpretation of that act of collective worship, reflecting different faiths in the way that you were saying in your question. But we'll obviously keep this under review. We work very closely, obviously, with schools, with Estyn, to make sure that we understand the emerging picture, but I'm not planning any changes in that space anytime soon.
Okay, great. Minister, I just want to move on to relationships and sexuality education in schools, if that's okay. It's been a controversial issue, but I do think it was a necessary step to take regarding all of the societal changes, the behavioural changes around young people, so I'm positive that we do it. However, we need to make sure that our teachers are fully equipped to deliver RSE in our schools and make sure that they're confident to deliver it as well.
I know the NSPCC have said that there should be a set of national guidance around that, and, actually, leads in local authorities to deliver RSE in schools to make sure there is a common approach to doing it. Is that something that you'd support—the call from the NSPCC to do that?
Well, just to come back, if I may. You described it as controversial; it's not controversial in the vast majority of schools. So, there are schools in which, obviously, it has been very challenging, but that has not been the experience of schools generally, and I think it's really important that we reflect that, because the reason that we have, as I know that you agree, included that in the curriculum is because it's an important part of making sure young people are healthy and safe, and that is how it has been received by the majority of parents, carers and schools, which is a good thing. That's not to underestimate that in some quarters there has been controversy. Obviously, we need to respond to that, and we have.
On the specific point about whether there needs to be a national programme of professional learning, some aspects of our professional learning are already national. I do think that this requires a different approach from other parts of the curriculum at this point in its development, because for some it has been challenging and we need to make sure that we maintain the confidence of as many people as possible in how we deliver this. So, I do think it does require a different approach to other parts of the curriculum at this point.
But, you know, we have a national RSE code, we have national statutory guidance and we have a national review of RSE resources, which is currently ongoing—we commission the resources on a national basis. I've also been to see the work that regional consortia are doing with their schools, working with schools on delivering training in this space, and it is very, very good. Now we have a mechanism by which a practitioner in any part of Wales can access the best of the resources available in any other part of Wales. I'm happy that that strikes the right balance, but this is something we will, obviously, keep—
You think that you're doing it already, in a way, then.
I think so, yes. But, you know, this is something we will keep under review, and, obviously, the NSPCC has worked very closely with us in co-designing the RSE aspects of the curriculum, so we'll continue speaking with them and others about this.
Okay, good. Something that's really important to me, Minister, is the mental health and well-being of our children, and section 63 in the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 makes a requirement in there around giving due regard to children's mental health and well-being. Mind Cymru, through evidence, have asked for statutory guidance to headteachers on how they deliver on that element of the Act. Is that something you'd support, because I think it's very important that our children are supported in schools, especially with all of the pressures that are currently facing young people and the teaching profession as well at this time?
Well, I definitely agree with that last part of your question. I suppose, if I'm being candid, I'm not entirely sure whether that is the right solution to it. I think it's really important, from the point of view of making sure that we develop the right kind of support for our young people in their mental health and well-being, but also for staff, that we don't look at all of these elements separately—so, the curriculum over here and the whole-school approach over here, you know. We will make progress in this area by looking at it holistically, it seems to me.
So, I'm not entirely persuaded that having a set of statutory guidance, which, by the way, is a very significant intervention—it's a much higher threshold of expectation than, as it were, normal guidance—. I'm not sure that is the right approach. Obviously, we're evaluating everything, aren't we, at the moment? So, we'll keep it all under review, there's no question of that. But I don't yet see a reason for us to move away from that whole-school approach to mental health and well-being, and the curriculum is one part of that.
Okay. It's interesting that you're willing to keep it under review, because I think it is something that we do need to keep an eye on, because I really don't want to see the mental health of our young people in schools deteriorating, and I know you'd share that view as well.
The whole point of what I'm saying to you is that I want us to get the right outcomes and I'm not sure that proliferating guidance on different aspects is, necessarily, the right way, when we have a more holistic plan for it. But it is a curriculum that's being rolled out in real time in schools, isn't it? So, let's see and we'll keep an eye on it.
Okay. This is my final question, Minister. A cross-cutting theme throughout the curriculum is providing opportunities for young people as they go forward. You know, Minister, university isn't for everybody—I didn't go to university myself—but there is a little bit of stigma sometimes attached to that, that you're perhaps not as educated as the next person, and I want to know what work you're doing in schools to give young people advice about apprenticeship routes, different routes they can go around going into the workplace without having to go through the university route, because I think we need to try and dispel the myth that going to university is the way you will get a good job. I want to know what work the Government's doing to actually promote that in schools. I know you do that collectively, probably, with the economy Minister.
