Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People and Education Committee

21/02/2024

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Buffy Williams
Heledd Fychan
James Evans
Jayne Bryant Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Ken Skates
Laura Anne Jones

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Claire Morgan Cyfarwyddwr Strategol, Estyn
Strategic Director, Estyn
Dyfrig Ellis Cyfarwyddwr Cynorthwyol, Estyn
Assistant Director, Estyn
Jassa Scott Cyfarwyddwr Strategol, Estyn
Strategic Director, Estyn
Owen Evans Prif Arolygydd Ei Fawrhydi, Estyn
His Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Estyn

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Lucy Morgan Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Naomi Stocks Clerc
Clerk
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

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 y cyfarfod am 09:30.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

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 all Members to the meeting of the Children, Young People and Education Committee this morning. The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. The meeting is bilingual and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. Are there any declarations of interest from Members? I see no declarations of interest. 

2. Craffu ar Adroddiad Blynyddol Estyn 2022-2023
2. Scrutiny of Estyn Annual Report 2022-2023

We'll move on to the first item on our agenda this morning, which is scrutiny of Estyn's annual report 2022-23. I'd like to welcome you all here this morning. We have Owen Evans, who is His Majesty’s chief inspector at Estyn, Claire Morgan, strategic director at Estyn, and Jassa Scott, strategic director at Estyn. You're all very welcome. Thank you for joining us. 

We have a number of questions to put to you this morning. I'll make a start around Estyn's approach. In your foreword to the annual report, you say that you’ve 'sharpened your focus' on identifying how providers and the wider education and training system can improve. Can you summarise exactly how you’ve done that?

I think the biggest thing—and this is something that's been carrying on for a few years and actually extends through to the changes we're making in 2024—is really looking at what actually matters in the classroom. And I think one of the things that for many years the Estyn annual report has been highlighting is that a number of the practices and a number of the initiatives that have been launched really haven't focused enough on what's actually happening in our classrooms. 

So, if you look, for example, in 2024, in September—I keep saying 2024; it is 2024—the framework that we're using will be slimmed down further, really concentrating on the things that matter, which are leading and improving, looking at the teaching and learning itself and the well-being and welfare of children. Those will be the core, really, of what we'll look at, which allows us a little more time to do the other side of our work, which is actually helping people to improve—so, the work that we do through thematics, the work that we do through follow-up with institutions or settings, and the work that we can do, for example, through communication on themes or through the annual report itself. So, there's been a continuing process, I suppose, of focusing on what actually matters.

I think the other thing that's worth mentioning is that we do realise that schools are under pressure, and as much as anything, one of the things that has been evolving over many years, actually, at Estyn is our ethos and our approach to inspecting. We realise that people are busy, we realise that there are a number of things in the system now that there weren't, perhaps, five years ago that schools are trying to cope with, and colleges and all institutions are trying to cope with, and that we need to reflect that in the way that we inspect. That doesn't mean that standards have changed at all. What it does mean is that we've introduced a number of things over the past few years that have tried to make the process more aligned alongside other people we work with, rather than doing it upon people. 

So, it's been quite a shift, and I think that that focus on, first, retaining the standards, but secondly being able to communicate what we're finding more clearly, so that practitioners can access what we're finding and actually act on it, has been a major focus of what were doing. I don't know if Claire or Jassa would like to come in. 

I think the other things along that journey that we've done are things like removing summative judgments, so it's about trying to make sure that inspection is a part of that ongoing improvement process. We've found that that has changed slightly the climate, I suppose, or the context than an inspection happens in, and we've also continued to build on some of the other approaches that we were using like the use of peer inspectors who are serving leaders within the education system, so every inspection would include one of those as a member of the team. And I think the way that we work with a provider during an inspection—we always have a nominee as part of that inspection process, so that would be a senior leader within the provider we're inspecting. They'd be part of all our discussions, so it's a very open and transparent process, which will lead to, hopefully, them getting useful feedback, which will continue to help them on their improvement journey. 

09:35

I think that our approach is certainly a supportive approach to drive more improvement. And, as Jassa was saying, the change, where we've removed summative gradings, has released far more time for our inspectors to have more in-depth discussions with schools about the areas that need improvement, and that's been well received by teachers and leaders, and it has created more time for those sorts of activities. 

The last thing is that we recognise that not everything falls on schools. One of the things we have tried to do through our work with local authorities, our work with the consortia, our work with other support services, including in partnership with other organisations like Care Inspectorate Wales, is really to triangulate the type of support that schools should be supported with as well. So, that's one of the things. We've been trying to join the dots more across the support infrastructure behind the schools as well. 

Thank you, Chair. Thank you for joining us this morning. I have some questions around Estyn's approach too. Last year, you explained how no longer issuing a summative judgement following inspections was working in practice, and you spoke about a more personalised approach to inspection reports and also providing a parents’ version. To what extent do you remain confident that this is the right approach? And what further insight has another 12 months’ experience of undertaking inspections without issuing a summative judgment given you?

If there's one word about what we've learnt in the past 12 months it's probably 'reinforcement'. What we found, just to reflect on what we spoke about last year, was that—and we all go out to inspections ourselves—the arm wrestle that schools used to have on the Thursday about what grade they were going to get has gone, which means that on the Thursday it's far more of a professional dialogue about what's working and what's not, and I think that's been incredibly refreshing. There are several layers of pressure that come with an Estyn inspection of a school. We recognise that. But the removing of summative judgments and the fact that you're going to be labelled with that one word has lifted a burden on the sectors that we look at. Has it worked? That's a really interesting question. I think this has to be seen as a trial, and, I think, in about two years' time, when the system is embedded and we've got the new framework in September in place, we probably will review whether we feel that the practices we are now undertaking have led to further improvement, which is what the purpose of this is, compared to having those summative judgments. Overwhelmingly, though, the feedback from the institutions we've gone to—mostly schools, obviously—has been overwhelmingly positive, and I think these were some of the things that were picked up in Professor Dylan Jones's review recently. And we are a bit of an outlier, I think. We are still the only inspectorate in the British isles that has removed summative judgments, and I think a lot of eyes are on us about how this is working. I don't know if Claire wants to come in. 

I'll pick up on the thing you mentioned about that we're tailoring our approach. One of the positive aspects about the new arrangements has been how closely we are working with the school. And our approach is that every inspection now starts with the headteacher outlining to the inspection team what the priorities for improvement are in the school and how they've arrived at those priorities, and that's certainly given a different feel to inspection. Headteachers are telling us they feel part of the process and they are working with us throughout the inspection few days. In a primary school, that's about two and a half days and it's about four days in a secondary school. But they certainly feel more part of the inspection process than perhaps they did previously. 

Sorry, just before Jassa comes in, the phrase I think about sometimes when I'm reflecting on the past couple of years is that it's brought in 'constructive challenge rather than destructive challenge', and I think that's the way it's seen sometimes by the practitioners we work with. 

Buffy, I think you asked particularly about reporting and how we're tailoring our reporting, and I think we've found that the new-look reports, and particularly the parents' summaries, have been really well received. One of the things that we've been trying more recently in some of our pilots for the new arrangements from September—I'm going to move that, because I'm going to hit it every time I talk—is actually trying out some different slight tweaks further to our reporting, to think how can we really make the reports as accessible as possible to really highlight what needs to improve, but also what are the things that are working really well. One of the the things you'll see in the reports that emerge now are cameos, so much more use of highlighting particularly interesting practice that we're finding in the school, again with the aim that those reports are as supportive as possible of improvement. So, we're continuing to reflect and take feedback and work with the providers we're inspecting to think how we can make those reports really as helpful as possible for them, as well.

09:40

It's probably worth mentioning that we felt that we had to introduce parental reports because, with the removal of summative judgments, obviously, what does that mean to a non-expert parent. The next stage for us is to improve the parental reports—you know, there's still a bit of jargon in there that we probably want to get rid of. And the second thing is looking at how we might produce a report for the pupils or the learners themselves. We're actually looking now at how we might use AI, for example, to look at the report and to assimilate it and present it in an age-specific way.

Thank you, Chair. I was just about to comment on that as well. As a parent myself, it would be really useful, I know, just to simplify what you're saying to parents and really do it in a form that everybody can understand, because it's quite difficult to navigate, at the moment, for a lot of people, including myself. So, that would be definitely something to look at, going forward. But I appreciate the fact that you are doing parental reports and I actually think doing a pupil one would also be a good thing to be able to talk through with children. Thank you.

We've got our first inspection of youth work, which is an area we're restarting at the moment, that's happening this week, and one of the things we've committed to for that particular set of inspections is producing a young person's report. So, we'll see how that goes and then try out some ways that we can communicate across the range of our work then. 

Lovely. We'll look forward to seeing that as well, because it's really important work. Back to Buffy.

Thank you, Chair. And thank you for that answer, it was really comprehensive. Estyn's funding from the Welsh Government has increased in recent years, from £11.5 million in 2021-22 to its current level of £16 million. What has this additional money been used for and do you expect this now to be your permanent level of budget moving forward? 

I wish I could say that it's been holidays in the sun, but it hasn't. The biggest reason why we had the uplift in funding was because of the interruption of the pandemic. We work in cycles, and when we came back from the pandemic, if you remember, in February the year before last, we commenced inspecting again and we had a huge backlog of inspections. At the capacity we had, we would never have finished the inspection framework by the second term of this year. We discussed that with the Minister and the Minister was very supportive of the cause and he really did want to see the cycle finished. We've seen quite a lot of evidence across the UK, but in other areas as well, where if you leave the period between inspections of settings too long, problems can happen. I know, over the border, for example, when they left schools that had been rated as excellent for over a decade, when they were re-inspected, close to 40 per cent went into some sort of follow-up category. So, I think leaving schools too long is a bad thing and something that, certainly, I wouldn't like to see us do. So, we've used that money, yes, to do some communications—we have a big headteachers conference coming up in a week's time—but the vast majority of it, 90 plus per cent, has gone on additional inspectors, additional inspections to make sure that we complete the cycle so that we can start the cycle clean in September.

The second bit of the question, which is an important bit of the question and one dear to my heart, clearly, is whether that now forms part of the baseline. I'm absolutely committed to the fact that, I think, in the next cycle—we've designed it around six years—it is a little bit different in that we'll be running interim visits as well, so we'll be visiting schools twice in those six years. And that's designed for two reasons. One is to ensure that we embed that improvement journey within settings, but secondly, it destresses the system, I believe, as well; it isn't the big-bang visit that's going to come every six years, and, you know, stand by your beds and get everything ready. This is, again, trying to make Estyn part of the process of improvement. Now, what we've done to accommodate that—because we're not getting any extra from the £16 million—is that we've curtailed slightly the way we inspect the main inspection, so that we can afford to have a smaller visit every three years, just to check on recommendations and see how things are going.

The one thing that I'm absolutely committed to is that six years is about the right cycle. We've consulted on this, we've discussed it at length with headteachers' reference groups, with the trade unions, with the profession itself. I would be absolutely loathe to move away from six years, and, even with £16 million, I have to say that it is challenging to commit to being able to do that cycle in six years. So, I think it's imperative that the budget stays at that or slightly higher. But we do realise that there's a lot of pressure on the system, therefore, we have to demonstrate the value in what we're doing.

09:45

Thank you. I know you've already touched on this in my first question, but I'm going to ask it anyway: are you on track to complete the current inspection cycle by the end of the academic year, and can you tell us anything about your approach to the new inspection cycle from September 2024, please?

I'll hand over to Claire in a second. On the first, yes, we are. We've worked very hard, and, in fairness to my colleagues, I have to say a huge thanks to them, but also to the profession itself. We have really, really been on a treadmill of completing inspections. It will go to the wire, but we're confident that we will meet that. We've been planning for the new framework for two years now. We've had umpteen discussions with all the stakeholders involved. We're currently trialling the majority of the changes that we're making out in schools, and perhaps Claire will pick up on that. But we're pretty confident that we'll complete our inspections ready for the end of the second term, but also we'll be in a good place to commence the new framework from September.

As Owen said, we've been piloting for the last two and a half terms, and we've got our last few pilots in a couple of sectors now in this half term. But the new framework is a leaner, more focused framework. We are trying to save some resource, as Owen said, but we are keeping the main things the main things. There is a very strong focus on teaching and evaluating teaching, but also looking at leading and, importantly, improving. How successful are leaders in schools in bringing about improvement in outcomes for learners? So, it is a leaner model, but it still keeps the main things the main things.

I think the only other thing I'd add that we're trying is how we can involve leaders within the places that we're inspecting more in the inspection. So, we've mentioned the nominee model, which was well established, but one of the things that we've been trying out, which has been really successful, has been involving leaders from an institution in some of the activity we do on inspection, so perhaps coming with us when we observe a lesson or do a learning walk around the school. That's been a really rich experience, that professional dialogue that we've had with them in terms of both gathering evidence for us, but they have fed back that that has been incredibly useful as well. So, there are a few things like that that we're trying as well, but a lot of the day-to-day activities on inspection are tried and tested, and we're taking forward into the new arrangements as well. 

I just wanted to mention that we continue to have a peer inspector, a current practitioner, on all our inspections, and on some of our largest there can be two or more. We are really pleased that, with the review of the new national professional qualification for headship, being a peer inspector and joining Estyn on inspections will be a requirement of that training. We think that that will go a long way to strengthen the system and bring together a school's own self-evaluation process and the external evaluation that inspection brings. That's one of the principles of the new inspection model, and we feel, by bringing those two processes closer together, that will bring about more rapid improvement in the system.

The other thing I was going to mention was that this is part of the entire ethos about making our work more relevant to schools and colleges, and youth work of late. We have a number of schools that haven't been through inspection for eight years, and they're waiting for the magic phone call in the next couple of terms. But they are mystified, really, about what we do, and that causes part of the pressure, the stress that schools are under.

Now, we've already launched things in conjunction with the trade unions, like Ready Already, where we're trying to get schools not to over-prepare, because we do see quite a lot of over-prep when we go in, but, as Jassa said, the fact that we'll actually be taking people with us when we go out to look at classroom practice just helps to demystify what we do again, so people understand that we're part of a diagnostic to the system that they can use, but also that they start learning some of the practices that we look for. You know, self-evaluation is a massive underpinning of the whole curriculum approach, which we see deployed quite poorly sometimes, and I think just by learning in the classroom, this becomes part of the support, really, to ensure that schools improve in particular. I think that self-evaluation and the fact that we do—. That is one of the things that I think is a strength of Estyn, that we impart this more successfully into the system.

