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Education

Pilot scheme for mental health plan

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One in four experience mental health problems: Vaughan Gething

HEALTH Secretary, Vaughan Gething and Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams have agreed a £1.4m investment to strengthen the support from specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) to schools.

Dedicated CAMHS practitioners will be recruited to work with pilot schools in three areas across Wales. The practitioners will provide teachers with on-site help and advice, ensuring pupils experiencing difficulties such as anxiety, low mood, and compulsive self-harm or conduct disorders receive early help in schools from suitably trained staff, preventing more serious problems occurring later in life.

The model will enable:

  • ​Support for teachers to better understand childhood distress, emotional and mental health problems, and reduce stress experienced by teachers concerned about their pupils, by up-skilling them to recognise and deal with low level problems within their competence
  • ​Ensuring that when issues are identified that are outside teachers’ competence and skills, that specialist liaison, consultancy and advice is available to enable the young person to be directed to more appropriate services such as CAMHS or Local Primary Mental Health Support Services, and to support the teacher and school in providing for the young person’s educational needs
  • ​Ensuring systems are in place to share appropriate information between CAMHS and schools, shared care arrangements are agreed for those young people requiring more intensive support,and that arrangements are in place to escalate/de-escalate as the young person’s needs dictate

Initially operating as a pilot programme, the initiative will commence by the end of 2017 and cover two full academic years, concluding in the summer of 2020. The results will be evaluated, and take into account a broad range of measures from the perspective of both teachers and pupils.

Wales has led the way in the UK by being the only nation that requires local authorities to provide counselling services in their area for children and young people aged between 11 and 18, as well as pupils in ​Year 6 of primary school. This initiative complements that work by providing an additional layer of more specialist support in schools.

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething said: “One in four people in Wales will experience mental health problems at some point in their lives. ​Getting the right treatment at an early stage, coupled with greater awareness of conditions, can in many cases prevent long term adverse impacts.

“This unique new initiative we’re unveiling today will see specialist NHS Wales services extend into the classroom. This will ensure children, teachers and others charged with caring for children in our schools, receive support to promote good emotional and mental health. It will help identify and address issues early, helping to prevent more serious problems occurring later in life.

“One of the Welsh Government’s key aims is to improve the health and well-being of the people of Wales. This will help us achieve our ambition of prosperity for all, while taking significant steps to shift our approach from treatment to prevention.

“We hope this initiative will improve accessibility to support services, better address school related stress, and ease pressures on specialist CAMHS by reducing inappropriate referrals. We also hope it will facilitate a wider culture which promotes and values positive mental health and wellbeing within our schools.”

Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams said: “Most young people spend a large part of their time in school, so there is a clear need for teachers to be able to help and support them should they experience difficulties in life, such as anxiety, low mood, compulsive self-harm or behaviour disorders.

“Through this new initiative, we are making schools places that actively promote positive mental health and wellbeing, providing evidence-based prevention and early intervention where it’s needed.

“For children and young people, it will enable them to have their problems addressed earlier, before they escalate. For teachers, it will help ensure they feel able and confident in dealing with emotional distress, and know where to go to seek support.”

Responding to the announcement, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said: “Teachers and school leaders are deeply concerned about the mental health issues being faced by the children and young people they teach.

“A recent NASUWT survey showed high on the list of issues was the lack of timely and effective access to CAMHS services when pupils exhibit mental health problems.

“Less than a quarter of the teachers surveyed were confident they would be able to get timely support from expert services such as CAMHS and therefore the announcement that dedicated CAMHS professionals will be recruited to work in a number of schools during the pilot will no doubt be welcomed by the profession.

“Going forward however, it will be important that teachers are not expected to take the place of qualified healthcare professionals.

“Whilst support for teachers to recognise the signs of mental and emotional distress in their pupils may be helpful, this must not lead to teachers, already struggling to cope with excessive and unsustainable workloads, being expected to diagnose, treat and manage pupils’ mental health.”