Firstly, there shouldn't be stigma. I completely agree with the point you're making. There are many, many routes through life, and universities are right for some people and an apprenticeship is right for others; there are other routes available that are appropriate for others. We need to make sure that they're all treated seriously with a sense of parity, because we talk about parity of esteem, don't we? I know, in other contexts, you'll have heard me say that the entirety of the post-16 reforms that we've introduced, really, I regard as the parity-of-esteem legislation, because it provides that opportunity.
But in schools, specifically, part of the evaluation exercise we're doing, the early insights, is identifying specifically what more we can do in the space of the careers and work-related experiences element of the curriculum. So, we expect to get more information from that cycle of insights in September. There'll be some actionable things in there, I expect.
Last year, I commissioned a report from Hefin David, the Member of the Senedd for Caerphilly, which we'll be publishing in July [correction: June], but I've read it and it's a really good report, and there are some very practical things about what more we could do to make sure that there is advice that people get at an earlier point in their school journey, so not just when they're choosing their GCSE options, much sooner than that, and also, frankly, gets to grips with what can be a challenging set of boundaries between further education and schools. They work very well together, and have, particularly over COVID, but there is a little bit of a tension, isn't there, understandably, in the way the system operates, as to where learners are going to end up going. We've got to try and find a way of moving away from that so that learners have the widest range of impartial advice.
Careers Wales also does good work in this space with its education-business partnership, but you will know and I know that businesses are keen to help with schools in the new curriculum. How can they engage? I think there definitely is more that we can do to make that an easy and streamlined experience, and that will certainly be in the interest of schools and learners.
I could talk about it all day, Chair, but I'll leave it there. Thank you.
Thank you, James. We'll move on to questions now from Laura Jones.
Thank you, Chair. Minister, to what extent is the operation of the new additional learning needs system turning out as the Welsh Government anticipated when the legislation was passed, in terms of decreasing the numbers of pupils being recognised as having special educational needs or ALN and the shift towards universal provision for some pupils previously on the SEN registers, rather than providing individual development plans for all such learners? Thank you.
Just to make the obvious point, before I answer your question, the ALN legislation was—it's 10 years since we first conceived of what that might look like, and, obviously, the landscape has changed quite a lot since then, so just to issue that, perhaps obvious, caveat. We wouldn't have expected to be in the position, for example, to be able to align ALN reforms and curriculum reforms at that point in time. So, some things have certainly changed.
I think the role of the additional learning needs co-ordinator, we've always anticipated that that would be a core strategic role, and, as part of that, we would be able to better understand how to define the additional learning needs of individual students on a practical basis, and, therefore, be able to more accurately identify, if you like, and plan for their needs. So, we've always anticipated that would happen, and it is happening.
Just to be clear, the policy intent is that any child with additional learning needs should get an IDP, but the point I think you're making is in relation to the reduction in the numbers on the SEN register as a part of the process of transition. I guess you're saying to me, 'Why has that happened? Is that what you expected to happen?' Experience of reform elsewhere, I think in particular in England, but I'm sure beyond that as well, has been that, when reforms take place in this area, that is the experience. There is a kind of revisiting, if you like, of the existing listings, and people are saying, 'Well, do these people still need the support that they're currently getting?' And that exercise is, I suppose, a reconciliation exercise.
My view is very strongly that the level of need in the system has not diminished, okay. So, the fact that there is a reduced number on that list does not tell us that there are fewer young people in the system who need support. It simply says that there is a list of individuals on that—. These are individuals we're talking about; it's not data. 'Does this individual still needs this support on an ongoing basis?'—that's the question, I think, ALNCOs have been asking themselves, and I am very clear that we expect to see those numbers increasing again. So, we shouldn't take any false comfort that this exercise has told us there are fewer people that have need; it's just that as a factor of introducing the reforms, you would expect for that figure to come down and expect it then to go back up.
Your earlier question to me was around the pressure on staff identifying young people with additional learning needs and giving them IDPs. I think, as we see more and more of that happening, clearly, we'll see that the register's being repopulated again, if I can put it in those terms.
Thank you, Minister. And funding to follow, hopefully.
Just given that the schools appear to be making registers of a category of learners that require more than universal provision, but are not deemed to require additional learning provision, and therefore do not qualify for the IDP, what expectations do you have for how schools should meet the needs of those learners particularly, and to what extent was this foreseen in the writing of the ALN code, and are you considering issuing separate guidance on how to support those learners? Thanks.