09:50

Thank you, Chair. Just a quick comment: I'd just like to say that there do seem to be some welcome changes, particularly the emphasis on being a more positive part of the school's journey of improvement. I like that, but I do have some concerns about what you just said about a massive emphasis on self-evaluation, given that I don't think anyone's going to mark themselves badly, so it does concern me, although I do see some merits in it as well.

On the shadow of the pandemic and attitudes towards learning and attendance, your report describes the shadow that the pandemic continues to cast over education and training. That's certainly been my experience when I'm visiting schools. So, as learners' knowledge and skills, attendance and attitudes towards learning all remain weaker than pre-pandemic, to what extent do you think the education system is on the right trajectory to recover from the pandemic, or are there significant changes in direction that need to be made, in your opinion? Thank you.

Just on the first point, if I may, on self-evaluation: one of the big recommendations in 'A Learning Inspectorate', which is the report that Graham Donaldson wrote back in 2018, was that we should base our evaluations of schools on their own self-evaluation, and that is one of the areas that I'm not comfortable doing. I think self-evaluation in schools is not strong enough yet, actually, for us to rely on it. So, I actually share your concern there, which is why very much we use our own approach.

The pandemic, I think, is going to take quite a significant amount of time to wash through the system. I think you're on the money in some of the challenges you've raised, and I think one of the things that we've seen—and we try to reflect this, particularly in the annual report—is what schools are facing at the moment and how they're trying to adapt.

The one thing I noticed when I was reading through attendance figures quite recently is the variability in schools and that how they're coping with this has widened. If you look at the attendance figures, for example, pre-pandemic, 80 per cent of schools were within 1.5 per cent of the national average. That's closer to 40 per cent now, which means that the variability between schools has increased, as some are coping and some are not.

I think you're right that the social contract, really, between schools and parents has to a degree broken down; not in all places, but it has broken down in many places. And schools—and this isn't just a Welsh problem—are facing demands that perhaps they hadn't faced in the past, and the number of children who are displaying anxiety, who are displaying requirements for English language support, but also just the anxieties that have come through the pandemic itself, as well as what were the pre-existing educational requirements, have increased, at a time when there is a lot of pressure on the support services that go around schools.

Now, I think, for us, and I'll bring Claire and Jassa in at this point, the message from us and one of the important factors you mentioned earlier on was that we celebrate success. We are the only body, really, that's out every day across Wales looking at practice, and we do see schools where they have all these challenges and yet they're succeeding in very difficult climates. And I think whilst not every school can be good at everything, and not every case study is applicable to everyone, it's our job, partly, to highlight where we see best practice.

It's one of the reasons why, for example, in the headteachers' conference, which we're running a week Friday, yes, we'll be going through what the new framework looks like, but there's as much time at that conference set aside for what the sector actually asked us for, which is: will you please bring what you think is the best practice on some of the biggest issues in education? So, we are looking at self-evaluation, we are looking at numeracy, we are looking at Welsh, we are looking at the curriculum, and we're trying to facilitate that type of knowledge sharing, really, across the sector.

09:55

On attendance, we know that many schools are working very hard on attendance. There has been a change in the attitudes of pupils and parents and that's why we've got in a situation where the average attendance across Wales now is about 87.5 per cent, which in real terms means that, on average, a child is missing 12 days of education in an academic year, which is far too much. But there is a role for every part of the system. We've certainly raised our expectations of schools on inspection, but there's a role for schools and there's a role for local authorities. There is variation in the availability of support services for schools as well, particularly on attendance. Although, more recently, we've seen local authorities that have taken on a campaign to raise the profile of good attendance with parents and carers, I think more needs to be done because this is quite a stubborn issue, and every part of the system has a reasonability to play its part.

Thank you. Yes, I was going to ask you that, so it's really good that you're saying what I was just about to ask, because I think that sharing best practice is so important, isn't it? There are 22 local authorities with 22 different approaches, and within those, clusters, and within those, schools, all doing different things and that best practice is not being shard. As I go around, like you do, there are really good things going on, so it's really good to hear that you're going to share that in the format that you can and that you see that you have a strong role, which is the question that I was going to ask you next.

Pupils' attendance continues to be a massive concern, as you've just outlined. You said there were issues with the availability of support services and you said that there's a role for all the schools. What do you think can be done, apart from what the Welsh Government is already doing on that, as well as—? You're saying that there's a role for everyone, and you, in sharing best practice, but what do you think we can do, practically, towards helping to improve pupil attendance? Thank you.

I'll turn to Claire, but we're currently part of the taskforce looking at attendance. So, our colleague Cath Evans has been contributing to that, but I don't know if you, Claire—

Yes. We've been part of the taskforce and, obviously, part of our role is to outline our approach on inspection, but the other thing that we've been involved in lately is that we became particularly concerned by secondary school attendance, so we carried out a recent rapid review, which you've probably seen, and, yesterday, Welsh Government responded to the recommendations.

I think that clearer expectations right throughout the system of what good attendance is, but also expectations of support from different parts of the system, are essential as well. The bottom line is engaging with children and making them want to come to school. So, there are obviously links with the curriculum, with teaching and making schooling very attractive. So, there's a lot of work to be done in that area as well. There is no sliver bullet, but there are different activities that need to be done by different partners to support learners and to support parents to make sure that learners come to school.

I think one of the things we did in the rapid review was we highlighted that when we see these things in place, the attendance looks okay. We know that all schools are trying. There are certain factors that are common to the schools that are really succeeding in this, and that's one of the things we're trying to share, to say, 'Look, if you are doing x, y, a, b, c, then the likelihood is that this will be working.' 

I was slightly disappointed with some of the responses back from Welsh Government. I was hoping that—. I hear a lot of people saying, 'Actually, there does need to be a national discourse about this social contract between parents and schools.' I think transport they agreed with. That can be an issue, and I think there are other systems I've seen in, for example, Ireland, where they've tackled that in perhaps a more proactive way. But I think the use of data, the monitoring and keeping on attendance is something that, when it works, it works. So, the more we can share where we're seeing the best practice, again, these are the things that, if you're doing all of these things, it probably will improve. 

I should caveat it. Claire quite rightly mentioned that the problem does seem to be more intractable in the secondary sector. We've seen some improvement in the figures in primary. So, whether in primary this is just a cohort issue, we'll see, but I think it's a bit early for us to pronounce on that.

10:00

Some of the schools that have been particularly successful are the schools with a very strong community focus. So, they've got well-established relationships with their parents and the wider community, and therefore they've got an open dialogue, they've got that route to discuss issues with their parents, and it's much stronger. And often those schools—I think in our report we mention Cefn Hengoed in Swansea—they've got a well-established community focus, and that helps when there are issues that they need to tackle, and they can work with their parents really closely. 

Yes, okay. Thank you. Thank you, Chair. It's encouraging to see the outcomes for primary, but, with absence doubling to 12.5 per cent in secondary, it is a concern. In your annual report, it says that Estyn's inspection reports and pupil questionnaires report a similar picture regarding well-being and behaviour, pre and post pandemic, yet that school leaders themselves report that behaviour has become more challenging, which certainly we're seeing from figures of violence in the classroom increasing, as well as behaviour. Is there any contradiction between these two findings, and can you elaborate on exactly what you think the position is regarding well-being and behaviour? Thank you.

It's a difficult one. Having been on umpteen inspections myself now, what you realise is that the kids tend to behave a little better when the Estyn inspectors are in the room. But the wave of anecdote I hear from everyone—from headteachers to teachers to caretakers to support staff—is that behaviour, particularly out of the classroom, has worsened.

And I think the second thing, and this is something that we are going to have to focus on, I think, in the coming years—. And, by the way, we are going to be looking at behaviour and attendance in more detail over the coming months and years. The second thing to mention is that we published a thematic report on EOTAS, education other than at school, last year, which I think was a very good report. And what it highlighted was that the number of people who—. First of all, we've seen exclusions rise—not to huge levels, but they are rising, particularly short-term exclusions. We're seeing the number of people going into PRUs double, effectively, since the pandemic, and we're seeing in some local authorities—and I was in a school only on Monday, where they were having to deal with children with quite significant needs in the school because the local specialist provision was full. And all of a sudden, that is an extra burden on the schools, which haven't got the resource to do it. So, people are having to juggle a lot of things at the moment where, in a perfect system, there would be other support that could come to their rescue.

And I think, unchecked, this will cause us an issue in the future, with teachers having to deal with more disruptive pupils for, often, very legitimate reasons, and we've got a clogged-up system of children going to a pupil referral unit on a far more regular basis, but most importantly not then going back to the mainstream, which is really why PRUs were set up, to provide that support to get them back into a position to go back into the mainstream. And that isn't happening in the way that it used to. 

Owen is right that, when we look at our inspection reports, we're not seeing a huge variation in what we are saying about engagement and behaviour, certainly from the pupil questionnaires. But often the pupils are very loyal to their school. They're very proud of their school and, often, they don't feel that they want to drop anyone in it, so they tend to—. They don't always give a completely honest picture. So that's sometimes where there's a difference. But school leaders are reporting, and we can see from details of exclusions that, even in primary schools, some children found it very difficult to come back to school after the pandemic and they're struggling almost to regulate their behaviour and their emotions having gone through the pandemic. And in secondary, we're seeing an increase in anxiety, mental health issues. And often it's around break times and lunch times—unstructured times—that there are more incidents, and sometimes nastier incidents than we've seen previously. So, schools are struggling with these issues and trying to support their learners as best they can, but the whole system is probably under pressure and we are seeing that on inspection.

10:05

I think as well the point you made about other things, Laura, around 22 different ways of doing things, in terms of that sort of graduated response for behaviour and the support that schools might receive from their local authority and then into more specialist provision in pupil referral units or special schools, there are very different approaches in different areas. So, I'm really hopeful that the behaviour review that we'll be doing over the next 12 months will actually really help us to get under the skin a little bit and understand which bits of those different responses are working better so that we can maybe share that and try and reduce a bit of that inconsistency that is out there as well.

And it's well worth reflecting, on post-16 as well, if you look at the questionnaires we have for post-16, the attitude to learning actually hasn't changed hardly at all since prior to the pandemic, but getting people into college is far harder than it used to be. So, there is this disjoint, really, between what people are saying in the questionnaires and what we're actually seeing as lived practice.

Yes. I just wanted to mention that there are two responses that we're seeing from schools because of this increase in issues with behaviour that probably are instances that we're probably a bit concerned about, and one of them is where schools have had maybe an hour for lunch time, but they've had issues with pupil behaviour during lunch time, they've shortened the lunch time to maybe 30 minutes, and we're a bit concerned about that because that doesn't really meet the needs of our learners and it doesn't give them enough opportunity to actually sit down and have a hot, healthy lunch, but that's a way of almost controlling behaviour at lunch time that probably is undesirable. And the other thing that we've seen is schools using reduced timetables: so, if you have a pupil that's particularly problematic and having difficulty settling, then schools are using reduced timetables where they only come in maybe for certain parts of the days or certain lessons. And as a very short-term strategy, that may be appropriate, but we've seen those sorts of reduced timetables being used for far too long and we don't think that's in the interests of those learners.

Thank you. Thank you for those responses; they're really detailed. So, do you think that the post-pandemic mental health crisis within our young people, the rise in ALN, really tight school budgets, the behaviour issues you just mentioned, the violence, do you think that's all leading to the rise in temporary exclusions in secondary schools?

I think it's quite a complex issue. I think it probably contributes to it. I think schools are working very hard to support learners and exclusion is very much a last resort, but I think there is a need to look at what other sorts of services and support at a local authority level we can put in place to make sure learners are in school or in alternative provision, where they are receiving ongoing education, rather than being out of education for any length of time.

I think it's probably worth mentioning as well, and we'll probably pick this up in the discussions of ALN later on, that one of the worries I have is that schools, we know, are facing budgetary pressures. One of the ways that schools are coping at the moment is through quite sophisticated use quite often of teaching assistants or support staff through the co-ordination of the additional learning needs co-ordinator. When schools are facing budget cuts, where are they going to make them? And that's one of the worries that I have, and I think we share, about a concern that some of the budget cuts that will come next year or the year after will be in the sorts of support services, at the moment, that are helping the system cope.

10:10

And we're definitely seeing, as learners transition out of school into some of the post-16 provision, both mainstream provision in colleges but also targeted provision such as Jobs Growth Wales+, that there is a shift in the level of need and the types of needs. So, for those young people who may be furthest from education and training who are accessing things like Jobs Growth Wales+, there are definitely more social, emotional and mental health needs showing there than some of the needs that providers were trying to support young people with previously. So, I think there is also a shift in the type of support needed, and a bit of a time lag, perhaps, in some of the professional learning and the way support services are designed, catching up to really meet the needs that are there as well.

Just lastly, Chair. How concerned are you, then, that—? Obviously, exclusions are reducing in primary schools, which is welcome, but exclusion for less than five days has gone up markedly in secondary schools, by a third between 2018-19 and 2021-22, from 75 per 1,000 pupils to 100 per 1,000 pupils. Why do you think that's happening? What are your concerns about that? Thank you. Thanks, Chair.

I think they're still at—. Funnily enough, I was thinking about this when I was looking at the attendance figures. The issue we've got, I think, at the moment, is perspective. I think at the moment the increase in exclusions is relatively small in a global sense, but the increase has been quite marked, as you suggest, so I certainly think it's one of the areas that—. Exclusion is a last resort. It should always be a last resort. And I think that the behaviour of some children actually makes it quite difficult for some schools not to pursue that avenue at the moment. It's back to, though, whether we can ensure that those pupils—who have got, obviously, challenges—get the support they need to bring them back in. And this is when it comes back to, as Claire was mentioning before, that the schools that we're seeing doing particularly well on avoiding exclusions are the ones that are having to put a lot of effort into it, but particularly through their knowledge and the relationship with the parents and the communities around them, because, yes, if a child is to present at school, they need to be enriched, the environment needs to be safe, the environment needs to be challenging and interesting for them. But also there are so many boundaries that might cause either non-attendance or disruptive attendance when they're there that are outside of the school, and that's where sometimes the support services can be a challenge. This is one of the reasons why we are working with other agencies to try and look across the piece at the type of support they get. It is an issue, though, and I think it's one we need to keep a close eye on.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. One thing I'd like to start with is I want to talk about school standards, Programme for International Student Assessment, and mitigating the impacts of poverty on attainment. Just a generic question to start: are you concerned, or where are you? What are your feelings of school standards at the minute? Where do you think they are in Wales?