Rex Philips, NASUWT National Official Wales, said: “It is disappointing that, having acknowledged the mental health issues facing children and young people, yet again the extensive evidence of the mental health issues faced by teachers themselves has been ignored.

“The Welsh Government must also act to provide pupils and teachers alike with direct and readily available access to mental health services staffed by professionally qualified and trained staff and also to tackle the contributory factors in schools which are damaging mental health and wellbeing.”

The policy document’s release follows a call by the National Education Union to have ‘wellbeing officers’ permanently located in schools.

“Having a more standardised approach ensuring additional funding is put into schools to employ people specifically trained for wellbeing could certainly be looked at,” Owen Hathway, Wales’ policy officer at NEU Cymru, said.

The Children’s Commission for Wales, Professor Sally Holland, said: “I don’t think teachers can be expected to undertake the mental health work in schools, there are experts who can come into schools to do that with the necessary expertise and training.

“Schools need better and more direct access to mental health services so teachers have someone they can pick up the phone to or speak to in school to get the expert help they need.”

The two-year Welsh Government trial will take place across north east, south east Wales and Ceredigion.

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Education

Examination crisis: teacher’s predicted grades to be given to students

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THE Welsh Government has announced today (Mon, Aug 17) that AS, A level, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate and Welsh Baccalaureate grades in Wales will now be awarded on the basis of Centre Assessment Grades.

This occurred after the outrage of students, causing protests outside the Senedd after hearing that a total of 42% of A-level grades predicted by their teachers had been lowered when the Welsh results were published last week. This was due to the decision to process these grades through an algorithm.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she took the decision to maintain confidence in the system.

Speaking on the decision, Kirsty Williams said: “Working with Qualifications Wales and WJEC we have sought an approach which provides fairness and balances out differences in the standards applied to judgments in schools.

“Given decisions elsewhere, the balance of fairness now lies with awarding Centre Assessment grades to students, despite the strengths of the system in Wales.

“I am taking this decision now ahead of results being released this week, so that there is time for the necessary work to take place.

“For grades issued last week, I have decided that all awards in Wales, will also be made on the basis of teacher assessment.

“For those young people, for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand.

“Maintaining standards is not new for 2020, it is a feature of awarding qualifications every year in Wales, and across the UK.

“However, it is clear that maintaining confidence in our qualifications whilst being fair to students requires this difficult decision.

“These have been exceptional circumstances, and in due course I will be making a further statement on an independent review of events following the cancellation of this year’s exams.

“Other Awarding Bodies across the UK are involved in determining the approach to vocational qualifications. This continues to be the case but it is important that I give assurance to GCSE, AS and A level student at the earliest opportunity.”

This was a decision welcomed by Suzy Davies, Shadow Education Minister.

Commenting on the Decision, Suzy Davies said: “This has been an exceptional time, and this news will come as a very welcome relief for the thousands of A-Level students who last week were looking at grades lower than they were predicted to receive. It will also be a relief to pupils expecting results this week as well as an acknowledgement of quite how much effort teachers put into this.

“It is reassuring that the Minister has listened to the Welsh Conservatives and other parties in the Welsh Parliament, but especially pleasing that she heard the voices of young people up and down the country.

“These students – at A, AS, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate, and Welsh Baccalaureate level – will now have the confidence to plan their future education or career aspirations, and reach their potential.”

The Education Minister also promised an independent review of the events “following the cancellation of this year’s exams”.

Students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep them.

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Education

Swansea University appoints new governing body Chair

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Swansea University is pleased to announce that Bleddyn Phillips has been appointed as its new Chair of Council.
Mr Phillips, who joined the University’s governing body in May 2017, has been appointed Chair for a four-year term replacing Sir Roger Jones, whose term of office came to an end in September 2019.