So, Estyn are doing a piece of work for us at the moment to look ALN reform implementation, and they're looking at this question as part of that, so we will have a more granular response, if you like, from Estyn, I think later this year. But my understanding of the emerging picture is that there is good practice in terms of identifying those individuals who may not need to be defined as having ALN, therefore an IDP, but may need additional support as part of mainstream provision, and it isn't surprising to me that schools obviously have records of who those pupils are, because schools are there to deliver the individual needs of individual learners. So, that isn't, actually, I think, a surprising development. Whether that needs specific guidance, or a specific framework, I think we will again keep under review. It doesn't seem to us at this point that that is the case, but, again, we'll wait to see what Estyn tell us in their review. I don't know if, Hannah, you want to say any more about that.
Yes. I think we're very alert to this issue as a Welsh Government, and we'll be talking to schools about what they—as part of our school improvement ecosystem and information work, talking to schools about what data they collect and what data they need to track their learners, and to have a deeper understanding of what data is being used as implementation is rolling out further. So, it's that exploration with schools, in collaboration with them, really, isn't it?
Yes, and I think Estyn are telling us at this stage that there is good practice around what we call differentiated learning. That's point that you're making, that there's positive practice in the system around that.
Okay, Minister. Thank you. So, would you say that you're absolutely confident that decisions in all cases where learners previously deemed to have SEN are now adjudged not to have ALN—which requires the additional learning provision, and therefore an IDP—are, in all cases, wholly made in the best interests of learners and not related to resource, capacity, workload pressures, that we've already mentioned today?
Well, I think any Minister who is going to sit here and say they are absolutely confident about hundreds of decisions being made by third parties every single day would be foolish, really. But what I can say is that the expectations are very, very clear. The additional resources into the system are significant, and, obviously, we want to make sure that the principal driver for those decisions—as all practitioners will want, by the way, as well—is the individual needs of that learner. And I do know that there is some—. I think I saw, in some of the evidence, people saying, 'Well, schools are sometimes missing the deadlines for plans.' That is because they are prioritising making sure the plans are robust, and the principle they're applying is the needs of the individual learner.
Thank you, Minister. Stakeholders reported problems and inconsistencies in decisions about where responsibilities lie between schools and local authorities. This was an issue, of course, that was discussed during the passage of legislation. Are local authorities fully meeting their responsibilities, would you say, in line with the Act and the ALN code, and what options are available to a family if a school believes meeting the needs of a pupil is beyond their reasonable capability, but a local authority won't take that responsibility?
I think I mentioned in the written evidence that this is a concern that I recognise. There is a variability in approach between local authorities as well, which, since most health boards encompass more than one local authority, can, obviously, pose its own additional complexities or complications, if you like, in delivery. But the code is really clear in its expectation. All local authorities, having consulted with schools, obviously, are required to publish a set of principles that describes the basis on which that authority will determine whether it's the school or the LA that should be delivering on the level of provision. So, that is a clear statement that all authorities are required to publish and to follow. As of today, around half the authorities in Wales have done that, but I am expecting that we will get to a position by the end of this academic year where all authorities will have done that. Currently, there are a number of task and finish groups happening in the ecosystem to make sure that the various obligations in the code are understood by all participants, and this is part of that work.
If there is a situation, when it arises, as you described in your question, where the parents or carers of a young person feel that they're not satisfied with how an authority is handling a situation, they can obviously make a complaint to the authority via the complaints procedure. If that doesn't resolve matters, then they've got recourse to the Education Tribunal for Wales. I would hope that most things would not need to get to that stage, obviously, but that is the mechanism by which these things can be pursued in law, if you like, because these are legal rights, at the end of the day. On a more practical, support basis, you will be aware of the work that SNAP Cymru have been doing on our behalf—events online, largely—to explain to parents and learners what their rights are in this space to support those sorts of decisions.
Thank you, Minister. Yes, prevention is better than cure, isn't it, in a way, in terms of, you know, we've got to make sure of that that consistency across our local authorities across Wales and sharing that best practice.
Just finally now, my final question to you. The National Deaf Children's Society report that there is still confusion about the eligibility of deaf learners for an IDP, as well as other cases of low-incidence, high-level need. They say that around a quarter of families of deaf children surveyed say that their child has an IDP. To what extent is the ALN code being interpreted correctly in relation to deaf learners? Thank you.