I think anyone who wasn't disappointed with the PISA results would worry me.

The word we often use in our reports is 'mixed'. It's a complex situation. We see some schools with absolutely fantastic standards, absolutely applied consistently across the school, but we see other schools where it's not. And frequently one of the reasons why we're increasing the focus on leadership and improvement in our next framework is that, where we see poor standards in a school, 99.9 per cent of the time there is a question around the leadership of that school, which is one of the reasons we've really—. Again, back to the original question, how we're refocusing our activities, that's one of the things on that.

Was it a shock to us? No, it wasn't. If you look through the annual reports of chief inspectors before me, it's been a fairly annual report that we were worried on some of the key skills—numeracy, science and literacy in schools—that we've been reporting on for a long time. Now, I think, the positive: the Minister gets it and I think the Minister is committed to doing something about it. I think, sometimes, the curriculum, which I think is a positive thing, really sometimes has taken the attention away from subject specialisms to a more sort of skills-type approach, where it isn't a skills versus knowledge argument, it's both. And I think what Government is realising is that there's an evolving process as the curriculum develops, and that some schools, the ones that are struggling with some of the standards, have focused, probably, overly on the what they're teaching—the content, the syllabus, if you like—at the expense of the teaching and learning, at the expense of assessment, and at the expense of clear progression routes and understanding what the progression should be.

Claire, I don't know if you want to come in on this. 

10:15

Yes, I think you will see from the annual report that we're probably more concerned about secondary schools than primary schools, currently. We know the secondary schools face much greater challenges, even down to the age of the pupils when they come into secondary school, and their development hitting teenage years is quite difficult for pupils themselves, but also the demands of staffing in secondary are quite problematic. We know from schools that they are struggling to recruit in certain areas, and that's mostly in the core. It's even more exaggerated in Welsh-medium schools. So, there are more challenges in secondary, and they are feeling the impacts of the pandemic still. So, it's quite a challenging time for them.

And we've been very honest about the fact that there is an awful lot in the system at the moment. There are an awful lot of challenges facing schools. There is an awful lot of policy development in education. And I think the Minister is getting the message quite clearly—and is acting upon it, in fairness—that we need to prioritise, and there are certain things we just need fairly relentless focus on, and standards is one of them.

Yes, and on the point you made about policy changes at the minute, the Welsh Government—. I think the consultation's just finished on the review of the school year as well. From my perspective, I'd rather be looking at how we drive up standards in schools rather than tweaking around with holidays. I mean, it's a question to you: do you think a change in the school year is going to improve standards, or do you think that—? What would be your view on how we can drive standards up, really? Is this something that should be a priority for Government, or should Government be looking elsewhere to improve standards?

I think it's part of it. I do think it's part of it. To what extent it's part of it is the question, but it is part of it. When we talk to professionals, the school year actually can be an inhibitor to progressive learning. Whether this is the time to do it when there is so much, that's a question for the politicians. 

Yes, we have conversations within the inspectorate, and with school leaders, and with our counterparts in other parts of the UK about learning loss in the summer holiday. And it's particularly acute for those children who are affected by poverty. Six weeks is a long time and, in some instances, schools have INSET days at the end of the summer term, they have staggered starts at the beginning of the autumn term, and, for some children, the school holidays can be seven weeks. So, I think we are aware of the impact on learning loss, but, as Owen said, there's quite a lot going on currently. The autumn term is a very long term, so we can see the sense in some of the proposals, and putting the GCSE and A-level results together in the same week, for example, would have a benefit for secondary schools. But it's the timing, as Owen said.

There are some questions, actually, that weren't asked as well. If you actually look at the stats, the amount of time that pupils in Wales spend in school, compared to some very high-performing education systems, is quite high. At a time, actually, where we're challenged with the amount of time we can actually devote to improving teaching practice in the classroom, there's a question of whether we reduce, hoping that the quality of the education improves. 

One of the big things that we're very, very strong in our belief in is that a lot of the school improvement work that's been undertaken over the years—and this is reflected in Professor Jones's review—has been quite high level and quite generic. From our experience, where professional learning works best is when you're next to a teacher in the classroom. And the more time we can devote to that type of practice, I think, the better for standards. 

I won't push too much on the school holidays. As you said, it's a matter for politicians to decide, so I'll leave that there. But, as Members, we get Estyn reports all the time from schools, and you are right, sometimes our higher learners, our higher educational attainment learners, tend to be the ones who are being left behind. I'm just wondering what we can actually do to prioritise our high-performance achievers in Wales, and actually, as well, how we can bring our lowest achievers up as well. So, I'm just interested around that, about the work that Estyn are doing, to make sure those with the best potential have got the opportunity to go on, but also, we're bringing everybody along to reach the potential they can.

10:20

I'll come to Claire in a second, but the biggest thing that we see in classrooms and where it works is where the teacher has a really clear understanding of their pupils, has a real understanding of what their potential is and what their progression should be. This is why I think assessment is part of that, in understanding is a child coasting, are they being stretched enough. We do see a lot of practices in stretching pupils. We see a lot of keeping busy, as opposed to actually developing their skills and knowledge. It was a disappointment in the PISA. You know, perennially, we've had a problem with low achievement, which actually was improving over the past decade, but this time, we've seen an issue in low achievement, but also in those high achievers actually not achieving as well as they would have. But I think it does come down to classroom practice, to understanding the pupils and ensuring they're challenged. Claire, I don't know if—

Yes, absolutely, Owen. I think, as part of our inspections, our inspectors look at different groups of pupils to make sure that the school is meeting the needs of different groups of pupils, including the groups you've mentioned, and we try to capture the best practice in those areas. But it is about assessment, particularly about formative assessment, as Owen said, knowing your children and making sure you use assessment to determine where they're at now, but also how they can make continual progress. But it is looking at individuals as well.

And I think some of that—. One of the most regrettable things in education over the past decades—this isn't just a recent thing—is the denuding of specialist subject support. You know, we just haven't got a cohort that's sufficient, really, to drive this through the system. So, one of the things we're really trying to champion at the moment is investment in specialist subject support that isn't at a high level, that actually can stand alongside teachers to improve practice.

Okay. I just want to move on, because recent developments suggest that Welsh Government wants to move away from the regional consortia and the regional model of working. Is this something that you as Estyn have also detected, that the Welsh Government are moving towards, with announcements around they way they're going to deal with budgets and how they're going to allocate budgets? I'm just interested what role Estyn will have in that, in the second phase of the review that's going on, into school improvement and school functions.

I've been in post now for two years, and the first question I always ask when I come into an organisation is: what are we for, and how do we fit in? There have been strengths and weaknesses. The first point is always worth making—and, Jassa, you made this earlier on—that we can't have 22 versions of the same thing. That is nugatory, it's inefficient, it doesn't deliver. And some aspects of regional consortia support have been very strong, but there have been elements that are weak, and I think that's been recognised.

We've been looking and, you know, they've been quite public about the move away from the regional system. We support the Government's approach, we support the fact that it's going to be phased. Looking at what's happening in Scotland, for example, at the moment, where they've just stopped regional support, it's not clear quite what's going to happen next. But we will be reflecting on what is our role within—. I don't see ourselves as part of the middle tier, because we're scrutinising what goes on, but how do we fit in with the middle tier?

Actually, one of the questions I asked ourselves—we had a session on this before Christmas—was: what's our role? What our role frequently is is the diagnosis of what's wrong. But to have any body relied on to provide a diagnosis for a system, I think it comes down to three or four things: it needs to be independent; it needs to be of quality, which means it's experienced; but it needs to be regular. And if I were to put hand on heart and say, as a diagnostic method, 'Can you rely on Estyn?' Well, if we're inspecting every six or eight years, I'm not sure I can, which is one of the reasons why we're so keen on pursuing this fact that, from September onwards, we'll be going to schools twice in six years.

Now, the beauty of that, and I think this is where our contribution is—and, in fairness, Professor Jones has said that, actually, this is something that he can build on—is that, on a local level, at the school, we will give a diagnostic, a bit like an internal audit, that says, 'Right, you're really good at these things, you probably need to think about these things for the future.' And this is part of the approach we have now. The beauty of that though is that every single school gets its marching orders, effectively, on what to focus on and what they can share, but, secondly, our second role is to aggregate that up, and we need to be able to aggregate that up to bodies that are going to support the development of those schools.

Now, at the moment, it's been too generic, I think. In the future, I think there's going to be far more of a blend of nationally directed programmes, particularly on some areas of standards, but it will have to be delivered locally, but we would certainly not advocate it being delivered locally on 22 different bases. And so, I think the collaboration of local authorities in particular in delivering what comes next is vital.

10:25

I agree with you on the two inspections. I know some of my schools will probably have a different view on that, since they'd be burdened. But I do agree, because I've seen far too many schools go into monitoring, come out of monitoring, and, six years later, they're back in monitoring again because the inspection—. And that's not just in education, that's also in terms of health and social services—it's in every department.

But I'll move quickly on to my final question, because I'm probably testing the Chair's patience—

Sorry, if I can just make one point on that. I was pleasantly surprised, when we consulted on moving to three years, as opposed to six years, that the response was positive. So, that was really welcomed.

Oh, that's good. Lovely. I'll move on to my final question—to test your patience, Chair.

I'm just interested in how much progress is being made on mitigating the impacts of poverty on educational attainment. And, from your point of view, what more needs to be done to really make a difference, so that we can actually improve educational attainment for those people who are in poverty?

Again, it's mixed. I see some schools where you would not realise the area they're in, because they understand their children, they understand the challenges they're facing, and they've put very, very sophisticated support in place to make sure that they thrive. They have real drive and standards and challenge for their pupils. And you see some schools that are less so. I think the picture is mixed. I know that the use of the pupil development grant is being reviewed at the moment. Where it's used wisely, it can make a real difference, but we are seeing cases where the suspicion is that PDG has now just become part of funding for schools. Claire and Jassa, do you want to come in on this?

Yes. I think the context is getting more and more challenging as well. So, although schools have developed some good practices in terms of mitigating some of those impacts of poverty, I think what we're seeing are more children and families living in poverty, and we're seeing—as we picked up on earlier—the gap in attendance, for example, between pupils who are eligible for free school meals and others being bigger. So, that context continues to be more and more challenging, I think.

What we do highlight in the annual report is that we have a section there that picks up on some of the effective practice that we are seeing in those schools, as Owen highlighted. And I think it does take a collective effort in those schools. So, it needs strong leaders who really understand those impacts and bring their staff with them; it does need high expectations; it needs that community focus that Claire picked up on earlier—that understanding of your community context; and it needs those relationships with parents, which we picked up on earlier. But, fundamentally, all the things that we've already picked up on, in terms of really high-quality teaching and support, and that individualised approach, will bring about the impact for those learners as well, as they will for other learners. So, it's about taking that best practice, and all schools picking up and doing that more consistently, really.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gaf i jest gofyn un cwestiwn cyffredinol i ddechrau? Un o'r pethau sydd wedi fy nharo i yn eich ymatebion chi'r bore yma yn barod ydy'r hyn rydych chi'n ei ddweud ynglŷn ag anghysondebau neu amrywiaethau. Mae'r adroddiad blynyddol yn amlwg yn waith pwysig iawn, yn clymu hyn i gyd fel themâu at ei gilydd—rhai o'r pethau rydych chi wedi eu gweld. Sut mae'n gweithio wedyn o ran pan fyddwch chi'n cyflwyno'r adroddiad blynyddol i'r Gweinidog, o ran bod yna nifer o argymhellion, onid oes, neu arsylwadau rydych chi'n eu gwneud? Ydych chi'n gweld bod hynny wedyn yn trosglwyddo i newidiadau neu bolisïau ac ati? Dwi jest eisiau deall. Dydy o ddim jest yn ddarn o bapur i'w nodi. Yn amlwg, mae yna lot fawr o feddwl a gwaith wedi mynd i mewn iddo fo, felly, os gallwch chi, efallai, egluro'r broses i ni o ran sut mae hynny wedyn yn cael effaith ar lawr gwlad.

Thank you very much. May I just ask a general question to begin with? One of the things that's struck me in your responses this morning already is what you say about inconsistencies or variance. The annual report is clearly very important work, tying all of this together in themes—some of the things that you've seen on the ground. How does it work then when it comes to presenting the annual report to the Minister, in terms of the fact that there are a number of recommendations, aren't there, or observations that you make? Do you see then that that translates into changes or policies and so on? I just want to understand. It's not just a piece of paper to note. Clearly, there is a great deal of thought and work behind it. So, perhaps you could explain the process to us in terms of how that then has an impact on the ground. 

10:30

Iawn. Un o'r negeseuon ym mhopeth rŷm ni'n gwneud yw'r anghysondebau rŷn ni'n gweld. A'r cwestiwn cyntaf wedyn yw trio dadansoddi beth sydd tu ôl i hynny. Yn yr adroddiad blynyddol, rydym ni'n ceisio fesul sector nawr i fynd trwyddo'r gwendidau a'r cryfderau, ac wedyn rŷn ni'n eu cyflwyno nhw i'r Gweinidog yn flynyddol, ond dwi'n cael cyfarfod pob chwech wythnos, neu o gwmpas hynny, efo'r Gweinidog hefyd. Ym mhob cyfarfod, mi fyddwn ni'n trafod beth sy'n mynd yn dda a beth rŷn ni'n pigo i fyny sydd ddim yn mynd cystal. I fod yn deg, mae yna sawl elfen o'n trafodaethau ni yn cael eu pigo lan gan y Gweinidog, ac wedyn mae yna ryw fath o waith yn digwydd wedyn, ond ddim bob tro, i'w weithredu, ond yn aml iawn, chwarae teg, i edrych i mewn i sut y gallan nhw wella.