Mr Phillips said: “It is a great honour to be appointed Swansea University’s Chair of Council. As a Welsh-speaker, with strong roots in Llanelli and Gower, and with both parents having studied at Swansea, I have long felt an affinity with the University and have been delighted to serve on the Council.

“I want to acknowledge the contribution made to the University by Sir Roger Jones over almost 14 years and I very much look forward to working with, and serving, the University as it celebrates its centenary in 2020 and beyond.”

Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said “It will be a privilege to work with Bleddyn as we develop our new strategic plan and look forward to beginning our second century in 2020.”

Mr Phillips is a lawyer by profession, a former commercial director at oil companies BP and Total, and later Global Head of the Oil and Gas practice at the international law firm, Clifford Chance LLP. He is Director of Llanelli Scarlets RFC and was a trustee of the Wales Millennium Centre from 2012-2018.

The Council is the University’s governing body, which approves the mission and strategic vision of the University, long-term academic and business plans, key performance indicators and overall standards. The Council assures that the University discharges its duties in accordance with the Welsh Quality Assessment Framework.

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Education

Experts attack Welsh Government’s proposed smacking ban plan

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PROMINENT academics have criticised the Welsh Government’s bill to criminalise parental smacking during a public debate at Swansea University.

Tonight, experts from the fields of sociology and criminology and parenting studies poured scorn on the plan during an Academy of Ideas debate on state intervention in the family.

A panel of three academics discussed the merits or otherwise of the smacking legislation, which is due to be debated by AMs for a third time in January next year.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University and outspoken critic of the Scottish smacking Bill, said: “No longer treated like citizens, as adults who have an opinion and a basic level of autonomy to raise our children, we have culture change imposed from on high – we are made ‘aware’ by the new authoritarians holding the stick above us.

“The smacking act is a disgrace. It is a form of brutality that undermines parents, weakens the meaning of freedom, and will go on to destroy many loving families who dare to think and act differently to the modern elitists.”

Dr Waiton added: “The brutality of the smacking act will mean that a light smack on the hand or bottom of a child will be a criminal offence. Hard smacking is already illegal, but to the middle-class anti-smacking zealots that was not enough. Children, they argue, need equal protection from assault. The very language they use is alien to the millions of parents who occasionally smack rather than assault their children.

“Parents know that smacking a child is a form of discipline often done out of love and concern rather than something that is abusive and criminal.”

Criticising the way politicians at the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have engaged with parents on the smacking legislation, he said: “The new elite think a lot about consultation and inclusion. The reality is a process run by a small section of society, politicians and professionals, who exist in their own bubble and are distant and disconnected from ordinary people.”

Ellie Lee, Professor of Parenting Research at the University of Kent also spoke out on the Welsh Government’s plans.

“Within the context of an authoritative child rearing relationship, aversive discipline including smacking is well accepted by the young child, effective in managing short-term misbehaviour and has no documented harmful long-term effects.”

She added: “It should be the concern of professionals who work with parents to respectfully offer them alternative disciplinary strategies rather than to condemn parents for using methods consonant with their own, but not the counsellors beliefs and values.”

The Professor accused the Welsh Government of using the “full force of the criminal law to attack people who disagree on the comparative merits of using smacking rather than something like timeout”, saying it is a “bureaucratic imposition on parents”.

Only one academic – Dr Gideon Calder, Associate Professor in Sociology and Social Policy at Swansea University – spoke in favour of Government interventions like the smacking ban.

Dr Calder argued that intervention is justifiable in some instances and said something like the smacking ban is not necessarily authoritarian. He said: “the point of the legislation is to safeguard children from potentially harmful interactions.”

Commenting on the debate, Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, said:

“The criticism levelled at the Government’s smacking plans tonight by experts in the fields of sociology, criminology and parenting studies should be a wakeup call to Ministers.

“Experts are not convinced that the plan to outlaw parental smacking is viable, needful or helpful in terms of improving child protection.

“I hope AMs hear the concerns of these academics as well as their constituents and scrap the smacking ban bill when it’s voted on in January.”

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