Well, the needs of deaf children are treated no less seriously than the needs of any other child in the system, but that is not to say that every single deaf child, I think, will have an IDP. I mean, the whole point of it is a personalised approach to each individual learner, reflecting their particular needs, and that will be the same for a deaf child as it will be for any other child presenting with needs. That is a very important principle. In terms of how that plays out in the context of the life of the school, I do think it's really important for us to bear in mind that the inclusion of BSL in the curriculum is changing the context within which the needs of some deaf children can be met through more general, mainstream provision in that sense, and we've seen—[Interruption.] We've seen—. Sorry, I didn't catch that.
Sorry, Minister—I forgot my thing was on. But that's not consistent across all schools—
No, it's not consistent. It's not intended to be consistent. I'm just making the point that it's changing the landscape for some of these decisions at a school level in relation to individual learners.
Okay, thank you. Thanks, Laura. Questions from Buffy Williams.
Thank you, Chair. Thank you for joining us this morning, Minister. What is your understanding of the pressures and workload on additional learning needs co-ordinators—for example, the time required to prepare individual development plans? And to what extent do you believe the situation facing ALNCOs is sustainable, and what measures are you taking to address any problems that you've recognised?
Well, obviously I've heard that set of concerns loud and clear, if you like. So, just to be clear, I absolutely recognise the point that you're making and it is really important that schools ensure there is sufficient support around ALNCOs in doing the work that they do, that they don't become isolated or overwhelmed with the volume of work. And I absolutely—. In my discussions with heads when I visit schools, we often have this conversation, for reasons that you will obviously recognise. The role of the ALNCO is not to take on the responsibilities of the entire workforce in relation to additional learning needs provision. So, in no way does designating an individual as an ALNCO remove the responsibilities of the wider workforce in relation to additional learning needs. I think that's just really important, as we make sure the system is, broadly, across the piece, responding to the needs of individual learners.
I'm certainly hearing that conducting IDPs requires more time than had been anticipated initially. I'm also hearing that that very person-centred approach that is inherent in the IDP is very widely welcomed. So, those, I think, are the kind of messages that we are getting from the system. One of the reasons that I decided to extend the time frame for moving people from SEN on to the ALN system, if you like, was because of schools saying to me—special schools in particular, but other schools as well—that the pressure on ALNCOs in making the arrangements was too great. So, that's the reason for the additional time and the additional funding. So, we've put another £12 million in for this financial year to support workload and workforce recruitment.
More broadly, because this is a particularly consistent set of messages that we are hearing, we've established a task and finish group made up of practitioners, who are going to report back to me in December of this year, on both pay and non-contact time in relation to ALNCOs. And that has practitioners but also trade union representatives as well, and I think that review will be a very important milestone for us to look at the experience of ALNCOs at that point.
Thank you. How concerning is the increase in the number of children presenting with complex needs, particularly speech and communication difficulties, in early years? What impact is this having on services, and what do you believe to be the reasons?
Well, there is an increase in complex needs, and I think it's being felt obviously in education, but also across health and social services as well, and also, actually, into the post-16 system, so I think it's impacting all parts of the system. I think it's a particular concern, if I may say, in relation to early years and in relation to speech, language and communication and social communication and developmental issues as well. The annual report for 2021-22 that Estyn published I think gives us a pretty clear indication that COVID-19 has had a particular impact on, both from a developmental and emotional developmental perspective, our youngest learners in particular, and that has led to us investing additional money into the system to support the needs that are emerging. So, there was another £9.1 million that I invested last year to tackle, in particular, challenges around social and emotional issues, but also funding, this year, of £12 million around school counselling and so on. So, we've listened to what we've been told are the—I was going to describe them as 'emerging pressures', but I think they're pretty clearly established pressures at this point, and found additional funding to try and provide extra capacity.
Thank you. Could you outline the latest trends regarding numbers of appeals to the Education Tribunal for Wales? You have allocated short-term additional resources to the tribunal. Is this because you foresee more appeals, despite an aim of the reforms being to reduce disagreement and conflict?
The short answer to your question is 'no', that isn't the reason why I've provided that funding. It's short-term funding for the reason that I anticipate—that in the short term we will see some test cases that will establish the parameters of how the legislation works in particular contexts. I think that is pretty much inevitable in the context of a reform at this scale. So, that's why the funding is there, and that's why it's short term.
On the trend, I don't know the answer to your question in terms of the overall trend, because the tribunal service hasn't yet reported for this year, but when we see that report, which will be issued in 2023, that will, I think, give us the data that we need, and obviously you'll have access to that information as well.
Thank you, Minister. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Buffy. Finally, questions from Ken Skates.
Thanks, Chair. Thanks, Minister. I'm conscious of time. I've got quite a few questions, so if we don't complete them, would it be okay if we just followed this up in writing with questions?