Rwy'n credu ble mae'r gwahaniaeth mwyaf wedi dod yn ddiweddar yw—. Yn amlwg, fe wnes i sôn bod ein adroddiad blynyddol ni dros ddegawd o leiaf wedi bod yn sôn am wendidau mewn rhifedd a llythrennedd, ac yn enwedig yn y blynyddoedd diweddar o gwmpas yr iaith Gymraeg a gwyddoniaeth. Mae'r ffaith ein bod ni wedi bod yn gyson yn y neges yma, a nawr bod y negeseuon yn dod o PISA, yn atgyfnerthu beth dŷn ni wedi bod yn wneud. Dwi'n reit ffyddiog bod y Llywodraeth a'r Gweinidog wedi cael y neges yn glir bod angen i rywbeth newid, ac rwy'n credu, i fod yn deg, fod un o'r rhesymau dros edrych i mewn i sut mae cymorth i ysgolion yn gweithredu wedi dod o'r ddealltwriaeth yna fod angen gwneud rhywbeth.

Pwnc arall, fel esiampl, yw teacher training, addysgu athrawon. Rŷn ni wedi bod yn betrusgar iawn am, ambell waith, y safon, ond hefyd y ffaith nad ydyn ni'n taro'r targedau i gael athrawon newydd i'r system yn y llefydd sydd angen. Mae gennym ni wendidau eithriadol yn yr iaith Gymraeg, yn enwedig mewn ysgolion uwchradd mewn pynciau fel mathemateg a phethau fel hynny, a dydyn ni ddim yn taro a ddim yn denu digon o bobl i mewn i'r system. Nawr, rŷn ni wedi bod yn reit blaen efo'r Gweinidog amboutu'r gwendidau rŷn ni'n gweld, ac, i fod yn deg, mae'r Gweinidog nawr wedi comisiynu gwaith gan Cardiff Met i edrych i mewn i, 'Ocê, beth sydd tu cefn i hyn a beth y gallwn ni wneud yn wahanol?'  

A yw'r Llywodraeth yn ymateb i bopeth rŷn ni'n petruso amdanyn nhw? Buaswn i'n dweud 'na', ond, ar y cyfan, ar y pynciau mawr, fel arfer mae yna ryw fath o weithredu yn dod o'n gwaith. 

Well, one of the messages in everything that we do is that there are inconsistencies. And the first question then is to try and identify what is underpinning that. In the annual report, we try to go through the strengths and weaknesses sector by sector, and then we present these to the Minister on annual basis, but I have a six-weekly meeting with the Minister too. In all meetings, we will discuss what's going well and what we're picking up isn't going as well. To be fair, a number of elements of those discussions are picked up by the Minister, and work is taken forward then, not always, but very often. I do think they do look at how they can make improvements. 

I think where the greatest difference has come recently—. As I mentioned earlier, our annual report for over a decade, at least, has been talking about problems in numeracy and literacy, and particularly recently around the Welsh language and science. The fact that we have been consistent in conveying this message, and that the same messages are now coming from PISA, is going to reinforce what we have been saying. I am quite confident that the Minister and the Government have heard that message clearly that something needs to change, and I think, to be fair, one of the reasons why we're looking into how support for schools is developing has come from that understanding of the need to act. 

Another example is teacher training. We have been very uncertain, on occasion, about the quality, but also that we're not hitting the targets in getting new teachers into the system where they're needed. We have great deficiencies in terms of the Welsh language, and particularly in secondary schools in subjects like maths. We are not attracting enough people into the system. We've been quite open with the Minister in terms of the deficiencies that we identify, and, to be fair, the Minister has now commissioned some work from Cardiff Met to look into this, and to look at what lies behind the problem and what we could do differently. 

Does the Government respond to everything that we're concerned about? Well, I would say 'no', but, generally speaking, on the major issues, there is usually some action arising from our work.

Mae'r adroddiad blynyddol yn grynodeb o'r gwaith arall sy'n mynd ymlaen trwy'r flwyddyn—er enghraifft, rhai o'r negeseuon pwysig sydd wedi dod allan o'r gwaith thematig rŷm ni wedi ei wneud trwy'r flwyddyn. Yn yr adroddiadau thematig, mae cyfle i fod tipyn bach yn fwy penodol gyda'r argymhellion, so rŷn ni'n gweld, efallai, fwy o effaith benodol nag o'r adroddiad blynyddol weithiau. Mae hyn yn gyfle i ail-ddweud a rhoi pwyslais eto ar rai o'r negeseuon yna hefyd.  

The annual report is a summary of the other work ongoing throughout the year—for example, some of the important messages that have emanated from the thematic work that we've done throughout the year. In the thematic reports, there's an opportunity to be a bit more specific in terms of the recommendations that we make, and so we would see more of a specific impact there rather than from the annual report itself sometimes. This is an opportunity to restate and emphasise some of those messages again.

Roedd yna esiampl dda, fel roedd Claire yn sôn gynnau fach, amboutu presenoldeb. Rŷn ni newydd gyhoeddi ein syniadau ni am bresenoldeb. Mae'r Llywodraeth wedi dod nôl efo 'accepted' 'partially accepted' yn y patrwm arferol. Wrth gwrs, licien i weld bod popeth yn cael ei weithredu arno, ond rŷn ni'n deall bod yn rhaid i'r Gweinidog a'r Llywodraeth benderfynu a blaenoriaethu beth maen nhw'n gwneud. Ond dwi yn reit ffyddiog, yn fwyfwy, fod ein beirniadaeth ni yn arwain at ryw fath o weithgaredd. 

A good example, as Claire mentioned earlier, is attendance. We've just published our ideas on attendance. The Government has come back with 'accepted' and 'partially accepted' according to the normal pattern. We would like to see everything being acted upon, but we do understand that the Minister and Government have to make decisions on prioritisation. But I am quite confident, and increasingly confident, that our comments do lead to action.

Mae hynny'n rhoi sicrwydd i ni fel pwyllgor. Os caf i ofyn am rai meysydd yn benodol, rydych chi wedi rhoi sylw yn yr adroddiad blynyddol i addysg a chymorth i ffoaduriaid a cheiswyr lloches fel thema allweddol. Mewn cyfnod pan fo'r system addysg o dan bwysau mawr, pa mor dda ydych chi'n credu mae'r system yn ymateb i'r heriau ychwanegol o gefnogi dysgwyr sy'n ffoaduriaid ac yn geiswyr lloches, megis y rhai sydd wedi dod o Wcráin? 

That provides reassurance for us as a committee. If I can ask some specific areas, you've covered in the annual report education and support for refugees and asylum seekers as a key theme. At a time when the education system is under considerable pressure, how well do you think the system is responding to additional challenges of supporting refugee and asylum seeker learners, such as those who've come from Ukraine? 

Wyt ti eisiau cymryd hwnna? 

Do you want to take that? 

Ie, dim problem. Dwi'n mynd i siarad yn Saesneg achos dwi ddim yn siŵr am y termau arbennig am y peth. 

Yes, I'll take that. I will speak in English because I'm not sure of the specialist terminology in that area. 

Certainly, in that context that you talk about, it is challenging. But what we've seen when we've gone and visited and done some more in-depth work around this is that there's some really good work going on, and what schools have done is built on some of the work they do already to extend that individualised approach, that inclusive approach. But where we've seen it particularly working well is where they've reached out and worked closely with parents and with that community to involve them, and that has helped young people in particular to settle really well and settle really quickly. There were some really lovely examples that were in the annual report, and when we launched it, actually, we had some of the families we'd spoken to as part of that coming down for the launch, which was lovely.

So, I think those funding pressures are a worry, and I think they do put pressure on some of those specialist services, and we see that into post 16 as well. There has been an explosion in demand for English as an additional language, and ESOL in post 16, so there is a pressure there. There are waiting lists quite often, and I know that, as a result, the Government has put in more funding this year. But this is a difficult context. I think what we see working well is that focus on well-being, on inclusion, on making the most of that opportunity to explore difference and to engage with different families about the other learners in the school, to learn about their traditions, their cultures, et cetera, as well. We've seen schools really embracing the opportunity and some really successful work to bring about that inclusion and to help families settle really well in areas.

10:35

Mae'n broblem, mae'n sialens. Roeddwn i mewn ysgol yn Adamsdown yng Nghaerdydd—44 iaith, plant yn aml yn dod i mewn ac yn cael eu symud o fewn chwe wythnos i ysgol arall achos bod eu lloches wedi newid, a gwahanol fedrau yn ieithyddol, ond hefyd yn eu haddysg nhw, sydd wedi cael toriadau. Ond yn Adamsdown, jest fel esiampl, roedd y gweithredu roedd yr ysgol wedi'i wneud i 'cope-io' efo hynny yn anhygoel ac roedd yn werth ei weld. Ond dyna'r math o negeseuon rydyn ni'n trio'u siario nawr, a dyna pam wnaethon ni review o'r gwaith o gwmpas ffoaduriaid, ac rŷn ni'n gallu siario'r gweithredu sy'n mynd ymlaen. Mae yna gryfderau mawr yn y system ac, ambell waith, wrth gwrs, fel Cymry, rydyn ni'n canolbwyntio ar bethau negyddol, ond mae yna bethau da yn digwydd yn y system hefyd.

It's a problem, a challenge. I was in a school in Adamsdown in Cardiff—44 languages spoken and children often are moved within six weeks to another school because their refugee status has changed. There were different levels of ability in terms of language, but also in terms of the wider education, because their education had been disrupted. But in Adamsdown, for example, the action taken by the school to cope was quite incredible, and it was worth seeing. Those are the kinds of messages that we're now trying to share, and that's why we carried out a review of our work around refugees, so that we can share good practice. There are great strengths in the system, and occasionally, as Welsh people, we focus on the negatives, but there are positives in the system too.

Ac mae pethau systemig hefyd sydd ddim yn helpu ar y funud. Er enghraifft, mae'r ffaith bod y statws o fod yn refugee neu asylum seeker ddim yn cael ei gynnwys yn PLASC yn golygu nad ydyn ni'n cael, rili, darlun mawr yn genedlaethol o, efallai, y cynnydd neu'r presenoldeb, neu ddim byd, o'r grŵp yna. So, mae rhai pethau, dwi'n meddwl, y gellid eu gwella yn genedlaethol i'n helpu ni ddeall y sefyllfa yn well, hefyd.

And there are systemic factors, as well, that don't help at the moment. For example, the fact that the status of being a refugee or an asylum seeker isn't included in PLASC means that we don't have that bigger picture nationally in terms of the progress being made or in terms of attendance in relation to that group specifically. So, there are some things that could be improved on a national basis to help us to better understand the situation. 

Un o'r pethau a ddaeth mas o ymateb y Llywodraeth i'n awgrymiadau ni o gwmpas presenoldeb oedd data. Roedd hwnna'n un a oedd yn partially upheld, achos, wrth gwrs, mae casglu data yn weithred, ac mae pobl yn brysur. Ond dwi'n gryf yn fy neall i, i ddeall problem, mae'n rhaid i chi gael rhyw fath o ddealltwriaeth o beth sy'n digwydd a, heb ddata, mae hynny'n anodd.

One of the things that emerged from the Government's response to our recommendations around attendance was data. That was one that was partially upheld, because gathering data is an action, and people are busy. But I'm clear in my own mind that, to understand a problem, you have to have an understanding of what is actually happening and, without data, that's difficult.

Beth oedd y rationale drwy wrthod, neu'r partially—?

What was the rationale behind rejecting or partially accepting?

O fy narllen cyflym i, y ffaith, os wyt ti'n mynd i gasglu data, fod hwnna'n weithred—mae'n rhaid i rywun gasglu'r data yna, ac mae'r system o dan bwysau yn barod. Dwi'n deall hynny, ond, ambell waith, mae'r data yn gallu bod yn wan. Ble mae yna rywbeth y mae angen ei wella, mae'n rhaid i ni ddeall beth sy'n digwydd yno.

From my interpretation, if you're going to gather data, that's an action and something that somebody has to do, and the system's under pressure already. I understand that, but, on occasion, the data can be weak. Where there is something that needs improvement, we have to understand what's happening there. 

Yn sicr. Diolch yn fawr iawn am hynny. Rydych chi wedi cyfeirio'n barod at y Gymraeg ac, yn amlwg, mae honna'n elfen o'r adroddiad blynyddol lle rydych chi'n sôn hefyd ynglŷn â'r anghysondebau ac yn mynegi pryderon o ran dysgu Cymraeg o fewn ysgolion cyfrwng Saesneg—yn benodol, efallai, anghysondebau eto fel thema yn fan yna. Beth ydych chi wedi cael yn ôl gan y Llywodraeth pan wnaethoch chi drafod hyn efo'r Gweinidog? Yn amlwg, mae yna darged uchelgeisiol iawn o ran 'Cymraeg 2050'. Rydych chi wedi sôn am rai o'r heriau efo recriwtio athrawon, neu ddim digon o athrawon cyfrwng Cymraeg. Pa ddylanwad mae rhai o'ch argymhellion chi neu eich arsylwadau chi, rydych chi'n meddwl, wedi'i gael ar beth fydd y Llywodraeth rŵan yn ei wneud fel ymateb? Ac oes yna bethau pellach y byddech chi'n credu y dylai'r Llywodraeth fod yn eu gwneud i ymateb i hyn?

Certainly. Thank you very much for that. You've already referred to the Welsh language and, clearly, that is an element of the annual report where you also talk about inconsistencies, and you express concern in terms of the teaching of Welsh through English-medium schools specifically. Perhaps inconsistency is a theme there too. What response did you receive from the Government when you discussed this with the Minister? Clearly, there's a very ambitious target in terms of 'Cymraeg 2050'. You've talked about some of the challenges with teacher recruitment or insufficient numbers of teachers able to teach through the medium of Welsh. What influence have some of the recommendations and observations or comments that you've made had on what the Government will be doing in response to the situation? And are there further things that you believe the Government should be doing in response to this?

10:40

Jest yn gyflym—fe wnaf i drosglwyddo—dwi'n credu, yn gyntaf, rŷn ni'n croesawu'r Papur Gwyn ar yr iaith. Un o'r pethau rôn i'n betrusgar amdano oedd y ffaith bod y targed yma ar gael, ond dôn i ddim yn gallu gweld sut oedd y system yn mynd i gyflawni hynny—ble oedd y meddwl amboutu capasiti, yn enwedig o ran y system? Felly, rŷn ni'n croesawu beth sy'n cael ei drafod fanna.

Dyma un o'r pethau, wrth ddarn, rŷn ni'n ei drafod gyda'r Gweinidog. Fe wnes i sôn am addysgu athrawon. Un o'r rhesymau wnaethon ni godi hwnna oedd ein bod ni'n petruso, dros y tair blynedd diwethaf, nad yw'r colegau i gyd a'r prifysgolion sydd yn ymwneud ag addysgu athrawon wedi cael mwy na thraean o'r targed yn un o'r blynyddoedd yna. Dyma un o'r meysydd ble rŷn ni'n gweld, yn hanner ein hysgolion ni, fod y gweithgaredd yn wan. 

Dwi'n mynd i ysgolion, rŷn ni i gyd yn mynd i ysgolion, ac rŷn ni wedi bod mewn ysgolion ble rŷn ni wedi codi'r ffaith bod yr iaith Gymraeg yn wan yn yr ysgol honno, a dwi wedi gweld ble maen nhw wedi bod yn trio recriwtio ers dwy flynedd i rôl. Ond—ac fe wnaethon ni sesiwn ar hyn yn fewnol jest cyn y Nadolig—ble mae'r arweinyddiaeth yn gryf dros yr iaith, mae pethau'n newid. Felly, un o'r pethau mae'n rhaid inni ei wneud yw sicrhau bod arweinyddiaeth ar draws ein hysgolion ni yn gafael yn yr iaith Gymraeg, yn dangos tipyn bach o arweinyddiaeth yn eu hysgolion nhw eu hunain i wella'r sefyllfa. Felly, mae hyn yn rhannol i'r Llywodraeth, ond mae'n rhannol i'r system hefyd i ymateb i hyn.

Jest very briefly, before I hand this over, I think, first of all, we do welcome the White Paper on the Welsh language. One of the things that we were slightly concerned about was that there was this target, but that we couldn't see how the system could deliver it—where was the thinking around the capacity within the system particularly? So, we do welcome what's being discussed there.

This is one of the things that we discuss with the Minister. I talked about teacher training. One of the reasons we raised this is that we were concerned that, over the past three years, the colleges and universities involved in teacher training haven't attracted more than a third of the target in any one of those years. So, that's one of the areas where we're seeing, in half of our schools, that activity is weak.

I visit schools, we all visit schools, and I have been to schools where I have raised the fact that the Welsh language is weak within that school, and I have seen where they have been trying to recruit to roles for two years. But—and we had a session on this internally just before Christmas—where leadership is strong on the Welsh language, things do change. So, one of the things we have to do is to ensure that leadership across our schools does grasp the Welsh language and shows real leadership within those schools to improve the situation. So, it's partially about the Government, but it's also partially about the system responding to this too.

Ie, dwi'n cytuno. Ar y cyfan, dwi'n meddwl mai dyma un o'r ardaloedd lle mae'r gwaith rŷn ni wedi gwneud dros y blynyddoedd a'r argymhellion rŷn ni wedi'u rhoi wedi cael effaith ac wedi cael eu clywed, dwi'n meddwl. So, rŷn ni'n croesawu'r Papur Gwyn a rhai o'r pethau sydd ynddo fe i wneud gyda'r ddarpariaeth drochi, er enghraifft, ac i wneud gyda'r continwwm iaith—maen nhw'n bethau rŷn ni wedi sôn amdanyn nhw gyda'r Llywodraeth. So, rŷn ni'n croesawu hyn, ond mae'r her yn anhygoel, dwi'n meddwl, fel mae Owen wedi disgrifio. Dwi'n meddwl mai beth sy'n bwysig ydy'r diwylliant yna ar draws y system, a'r ffaith bod arweinwyr yn credu bod rhywbeth positif o safbwynt datblygu'r iaith, yn sicr gyda'r ysgolion cyfrwng Saesneg. A beth rŷn ni'n gweld, lle maen nhw'n blaenoriaethu, ac yn blaenoriaethu datblygiad proffesiynol staff, yn gyflym iawn, rŷn ni'n gweld yr effaith ar draws yr ysgol ar safon y Gymraeg ar draws y staff a'r disgyblion yn cynyddu'n gyflym iawn. So, mae'n bosibl, ond mae angen rhannu'r arfer yna ar draws, a bydd y buddsoddiad yn natblygiad proffesiynol dros amser yn helpu hwnna, ond mae hi'n her. Rŷn ni'n gweld, trwy ein gwaith ni, effaith bositif canolfan genedlaethol dysgu'r iaith, ac rŷn ni'n croesawu'r nod i drio gwneud yn siŵr bod rôl iddyn nhw wrth rannu'r arfer yna ar draws yr holl system addysg hefyd. So, rŷn ni'n gweld bod optimism o safbwynt y Papur Gwyn, ond mae tipyn o her yn dal i fod.

Yes, I agree. On the whole, this is one of the areas where the work we've done over the years and the recommendations that we've put forward have had an impact and have been heard, I think. So, we welcome the White Paper and some of its content related to the immersion provision and the language continuum. These are issues that we have raised with the Government. So, we welcome that, but it is a major challenge, I think, as Owen has described. I think what's important is the culture across the system, and the fact that school leaders believe that there is something positive in developing the language, particularly in English-medium schools. And what we are seeing, where they are prioritising the professional development of staff, is that there is an effect across the school in terms of the standard of the Welsh language amongst staff and students, and that that can happen very quickly. So, it is possible, but we do need to share that good practice across the system, and the investment in professional development over time will assist in that, but it is a challenge. We do see, through our work, the positive impact of the National Centre for Learning Welsh, and we welcome the aim of trying to ensure that there is a role for them to share good practice across the education system too. So, we see that there is optimism in terms of the White Paper, but it is still a challenge.

Dwi jest moyn atodi dau beth. Yn gyntaf, rôn i'n trafod yn gynnau fach efo James y syniad yma o bwy sy'n gwneud beth efo'r safonau. Mae'r ganolfan iaith yn esiampl ble mae dod â'r cyrff at ei gilydd wedi gweithio. Rŷn ni'n gweld bod arweinyddiaeth glir a bod pawb yn deall beth maen nhw fod yn gwneud, ac mae hwnna wedi gweithio. 

Yr ail beth yw, er ein bod ni'n siarad am y Llywodraeth ac yn siarad am y system, wrth gwrs, rŷn ni'n arolygu awdurdodau lleol hefyd. Yn bersonol, nawr, ym mhob arolygiaeth awdurdod lleol, dwi wedyn yn cwrdd â'r prif weithredwr a'r arweinydd, achos mae addysg ar draws awdurdod lleol, ddim jest yr adran addysg. Ac un o'r pethau dwi'n trafod efo nhw yw faint o waith maen nhw'n ei roi i mewn i sicrhau bod yr iaith yn ffynnu. Ac mae yna drafodaethau wedi bod rhyngof i a'r awdurdod lleol yn ddiweddar iawn am wella agwedd a gwella gweithredu.

I just want to add two things. First of all, we were discussing earlier with James this concept of who does what with standards. The National Centre for Learning Welsh is an example of where bringing bodies together has worked. We see that there's clear leadership and everyone understands what their role is, and that works.

The second thing is that, having spoken about the Government and the system, we also inspect local authorities. Personally, in every inspection of local authorities now, I meet with the chief executive and leader of those authorities, because education is about the whole authority, not just the education department. And one of the things that I discuss with them is how much work they put into ensuring that the Welsh language is prospering. And there are discussions between me and local authorities that have taken place very recently on making improvements in this area.

10:45

Rŷn ni'n dechrau arolygu'r ddarpariaeth drochi nawr yn mynd ymlaen, so byddwn ni'n cynnal peilot ar ôl y Pasg. So, rŷn ni'n edrych ymlaen i weld sut mae'r ddarpariaeth yn datblygu. 

We are starting to inspect the immersion provision now going forward, so we'll be piloting that just after Easter. So, we look forward to seeing how that provision is developing. 

Ond eto, gwaith pwysig iawn.

A gaf i ofyn un cwestiwn olaf, felly? Rydych chi wedi sôn cryn dipyn am bwysigrwydd hyfforddiant athrawon a pha mor bwysig ydy'r arweinyddiaeth yna o ran ethos a datblygiad ysgol. Ydych chi'n credu bod yna ddigon o gyfleon i athrawon hyfforddi drwy gydol eu gyrfa ar y funud? Ydyn ni'n rhoi digon o amser? Roeddech chi'n sôn yn gynharach, heb sôn am y newidiadau arfaethedig efo tymhorau ysgol, ond o ran y dyddiau maen nhw'n dysgu o gymharu â faint o amser sydd yna efo'r nifer o newidiadau. Ydych chi'n meddwl bod hwnna'n rhywbeth fydd angen adlewyrchu arno fo?

But again, very important work. 

May I ask one final question, please? You've talked a great deal about the importance of teacher training and how important that leadership is in terms of the ethos and development of a school. Do you believe that there are sufficient opportunities for teachers to train throughout their careers? Do we allocate sufficient time? You mentioned earlier, without considering the proposed changes to the school terms, but in terms of the days that they teach as compared to the time available to deal with the many changes. Do you think that that is something that will need to be reflected upon?

Fuaswn i ddim eisiau crynhoi hwn i mewn i ddadl amboutu sawl diwrnod INSET maen nhw'n eu cael. Pan oeddwn i'n sôn, gynnau fach, amboutu'r flwyddyn addysg, dwi'n credu bod yna ddadl i'w chael amboutu faint ŷn ni'n cael plant i eistedd o flaen athro, a faint o amser sydd gan athrawon i wneud hyfforddiant. Ond y cwestiwn cyntaf i fi yw: maen nhw'n cael rhywfaint o amser nawr ar gyfer hyfforddiant, a dyw'r hyfforddiant ddim yn ddigonol. Ac felly'r cwestiwn cyntaf i fi yw sicrhau bod yr amser dŷn ni'n ei roi i athrawon i gael eu hyfforddi, bod e'n werth chweil ac yn gwneud gwahaniaeth, achos dyna'r gwendid yn aml iawn. Mae pobl yn dda am weithio allan, 'Reit, dŷn ni'n wan yn hwn, mae'n rhaid i ni ganolbwyntio arno.' Ond ble mae pobl yn wan wedyn yw sicrhau eu bod nhw'n edrych nôl a gofyn, 'Ydy beth dŷn ni wedi'i wneud wedi gweithio yn y dosbarth?' A dwi'n credu dyna pam dŷn ni'n dal yn sôn am sicrhau bod rhywun wrth ochr yr athrawon i sicrhau eu bod nhw'n deall ac yn gallu gwella. Ac felly, i fi, defnyddio'r amser yn fwy effeithiol i ddechrau fuasai'r cam i fi. 

I wouldn't want to reduce this to a debate about how many INSET days they have. When I was talking earlier about the school year, I think there is a debate to be had in terms of how much time children spend sitting in front of a teacher, and how much time is available for teachers to undertake training. But the first question for me is: there is some time available now for training and the training isn't adequate. So, the first question for me is to ensure that the time that we give to teachers for training is valuable and makes a difference, because that's very often the weakness. People are very good at working out, 'Right, we're weak here, we have to focus on it.' But what people are weak at doing then is ensuring that they look back and think, 'Has what we've done actually worked and had an impact in the classroom?' And I think that's why we're still talking about ensuring that there is someone next to our teachers to ensure that they understand and can improve. So, for me, using that time more effectively would be the first step. 

I think it is quite a complex issue, particularly for English-medium schools. I mean, the recruitment and training of staff is quite difficult. We visit schools where there is a real passion for the Welsh language coming through from leadership, but they just cannot fill teaching posts and, as Owen said, there is a problem with recruitment as well, and the number of candidates doing Welsh A-level is at an all-time low. So, I think the passion for the language is being nurtured throughout education, but we need to get the supply of staff through to schools, and I think that's probably our biggest challenge, and that is obviously related to what you were alluding to around adequate training and opportunities for staff.

In secondary, it's quite usual for us to—. If we've got a gap in a Welsh department, but we have a Welsh speaker somewhere else, we try and support [correction: In secondary, where schools have a gap in the Welsh department, but have a Welsh speaker somewhere else, they try and support] those members of staff to actually make a transition into Welsh language teaching, but that isn't always possible and not always ideal. So, it's quite a challenge.

Efallai os dof fi yn ôl yn benodol am yr iaith Gymraeg a hyfforddiant. Os edrychwn ni ar wledydd fel Gwlad y Basg a llefydd fel yna, maen nhw wedi comitio llawer mwy o amser i hyfforddi athrawon yn yr iaith Fasgeg.

Mae dysgu Cymraeg yn anodd. Mae gyda ni bobl sy'n siarad Cymraeg sydd ddim yn fodlon dysgu drwy'r Gymraeg achos eu bod nhw'n amau nad yw eu gwaith ysgrifenedig nhw'n ddigon cryf—sydd yn rhywbeth Cymreig. Dwi yn licio'r system sabothol a dwi yn meddwl os dŷn ni wir eisiau newid pethau, ambell waith mae'n rhaid i ni jest wneud beth sydd ei angen. Ac efallai paratoi, yn yr iaith Gymraeg yn enwedig, mwy o amser i athrawon gymryd cyfnod i ffwrdd i ddysgu drwy drochi yn y bôn—system Wlpan a phethau fel yna. Mae'n rhaid i ni ystyried hynny.

Perhaps if I can come back specifically on the Welsh language and training. If we look at countries like the Basque Country and so on, they have committed a lot more time to train teachers in the Basque language.

Learning Welsh is difficult. We have Welsh speakers who aren't willing to teach through the medium of Welsh because they don't think that their written Welsh is strong enough, which is a very Welsh attitude to take. I do like the sabbatical approach and I do think that if we truly want to change things, then sometimes we just have to do what's required. And perhaps we need to prepare, for the Welsh language in particular, more time for teachers to take some time away to learn through immersion, basically—the Wlpan system and things like that. We do have to consider those issues. 

Thank you, Chair. I'd like to start with some questions about numeracy skills, if that's okay. Now, your report highlights that learners' numeracy skills are less well developed than previous cohorts prior to the pandemic. To what extent is this impairing learners’ abilities to complete and to succeed in further education and work-based learning?