There are quite a few about specific aspects of additional learning needs delivery. First of all, how do you respond to observations by some stakeholders that the chapter of the ALN code for post-16 arrangements is ambiguous, or is at least being interpreted inconsistently?
ALN implementation is occurring on a phased basis, so it’s not until the next academic year that young people in post-16 education will start to be covered by the system. At the moment, there is nobody in the post-16 space that is being covered by the new set of reforms. We are facilitating a group on a Wales-wide basis to explore how the code will be applied for those post-16 arrangements to make sure, in the way that you’re saying, that it is applied consistently. I’ve also recently provided funding both to FE colleges and to local authorities so that we can work in partnership together to make sure that these reforms are introduced in a way that is smooth and consistent. It is a significant new departure, isn’t it? Because when the new reforms are in place, for the first time we’ll have one unified system extending from 0 to 25, if you like, and obviously there’s a whole new set of challenges and expectations that come from that.
Thank you. And do you recognise any difficulties that the asymmetrical nature of the duties on schools and local authorities on the one hand and health boards on the other might be causing?
I do, yes. I touched a little bit in passing earlier on this. I think because each authority—. Well, authorities have different approaches to these, don’t they? When they’re working with a health board, which covers more than one local authority area, I can see that that may cause some challenges. I know that health boards are keen to work on an inter-agency basis. They’ve all appointed their designated education clinical lead officers, who are working well, I think, within health boards to make sure that the health boards understand their responsibilities. But yes, I do think that there is a possible challenge in terms of the level of variability, and I think we will want to make sure that the health boards and authorities are working closely together to minimise the effects of that.
Thank you. And in cases where health boards don't meet the requirement to provide information or participate in discussions about a child within the six-week period stipulated in the code, what should a school or a local authority do?
If that situation arises, I think that, as with other areas of healthcare delivery, there is the 'Putting Things Right' mechanism through the NHS, which enables there to be a response at the local level where that's possible. So, that is the first port of call, if you like. If it's a more—how shall I put this—systemic challenge, then the DECLO within the relevant health board is the first point of contact for the local authority. They are there precisely to deal with those structural, strategic, quality issues, if you like, which extend more broadly. We are conscious of the fact that plans are taking, in some cases, longer to finalise than we had anticipated, but I think that is because people are working hard to ensure that the blend of support that is described in the plan is appropriate to that young person.
Just on the point about the interrelationship generally between health services and the education system, I do think it's really important for us to remake the point that the entire premise of the ALN system is that it does not wait for a diagnosis before that young person's needs are met. I do understand that that can be challenging, but it is really fundamental to the reforms that you do not have to have a diagnosis before the ALN system is there to meet your needs.
Thank you. What challenges are there in making Welsh language provision for learners with ALN?
There are challenges. Part of that is around workforce, so we're doing an assessment of workforce capabilities at the moment. Also, as you will know, part of the Welsh in education strategic planning process is to identify the need for ALN practitioners through the medium of Welsh as well, so that work is ongoing. The Act itself places a duty on the Welsh Government to arrange a review of Welsh language provision periodically, and, if we conclude that provision is not sufficient, it also provides powers to Ministers to strengthen the obligations on participants in the system. Currently, it's at 'taking all reasonable steps to provide', and we have powers as a Government to strengthen that to being an absolute duty. If we find that the provision isn't moving sufficiently quickly through the system, we will be doing that.
Excellent. Thank you, Minister. Chair, that's all from me.
Thank you, Ken. Just finally, Minister, perhaps you can tell us a little bit about the role of the DECLO in relation to the ALN reforms.
As I say, they're there, really, to be the person within the health board who ensures that the health-related elements are all being delivered in the way that they need to be. So, if that isn't working, then the local authority's first port of call is to the DECLO so that they can then make the necessary arrangements. In all honesty, because of the level of pressure on health services, I think that is quite a challenging role to undertake at the moment. But, that is the purpose of the DECLO. All of the health boards have appointed a DECLO and they are there to make sure that we get timely and appropriate assessments that reflect the needs of each individual learner, from a health perspective.
Thank you very much, Minister. That's the end of our evidence session this morning. Thank you very much to you and your officials for coming in, and, also, thank you for the paper that you provided before today's meeting, which was a comprehensive paper, so it was very much appreciated. You will receive a transcript from today's session that you'll be able to check for accuracy, but diolch yn fawr.
Diolch yn fawr iawn.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
We'll move on to the next item on our agenda, which is item 4, and that's to go into private session. So, I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of this meeting. Diolch yn fawr.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:43.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:43.