10:50

We've talked little bit about the challenge of numeracy within schools and, clearly, that then translates through into post-16, and we have seen, since the pandemic, the skill levels across literacy and numeracy and other aspects of skills being at a lower level than perhaps they were pre-pandemic. For those learners entering post-16 education, that clearly poses a challenge for particular qualifications, particularly if you look at something like apprenticeships. We published a report this year about essential skills in apprenticeships, finding that there are a variety of approaches, but the way that that's being delivered as part of those apprenticeships doesn't always give learners, I guess, those skills in a contextual basis for the work that they're going to be undertaking.

So, I think you've got a couple of things that are coming together there: firstly, that we are seeing lower baselines, so there are more learners who are having to pick up those skills once they get into FE or into apprenticeships. But, secondly, some of the ways and the models that perhaps those skills are then being delivered in post 16 aren't always engaging and motivating learners, I guess, to develop further their numeracy skills in those contexts.

To what extent, then, are the less-developed numeracy skills that we're seeing a contributing effect to reduced completion rates in apprenticeship frameworks? The completion rates used to be phenomenal, above 80 per cent in Wales, whereas I think in England, it was in the 60s. Now in Wales, it's fallen, although still ahead of England. To what extent is that owing to relatively reduced skills levels in numeracy, and what do you believe are the other reasons behind the longer completion rates and the reduced completion rates, and what can be done?

I think that is a contributing factor; I'm not sure it's necessarily one of the major factors in some of those longer completion rates. Some of the other things we're seeing are kind of relating to the work that young people are doing on those apprenticeships, and perhaps people then moving out, so therefore not completing, or perhaps changing role a number of times, so making the time it takes for them to complete a little bit longer.

We've also seen those qualifications change, and the new qualifications in things like health and social care, construction and the built environment, have different components, more theory-based things as well, so we're seeing, because of the different components, that those new qualifications are also taking a little bit longer to complete.

But I think one of the biggest challenges is perhaps people moving out, so therefore not completing at all, and I think that's a challenge particularly of the jobs market at the moment, and it impacts on enrolments as well for apprenticeships. People may be starting an apprenticeship, but then they're seeing, 'Actually, I can get paid a better wage elsewhere in another job, that perhaps doesn't have that ongoing vocational training attached to it, but for me, a young person at this point in my life, that seems like the right choice for me to make.'

So, I think there are a variety of factors that are actually impacting on that completion. I think there was a bit of a hangover from the pandemic where, for some apprenticeships, assessors couldn't actually get access to learners for quite a long time. We're seeing that coming to an end now. That was particularly prevalent in things like health and social care, but there is still a bit of a tail where people are catching up, now that they've had a sustained period of being able to actually access learners in their workplaces to undertake some of the assessments and things. So, I think there are a range of factors contributing, of which that numeracy and that completion of the essential skills component is just one element of it

Thank you. Just finally from me, a quick question about Jobs Growth Wales+. Your report says that enrolments remain low and that too few learners are accessing meaningful opportunities in terms of work experience. What would you like to see being done by Welsh Government to address this?

I think to be fair to Welsh Government and to the providers delivering that, time has past now since our report and I think that the referral systems that they set up initially didn’t work particularly well and there were some adjustments of those. So, I think the numbers have increased now and are what they were hoping they would be, which is positive.

I think it’s interesting the lack of interest and uptake in that employment strand of the programme. I think the factor that I talked about previously in terms of actual payment is a factor in that. I think that people have seen that if they were going to go into that, there may be other ways that they can get paid employment that may pay more than the pay they were given for being on that employment strand. So, I think it doesn’t seem to be set up in a way that is perhaps as attractive to young people at that point. Lots of the young people accessing that programme talk really positively, when they’re on things like the engagement strand, about that increase in confidence, increase in skills that help them then to take steps into employment or into further education or training. So, perhaps the employment strand of the programme is not as vital because they’re getting through the other strands what they need in order to take the steps into engaging in education and employment anyway. But I think that’s for Welsh Government to have a think about as they go forward, how the structure of that programme works and what are the best ways to organise the different strands of support. And I think that’s something they’ll do.

We’re hoping we’re going to do another piece of work. We’re just talking with Welsh Government to follow up on a couple of those areas, particularly that area of referrals, to see, a year and a bit on, how that is working now and whether some of those teething problems in terms of the routes in from different partners, who may be engaging with these young people who are currently not really engaged in education and training, whether those referral routes have been strengthened. It looks like it from the numbers in terms of young people accessing the programme, but it will be interesting to look back and see where they’re actually coming from and what that impact is.

10:55

Okay, thank you. Thanks, Ken. Thank you. That's the end of the evidence session this morning. I really appreciate you taking the time and coming in. I know we've run a little bit over. We are going to take a short break. I know you'll be joining us. I would usually say to bring the next witnesses in, but you're part of that panel. I know we're bringing one more witness in, so we'll take that short break. 

Just to say that you'll also receive a transcript to check for factual accuracy in due course, but we'll just move on to the next session.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:58 a 11:06.

The meeting adjourned between 10:58 and 11:06.

11:05
3. Gweithredu diwygiadau addysg - sesiwn dystiolaeth
3. Implementation of education reforms - evidence session

Croeso nôl. Welcome back. We will go into the next item on our agenda, which is the implementation of education reforms. This is our first evidence session on this—checking. I'd like to welcome back many members of the panel who have just joined us again. So, we have Owen Evans, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector at Estyn; Claire Morgan, strategic director at Estyn; Jassa Scott, strategic director at Estyn; and the new member of our panel this morning, we have Dyfrig Ellis, assistant director at Estyn. So, you're all very welcome. So, we will make a start on the questions on this session, and we'll start with Buffy Williams. Buffy. 

Thank you, Chair, and welcome back. How crucial is it that schools focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning as an integral element of implementing the Curriculum for Wales, rather than simply introducing a new curriculum? And to what extent is this the main factor in the success or otherwise of schools' delivery of curriculum reform?

Yes, certainly. The short answer is 'absolutely essential'. Our own inspection evidence and education research identifies the quality of teaching and high-quality teaching as having the greatest impact on outcomes for learners. This is why, in our new inspection arrangements, the quality of teaching and improving teaching is very, very prominent in the framework.

We've seen that successful schools have an unrelenting focus on developing high-quality teaching. They design their professional learning programmes around continually improving teaching, and they have programmes, as Owen mentioned earlier, for staff to work alongside excellent practitioners to keep developing their practice. So, we would say that an emphasis on high-quality teaching should underpin all the developments and educational priorities that we have.

It's probably worth saying as well, because I think it's a truism, that, in all the years I've been involved in education, whenever you have a specific issue and you think, 'Right, we can target that; we can fix that', what you see is that the best schools are typically pretty good at everything. And I think the challenge sometimes is to make sure that that all-encompassing approach to curriculum development, to assessment, to progression, to support for pupils is what works, and you can't just take one bit of it. And when we were talking about curriculum development earlier on, where we see the best curriculum development, and we do see some brilliant practice, it's where they've really taken those four steps to, yes, get the content and the syllabus right, but they look at the welfare, they look at the assessment and they look at the progression steps. And it works when you bring all of those together. And where we see that, it's just wonderful to see. 

Thank you. Thank you for that answer. You say in your annual report that there needs to be more guidance on assessment and progression. What specifically is needed over and above the progression code, ministerial direction and guidance that has already been issued?

11:10

I'll come to Claire in a second. What we're seeing is that—. As I said, the best schools do it. But we have got a fear that, when you introduce something new—and the new curriculum is new—that, frequently, people come to question their practice in other areas and sometimes wait for guidance to come out on that. So, I think, in some areas, we've actually seen a de-skilling of the profession as they wait for whoever it is who is looking at what assessment should look like in the future. Teachers have been assessing pupils and working out progression steps since they were invented, and sometimes we're not using the skills that are already in the system. The other issue we have sometimes is that guidance is frequently a way that Government tries to spur behaviours in the system. Sometimes the guidance is not specific enough and not based enough on classroom practice.

Yes. I absolutely agree with what Owen is saying. We're still seeing that there is widespread support for the Curriculum for Wales, and I would say that a majority of primary schools and probably a minority of secondary schools are making really good progress, but the ones that are making good progress, as Owen said, they've identified high-quality teaching as a goal and they're unrelenting in their focus on high-quality teaching to support the implementation of the curriculum. But there probably has been some reluctance to give lots and lots of guidance to schools, because the whole ethos of the Curriculum for Wales is that schools were given the autonomy to develop a curriculum that meets the needs of their learners in their community. So, the guidance documents have been put out there at quite a high level, and, for our best schools, that has been enough guidance, but what we are seeing is that some schools are lacking in confidence, and therefore they need more guidance on what good progress looks like. So, what is out there already is perhaps not detailed enough, but recently we've met with Welsh Government officers to offer our support in developing some of that guidance, and we've got a team of inspectors who are working on supporting the curriculum, who are going now to look at providing some more of that guidance. I think it's probably worth noting that, for non-maintained nursery settings, they of course were given a curriculum and assessment arrangements and they're making really good progress. But that information can also be used by primary schools as well for the same age learners, and we're finding increasingly that primary schools are picking up that extra guidance. So, it just needs a bit more detail and a bit more guidance on progress and what good progress looks like at different stages.

Thank you. Just moving on to ALN reform, can you briefly summarise how the implementation of the ALN system has gone so far, and to what extent are schools coping and considering, perhaps, those other challenges they face? We talked about some of that earlier on as well.

Sure. I think it's important to establish at the very beginning that the implementation of the ALN reform is an extremely complex one. It's an extremely complex process—so, we've got the transitioning from the previous system to the new systems—and I think it's fair to say that schools began to implement the ALN reform, the changes, during the pandemic, but they'd already started to prepare for that before that, for example with developing person-centered practices. Overall schools are responding well to those challenges, but the report that we did publish last year does quite clearly draw the attention to the role of the additional learning needs co-ordinators and the additional pressures and the workload that they're currently under, and those ALNCOs who are currently members of the senior management team have a strategic role in the development of ALN in school. They're at the table. They're continually talking about ALN. But what we're seeing is that there's an additional workload for them, and it's been highlighted already in the pay and working conditions document, the report that was published yesterday by Welsh Government. So, we're looking at and seeing that the increased workload, including teaching, looking at the curriculum, quality assurances, is an increased consideration for the ALNCOs and the work that they're currently doing. So, when we do find that the ALNCO is a part of that strategic management, that's constantly being influenced—the whole-school decisions—in terms of ALN. And it's important to note that the Act does specify quite clearly that the role of the ALNCO is a strategic one, and that's important for us to remember. 

The ALNCOs that took part, they were certainly enthusiastic. They were committed, even though they've seen considerable change, not just in their workload, but in their leadership experience, their responsibilities, and it's not uncommon for ALNCOs to have additional responsibilities, including responsibilities across the curriculum.

The development of cluster working, we've seen that as a significant establishment within the work with the ALNCOs, working together collaboratively with other ALNCOs across authorities. We've seen some good practice in terms of what happens. There's an example up in the inclusion and equality team up in Anglesey, and in Gwynedd, where they're working collaboratively with ALNCOs across the board. 

We've also noted, then, in terms of professional learning, that that's a considerable challenge for schools and local authorities. There's been some positive impact in terms of their understanding of how the Act works, but, as we've already alluded to, it's the pedagogy, it's the teaching, it's the supporting of individual pupils and meeting their needs that is still a challenge for them. 

We have got effective practices that have been highlighted in the reports. There's clear, consistent and timely advice, then, provided from regional transformational leads, from local authorities, but, again, I'm coming back to that really pivotal and important role of the ALN co-ordinator, and the work that they're currently doing with families to support their own children on this journey. 

There still remains some lack of clarity about statutory duties. Some local authorities are struggling with the workload pressures to meet those statutory duties, and, again, there are some inconsistencies across local authorities and schools in terms of the quality and accessibility of information that is available to parents in order to support their own children, and support the school as well in what needs to happen. 

11:15

Okay, thank you. We're going to follow some of that up now with questions from Laura Jones. Laura. 

Thank you, Chair. Yes, as you say, schools have had to deal with an awful lot in a short amount of time with the new curriculum and the ALN reforms coming in in a short amount of time. And not only that, the 22 different interpretations of the ALN reforms. So, bearing that in mind, since the new system became implemented, how confident are you that learners' needs are being met, given the maxed-out school budgets, lack of trained staff and a lack of national approach? Thank you. 

I think, overall, what we're seeing across our inspection work, is that, largely, learners' needs are being met. I think schools, as Dyfrig said, have embraced some aspects of the reforms, like person-centred planning, and we're seeing that having a real impact in how they work, not just with pupils with ALN, but often across the school in terms of those more individualised approaches to understanding learners' needs and interests to help shape how they work and plan to work with them. I think what we're seeing is that schools are adopting that graduated response. So, there is a range of support going in in terms of just some of that intervention work for learners who perhaps aren't identified as additional learning needs but need a bit of extra support at some point.

So, I think, overall, we think, from our inspection work, that, actually, provision for learners with additional learning needs is fairly strong. However, we've already talked about some of the challenges across the sessions this morning, haven't we, in terms of, actually, there being quite a complex set of needs that schools are trying to meet, and that affects learners with additional learning needs as much as it affects pupils across the board. So, the challenges that we've already talked about in terms of attendance, in terms of, perhaps, some of those enhanced behaviour issues and things in schools, they will be impacting on learners with additional learning needs, as well as other learners.

So, I think, overall, we're generally seeing that those needs are being met. Some of those improvements that we talked about in terms of engagement with parents, person-centred practices, that, overall, I guess, awareness and understanding of additional learning needs within schools, are supporting that, but with the caveat that, if some of those other things aren't working overall, then they won't be working as well for learners with additional learning needs, as they won't be for their peers. So, that relentless focus on teaching, on that individualised understanding and support, on understanding the community context and things, is still just as important for supporting learners with additional learning needs.

11:20

Just to tie that up with the figures, I think one of the purposes of the ALN Act was to decrease the number of people who were within category, so to speak, and we've seen the number of pupils who are registered as ALN now drop by about a third. So, that would be a concern. But what we're seeing is that the people who previously were ALN are being picked up through having individual development plans or statements of special educational needs as well. We're always looking at funding as well. The funding for ALN, probably almost for the past decade, has gone up year by year. It's currently at almost £500 million, a significant amount of money, and has gone up quite considerably post pandemic. One of the things, obviously, we'll be looking at is whether that type of budget is retained in future.

Thank you. You've just recognised, obviously, the variety of complex needs presenting themselves in mainstream education. It appears there is now an intermediate category of learners who require more than universal provision—[Inaudible.]

Is that okay? Sorry. Can you hear me? Yes. You recognise the rise in complex needs, as you've just said, presenting themselves in mainstream education, but it now appears there is an intermediate category of learners who require more than universal provision, or ordinarily available provision, but are not deemed to have ALN. What implications is this having, and how much consistency is there in how schools are providing for such pupils? Thank you. Thanks, Chair.

I think, just picking up on what Jassa said, schools are reassuring that the needs of pupils are being met from our work during the thematic work of last year and indeed our current inspection work this academic year. It's important to recognise that schools are ensuring that pupils' needs are being met. But there is a common misunderstanding, possibly, in terms of what constitutes provision, and how does that look in terms of additional learning needs. Schools are using different terminology, different categorisations of provision. So, we have universal plus, targeted, specialist, specialist including multi-agency support. Funny enough then, interestingly, some of the regions even categorise differently within regions. So, one school's understanding of what targeted support will be might be different to that of another school down the road. Schools are expected to provide that graduated response, they're expected to meet the needs of individual pupils, they're expected to assess what those needs are, and then they would meet those needs, either through a universal provision—. But there is that grey area in the middle where we find, as has been pointed out now, that those pupils who need more than universal support, but don't meet that threshold, that criteria for formal identification of ALN, are still a challenge for schools. 

I think as well it's about some of the points we've already made about EOTAS and that wider support. There will be some learners who perhaps don't have additional learning needs but, for whatever reason, at that point in their life, need a bit of extra support around well-being, or there are some things happening that are meaning their behaviour is causing difficulties in mainstream school, and that's the reason that things like pupil referral units were established, in terms of that short-term intensive support, which may just be what someone needs to help move back into mainstream school. And we've already picked up that there's pressure on some of those specialist services, which is meaning that perhaps learners who would access some of that support, which would then just mean that they're able to reintegrate and to carry on with that mainstream schooling, without that additional support perhaps aren't getting that early enough as well, which may be exacerbating some of the issues we've talked about previously. So, they're not necessarily learners with ALN but, as you talked about, Laura, there are some of those learners who maybe need a bit of extra support at some point.

It's down to pedagogy. The same with curriculum reform, ALN reform—it's down to good, effective teaching, and that's what we're seeing in the best schools. That's how they've addressed that. They’ve invested in professional learning for their staff to make sure that they have got the skills in order to meet those needs.

11:25

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Rydych chi wedi ymateb i peth o hyn, jest o ran y berthynas efo rhieni, ond, yn amlwg, nod yr holl ddiwygiadau oedd i wella'r berthynas a trio cael llai o anghytuno a gwrthdaro. Ond eto, rydyn ni wedi clywed lot fawr o dystiolaeth gan rieni ei fod o'n dal yn parhau yn frwydr barhaus dros eu plant ac ati. Ydych chi'n gweld hynny'n gwella drwy eich gwaith, o ran bod yna lai o'r teimlad yma, trwy'r diwygiadau, neu ydych chi'n meddwl ei fod o'n dal yn rhywbeth sydd angen gwaith pellach arno fo?

Thank you very much. You have responded to some of this already, in terms of the relationship with parents, but, clearly, the aim of all of these reforms is to improve the relationship and to have less conflict. But we've heard a great deal of evidence from parents that it continues to be an ongoing battle for their children and so on. So, do you see that improving through your work, in terms of there being less of this feeling, through these reforms, or do you still feel that it's something that needs further work?

Dwi'n meddwl ei bod hi'n dal yn rhywbeth sydd angen gwaith pellach, ond rŷn ni wedi gweld pethau yn gwella hefyd. Dwi'n meddwl bod yr holl person-centred planning a'r cynllun ar y cyd gyda'r bobl ifanc a'r rhieni wedi helpu'r berthynas yna rhwng rhieni a'r ysgol, yn cynnwys y plant yn y canol. So, mae hwn wedi cryfhau y berthynas yma ar y cyfan, dwi'n meddwl. Dwi'n meddwl bod rhai o'r ysgolion wedi cyfathrebu yn sensitif iawn trwy yr holl broses yma, yn sicr lle mae, efallai, disgybl wedi bod ar, er enghraifft, school action plus, ond ddim yn cael IDP yn mynd ymlaen. Ac rŷn ni wedi gweld bod y berthynas gryf yna, a'r cyfathrebu sensitif, rili wedi helpu rhoi hyder i'r rhieni fod y ddarpariaeth yn iawn a bod anghenion eu plant yn cael eu hateb gan yr ysgol.

Ond mae yna heriau, yn sicr. Mae Dyfrig wedi disgrifio rhai o'r cymysgedd yna o derminoleg o gwmpas pethau i wneud gyda darpariaeth, ac mae rhieni yn gallu ffeindio bod hwn yn eu cymysgu nhw tipyn bach. Ac mae dal tipyn bach o bryder, dwi'n meddwl, o safbwynt, 'Ble bydd fy mhlant i yn mynd ar ôl 16, ar ôl gadael ysgol?' a'r ansicrwydd am y trefniadau yna. A siŵr o fod, mae yna enghreifftiau penodol lle dyw plant a rhieni ddim, efallai, yn teimlo'u bod nhw'n cael y ddarpariaeth sydd ei hangen. Efallai i ni a'r arolygiadau, dydyn ni ddim yn eu gweld nhw i gyd fel enghreifftiau penodol, ond rŷn ni'n dechrau gweld rhai ohonyn nhw yn mynd trwy at y tribiwnal hefyd. Rŷn ni wedi gweld bod efallai awdurdodau wedi dibynnu tipyn bach gormod ar y llwybr yna i roi'r penderfyniad yn y ffordd yna, i'r tribiwnal, yn y dyddiau cynnar o'r reforms.

I think it does still need further work, but we have seen improvements too. I think the whole person-centred planning and the joint planning with pupils and parents has helped with that relationship between parents and schools, and it includes the children at its heart. So, this has strengthened that relationship, generally speaking, I would say. Some of the schools have communicated very sensitively through the whole process, certainly where a pupil has been on school action plus but doesn't have an ongoing IDP. And we have seen that that strong relationship and that sensitive communication has really helped to give confidence to parents that the provision is right and that the needs of their children are being addressed by the school.

But there are certainly challenges. Dyfrig has already described some of the mixed terminology around provision, and parents can certainly find that confusing. And there is still some concern, I think, around where children will go once they reach the age of 16 and leave school, and there is some uncertainty about those arrangements. And I'm sure there must be specific examples where children and parents perhaps don't feel that they are receiving the required provision. Perhaps for us and the inspections, we don't see all of the specific examples and don't identify all of them, but we are seeing some of them going through to tribunal too. And we have seen that authorities have relied a little too much on that pathway to come to a decision—they were referring to a tribunal in the early stages of the reforms, perhaps.

Ac mae'n bwysig jest nodi hefyd—. Dwi'n dod yn ôl at waith y cydlynydd anghenion dysgu ychwanegol, yr ALNCO, ac mae yna enghreifftiau cryf allan yna lle mae yna wydnwch yn y ffordd maen nhw'n cydweithio gyda rhieni'r ysgolion yna. Mae Ysgol Borthyn yn Rhuthun, er enghraifft, yn un esiampl dda iawn. Mae o'n astudiaeth achos gyda ni, lle mae'r ALNCO wedi mynd allan o'i ffordd yn fanna, nid er mwyn osgoi unrhyw dribwnal—nid dyna'r bwriad o gwbwl—ond i sicrhau bod y disgyblion yma'n cael y cymorth ac yn cael y gefnogaeth maen nhw ei hangen. Ond, fel dywedodd Jassa yn barod, mae yna orddibyniaeth, dwi'n meddwl, ar gyrraedd rhyw fan lle na ellir troi nôl. Felly, er mwyn cael eglurder o ran beth yw'r derminoleg gywir i'w defnyddio, mae'n rhaid cael cysondeb Cymru gyfan ynglŷn â'r cysondeb yna, fel bod y rhieni yn eu deall nhw, bod yr ymarferwyr hefyd yn deall yn union beth mae'r Ddeddf yn gofyn amdano fo. Achos ar ddiwedd y dydd, fel mae'r cyfreithwyr yn barod wedi dweud, mae'r gyfraith yn trympio polisi unrhyw ysgol neu unrhyw awdurdod.

And it's also important to note—. I return to the work of the ALNCO, and there are very strong examples out there where there is resilience in the way that they're working in collaboration with parents and schools. Ysgol Borthyn in Ruthin, for example, is a very good example of that, where the ALNCO has gone out of their way there, not in terms of avoiding a tribunal—that's not the intention—but to ensure that the pupil receives the support that they need. But, as Jassa said, there is an overdependence, I think, on reaching a point of no return. So, we need to have clarity on the right terminology to use, and we need consistency across Wales in terms of that consistency of terms, so that practitioners and parents understand what the legislation is requiring. Because at the end of the day, as the lawyers have already said, the law trumps the policy of any school or any authority.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. I ddod nôl at thema arall o gysondeb neu anghysondeb, mae'ch adroddiad thematig yn dweud bod diffyg adnoddau, asesiadau, staffio a darpariaeth ddigonol drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Efallai ichi weld ar y BBC ddoe enghraifft o deulu lle roedd mab wedi gorfod symud o ysgol Gymraeg i un Saesneg er mwyn cael y cymorth oedd angen arno fo, gan ei fod o'n fyddar. Yn anffodus, dydy hwnna ddim yn bennawd unigryw, ac yn sicr, o'ch gwaith chi, mae hynny wedi bod yn dod drosodd hefyd. I ba raddau ydych chi'n meddwl bod y sefyllfa'n gwella, ac ydy awdurdodau lleol yn bodloni'r dyletswydd statudol i barhau i adolygu trefniadau anghenion dysgu ychwanegol, gan gynnwys bod yna ddigon o ddarpariaeth cyfrwng Cymraeg? Roeddech chi'n sôn yn y sesiwn gynharach eich bod chi'n cyfarfod efo arweinwyr awdurdodau lleol a'r prif weithredwyr. Ydy hwn yn un o'r pethau, o ran addysg Gymraeg, rydych chi'n ei drafod ac rydych chi'n gweld symudiad ynddo fo?

On another issue of consistency or inconsistency, your thematic report says that there are a lack of resources, assessments, staffing and sufficiency of provision through the medium of Welsh. Perhaps you saw on the BBC yesterday an example of a family where a pupil had had to move from a Welsh-medium school to an English-medium school to get the support that he needed, because he was deaf. Unfortunately, that's not a unique case, and, certainly, from your work, that has been coming through. So, to what extent do you think the situation is improving, and are local authorities meeting their statutory duty to keep arrangements for ALN under review, including the sufficiency of Welsh-medium provision? You mentioned in the earlier session that you do meet with the chief executives and leaders of local authorities. Is this one of the issues, in terms of Welsh-medium education, that you discuss, and are you seeing any developments here?

11:30

Roeddech chi'n cyfeirio at yr eitem yn y newyddion ddoe. Mae hi'n diwn gron, onid ydy, lle mae yna rieni'n gorfod gwneud penderfyniadau anodd er mwyn sicrhau bod eu plentyn nhw yn cael y ddarpariaeth sydd ei hangen. Mae'r sefyllfa o ran adnoddau cyfrwng Cymraeg yn gwella—mae hynna'n bwysig i'w nodi—ond mae yna dal ddiffyg adnoddau, mae yna ddiffyg deunyddiau asesu, mae yna ddiffyg staffio, a hefyd mae yna anghysondeb ynglŷn â datblygiad proffesiynol parhaus ar gyfer ymarferwyr cyfrwng Cymraeg. O'r 15 cynllun aildrefnu y gwnaethom ni eu derbyn rhwng Medi 2022 a Mehefin 2023, mae yna ddau awdurdod addysg wedi nodi eu bod nhw'n mynd i ehangu ar y ddarpariaeth anghenion dysgu arbennig trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Felly, mae hwnna'n un peth i'w nodi. Ond mae awdurdodau addysg yn gyffredinol yn nodi bod yna brinder recriwtio staff, staff cyfrwng Cymraeg, ac mae honna'n her sy'n parhau.

Mae deunyddiau asesu yn brin iawn, iawn, ac rydyn ni'n gweld yn aml iawn wrth drafod ag ysgolion ac ymarferwyr eu bod nhw'n gorfod cyfieithu eu hunain. Dydyn nhw ddim yn arbenigwyr yn y maes yna o gyfieithu, ond er mwyn sicrhau bod yr arlwy a'r ddarpariaeth yna, maen nhw'n troi at gyfieithu. Mae yna awdurdodau wedyn sy'n secondio ymarferwyr effeithiol. Mae hwnna wedyn, yn amlwg, yn glastwreiddio'r arbenigedd o fewn yr ysgol yna. Ond wedyn, mae yna gwestiwn ynglŷn â'r grant a'r cyllido sydd ar gael i wneud hynny, a pha mor gynaliadwy ydy hynny yn y pen draw.

Felly, mae yna lefydd lle mae nhw'n gwella, ond wrth gwrs, mae yna dal brinder yn y maes yna, ac mae o'n ofid sydd gyda ni, ac rydyn ni yn cynnal trafodaethau gyda Llywodraeth Cymru ynglŷn â sut y mae modd i ni wella ar hynny. Ac wrth gwrs, mae hwn yn cael ei adleisio yn adroddiad diweddar Comisiynydd y Gymraeg, sydd hefyd yn atseinio'r hyn rydyn ni wedi ei amlygu yn yr adroddiad. Mae yna ysgolion, mae yna awdurdodau, sy'n cymryd camau pendant i'w wella fe, ond yn anffodus, dydy'r camau yna ddim wastad yn gynaliadwy. Rydyn ni hefyd yn gweld efallai bod y ddarpariaeth ar gyfer adnoddau a chefnogaeth cyfrwng Cymraeg yn y cadarnleoedd, lle mae'r Gymraeg yn ffynnu, yn llai o broblem nag ydy hi mewn llefydd lle nad yw'r Gymraeg yn cael ei defnyddio a'i harddel mor aml ac mor gyson.

You referred to the news item yesterday. It's a constant refrain, isn't it, when there are parents who have to make hard decisions to ensure that their child receives the provision that they need. The situation in terms of Welsh-medium resources is improving—it's important to note that—but there is still a lack of resources, there is a lack of assessment materials, there is a lack of staffing, and also there is an inconsistency with regard to ongoing professional development for practitioners through the medium of Welsh. In terms of the 15 reorganisation schemes that we received between September 2022 and June 2023, there are two education authorities that have noted that they're going to expand their provision for ALN through the medium of Welsh. So that is one thing to note. But education authorities in general are noting that there is a lack of recruitment of Welsh-medium teachers, and that is an ongoing challenge.

Assessment materials are very, very scarce, and we see very often in discussions with schools and practitioners that they have to translate themselves. They're not experts in that field of translation, but to ensure that the provision is there, they are turning to their own translation of materials. Then there are authorities that put their effective practitioners on secondment. That then, obviously, dilutes the expertise within those schools. But then, there's a question with regard to the grant and the funding available to do that, and how sustainable that is ultimately.

So, there are areas where there is improvement, but there is still a deficiency in that area, and it is a concern for us, and we are having discussions with the Welsh Government about how we can improve the situation. And this is echoed in the Welsh Language Commissioner's recent report, which also echos what we have pointed to in our report. There are schools, there are authorities, that are taking firm steps to improve the situation, but unfortunately, those steps aren't always sustainable. We also see that perhaps the provision of resources and support through the medium of Welsh in the heartlands, where the Welsh language is flourishing, is less of a problem that in areas where Welsh isn't used and spoken as frequently and as often.

Ydych chi'n ei gweld hi fel rhan o'ch rôl chi, felly, o ran perswadio rhai awdurdodau lleol o'r angen efo'r ddarpariaeth? Oherwydd un o'r heriau rydyn ni weithiau wedi dod ar ei thraws ydy ein bod ni'n clywed nad ydy'r angen yna, ond os ydych chi'n edrych o ran anghenion dysgu ychwanegol, rydyn ni'n gwybod beth ydy'r canrannau o blant, a dydyn nhw ddim yn mynd i fod ddim mewn ysgolion cyfrwng Cymraeg. Felly, ydych chi'n gweld bod peth o'ch gwaith chi hefyd nid dim ond yn arolygu ond yn cenhadu, mewn ffordd, neu eirioli o ran y meysydd yma?

Do you see it as part of your role, therefore, in terms of persuading some local authorities of the need in terms of this provision? Because one of the challenges that we've uncovered is that there is a claim that there isn't that demand there, but if you look at additional learning needs, we know what the percentages of children are, and they're going to be in Welsh-medium schools. So, do you see that some of your work is not just inspecting, but also advocating, in a way, in terms of these area?

Ydyn. Un o'r rhesymau dwi'n cwrdd efo'r arweinwyr a'r prif weithredwyr yw ein bod ni eisiau gweld gwella ar hyn. Rydyn ni'n deall bod sawl blaenoriaeth efo'r system addysg, mae sawl blaenoriaeth efo'n hysgolion, mae sawl blaenoriaeth efo'r awdurdodau lleol, ond mae hwn yn statudol; mae hwn, rydyn ni'n meddwl, o fudd i'r system ac i'r plant. Felly, rydyn ni eisiau gweld gwellhad, ond eto, mae e'n rhywbeth rydyn ni yn trio ei wneud—dangos ble mae pobl yn gallu gwneud pethau'n dda, a bod yna ffordd drwyddo.

Yes. One of the reasons that I meet with the leaders and the chief executives is that we want to see an improvement on this. We understand that there are several priorities within the education system, there are several priorities within our schools, there are several priorities within local authorities, but this is a statutory issue; this is something, we think, that is of benefit for the system and the children. So, we do want to see that improvement, but, again, it's something that we are trying to do—showing where people can do things well, and that there is a way forward.

Ac mae rhai awdurdodau'n dechrau ar y daith. Er enghraifft, rydyn ni wedi gweld enghreifftiau da yn ein harolygiad o Wynedd o safbwynt datblygu adnoddau arbennig i gefnogi plant ag anghenion dysgu ychwanegol. Ond i fynd yn ôl at y pwynt rydyn ni wedi ei wneud o safbwynt efallai bod angen rhywbeth yn genedlaethol, dydw i ddim yn siŵr eto beth fydd rôl y corff newydd—Adnodd, dwi'n meddwl, ydy'r enw—yn benodol i greu adnoddau ar gyfer plant ag anghenion dysgu ychwanegol. Siŵr o fod, fe ddylai fod rôl gyda nhw i wneud rhywbeth yn genedlaethol i osgoi jest 22 o bethau gwahanol yn digwydd.

And some authorities are starting the journey. For example, we've seen good examples in our inspection of Gwynedd, in terms of developing specialist resources to support children with additional learning needs. But to return to the point that we made earlier in terms of perhaps we do need a national approach, I'm not sure exactly what the role of the new body—Adnodd, I believe, is the name—will be specifically in producing materials for children with additional learning needs. But probably they should have a role to do something at a national level, to avoid just 22 different approaches.

Ac mae'n bwysig hefyd nodi bod y Ddeddf yn dweud yn ddigon clir mai hawl ydy hwn, nid rhywbeth mae ysgolion ac awdurdodau yn gallu ei ddewis. 

And it's also important to note that the Act states very clearly that this is a right, not just something that is optional for schools and authorities. 

11:35

A dyw e ddim yn sypréis ein bod ni'n cwrdd ag Adnodd yn yr wythnosau nesaf i drafod. 

And it will be no surprise that we'll be meeting Adnodd in the next few weeks for discussions. 

Thank you, Heledd. Diolch, Heledd. Questions from James Evans now. James. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. On additional learning needs, what we hear from a lot of people, from teachers and from parents as well, is they feel short-changed when it comes to ALN, that actually a lot of the money that's been made available by Government isn't going to the front line—either it's not coming through or it's being absorbed into back-office bureaucracy that tends to be in county halls. I was just interested—is that the impression you get when you go around schools, that schools are feeling short-changed, and they don't feel like the extra money that's available is coming through the system? 

[Inaudible.]—in a second. In some, no, but in some, yes. And I think sometimes—

I'd love to know where you said 'no', because it's not what we've been told. [Laughter.] 

It was something that was raised with us, I suppose, but transparency of the funding has been an issue. This is an area where there is significant funding going into it, and I think we have picked up through our thematic work that some schools feel it's a bit opaque where this money is going to. 

Yes, I think that is certainly something that's raised, and I think also that perhaps local authorities haven't been quick enough in reviewing the formula and how they distribute funding to schools, in particular in relation to ALN. So, some schools certainly are telling us that they feel like their allocations don't really match their current needs. They may have matched what their needs were a couple of years ago. So, there's a little bit of a time lag in funding finding its way based on need. So, yes, our work would chime with what it sounds like you're hearing that certainly schools feel that. I think that transparency is really important. I think there is a tension between schools wanting to see that money directly so that they can invest that in support and things that they want to provide for their pupils, versus them also wanting some of that specialist support that we've talked about throughout the morning that local authorities, for example, might be providing.

So, I think that, in the best scenarios, there's been a very open and transparent discussion and an understanding about what is collectively needed, and an agreement, as best you can agree, in terms of what will maybe be retained to provide some of those specialist services or what will be allocated out. There's been a lot of funding going into additional learning needs, additional funding over the last few years, and I think the other thing that we'd say is probably that the evaluation of the impact of that funding has perhaps not been strong enough overall. And that, perhaps, lack of transparency has not helped in terms of people thinking, 'Well, yes, we've had that funding, that's what we've used it for and we can see that impacting our school.' So, yes, we'd agree that it is a challenge.

Really quickly, Chair, it was remiss of me—I should declare an interest that one member of my family is in receipt of ALN support in a school, just to put that on the record now; I forgot to do it earlier. One quick question I have is about collaboration between health boards as well, because I think sometimes what we hear in evidence is that some people don't know what they're supposed to do between health and local authorities as well. And are health bodies able to make a full contribution to the help that they can do towards individual pupils as well, especially in the preparation of individual development plans. So, I'm just interested: is that something that you think needs more work on the collaboration between the two, so we know where they can actually help and help the system a bit more?

I think, on the positive side, the introduction of clinical lead officers has been welcomed, but it's what happening behind that I think is quite often the issue: have they actually changed practices? For most schools, actually, they're largely nonplussed as to what these clinical officers are for. 

Spot on. That collaboration was essential to make sure that the needs of these children are met. I think the role of the designated education clinical lead officer has been welcomed, but it's unclear at the moment and schools are unclear, and so are local authorities in terms of how they will contribute to overcoming the challenges that are currently there. And it's the ability of the health service to provide timely advice, useful advice. So, schools are waiting quite a long time for that advice, and there are challenges I know that prevent that from happening. So, whereas the role itself, that one-stop shop, ideally—it's great going to one person to get that information, but then it's the time that it takes for that information to be shared and filtered through, so that it's having a direct impact on the practice on the classroom floor. 

Okay. And my final question, Cadeirydd: another thing we hear in a lot of evidence is that post-16 pupils can't get the support. Up to 16—and then post 16 it tends to drop off, and then the whole system has got to start again. I'm just interested from your point of view—as a collaboration between post 16 and pre 16, is it better than what it was, or could that be improved? And how do you think it could be improved, so that when people are going into year 12 and go into different areas, they have that continuous level of support so that they don't have to start the whole system again, and actually go through all the rigmarole that is detrimental to their learning?

11:40

I think it can certainly improve, but we have seen some improvements. You're absolutely right—I think traditionally we haven't always seen that smooth transition. Perhaps where there are learners with more complex needs and statements, that has perhaps been a little bit stronger traditionally, but perhaps your typical learner, who has thrived fairly well in mainstream school with additional learning needs, we haven't necessarily seen that transition work particularly well, and we're seeing a lot of having to re-baseline, re-diagnose and re-plan support, I suppose. It's still early days in terms of the reforms trickling through, I suppose, to post 16, but we are starting to see some improved collaboration. We're doing a bit of a focus now over the next couple of months in terms of some of our link inspector work with colleges, which will hopefully give us a better picture for that. We've only done one of those visits so far, but even within that there is closer talking between the college and local authorities.

That’s already throwing up some challenges, I guess, because what you’ve got now across Wales is, quite often, quite large colleges who cover a number of local authorities, so it’s throwing up those inconsistencies in terms of processes and procedures across local areas, and how you design a system that is welcoming those learners, that has to fit with all those different processes and approaches. We are seeing improved relationships, though. We’re seeing better work directly with some of the feeder schools as well in terms of thinking about transition, and there have been a few funded projects through Welsh Government to actually help, perhaps, some of that transfer of data and things.

We’re also starting to see a little bit more strategic looking at provision. So, we’d say this has been one of the weak points in terms of perhaps looking across a region at what provision is there for additional learning needs, more specialist provision. Local authorities tend to look at their own area and they don’t necessarily even work very well together, never mind working with a college and then thinking to post 16. But we are starting to see a little bit more of that more strategic thinking about, ‘Okay, perhaps with learners with more complex needs, what pattern of provision do we want post 16 across this region, and how can we build, perhaps, in the college to enhance what has happened in schools?’ So it’s early days, I’d say, but there are some green shoots in terms of some of that collaboration happening.

I think you're right to highlight that these are the learners that are most vulnerable at the transition points, whether it’s between primary and secondary or secondary and post-16. I think where there are good relationships between, for example, feeder primary schools and secondary, or secondary schools and local authorities and post-16 providers, these children are more likely to have the support they need. As Jassa mentioned, where there are more complex needs, it’s almost as if the system is used to dealing with that, so that goes ahead routinely. But maybe it’s the children that need that extra bit of support at transition point—that’s variable. I think we need to improve that. 

It's something I've picked up in my own constituency, actually. Some schools are very good at doing it. More complex needs, for example, moving from primary to secondary, or going early, going more regularly to schools to understand where the staff are, and the environment, and as you say, the ones who perhaps need a little bit of extra support don't get treated the same as every other learner, and they do struggle when they move. So, it's something that I see quite regularly. But diolch, Cadeirydd, thank you very much.

It's interesting and important to note, picking up from what you're saying now, the report that we're discussing today is the first of two reports. So, the second report will be starting the field work—

We certainly will. I look forward to that. [Laughter.] But one of the things that we were looking specifically at was we were hoping to visit nursery classes, non-maintained nursery settings, primaries, secondaries and special schools, and looking at transition from one sector to the other, and also looking at that relationship, and that partnership working, between maintained special schools and maintained schools. So, we're looking to share good practice, building on the recommendations that have been left from this particular report, and seeing how the schools and local authorities have addressed those. But transition is certainly on the radar for us.

11:45

That's very good to hear. Just finally from me, Owen, earlier you said that one of the purposes of the ALN Act was to reduce the number of learners categorised as having ALN. Can you just confirm or clarify, while it might be one of the outcomes of the way the ALN Act is being implemented, it wasn't one of the stated intentions at the time the legislation was being taken through the Senedd?

Just to explain that, it was a clearer categorisation. Every child deserves to have the appropriate level of support, and I think it was an attempt to have a clearer categorisation of those who need very, very significant support, those who could be better served through a statement or through IDPs. So, it's not something to reduce the burden financially, for example, but I think it was just to get a better understanding within the system of how these pupils should be supported.

Okay, thank you. And thank you for joining us again, for the second time this morning. Diolch yn fawr. You will receive, again, a copy of a transcript in due course, to check for factual accuracy, but thank you for joining us this morning. I'm sure you'll be following our work closely as well.

Diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much.

4. Papurau i'w nodi
4. Papers to note

Okay, we'll now move on to the next item on our agenda, which is papers to note. We have, I think, 12 papers to note this morning. Everybody happy to note those together? Yes, I can see everybody is.

So, we will now proceed to meet in private—. Oh, sorry, Heledd.

Sorry, I just want to mention, in terms of item 4.8, the response from Lynne Neagle, just in terms of the schools programmes with the police, obviously that is of concern. I'm not personally reassured that the health and well-being programmes within schools will deliver the same results, and I wonder if that's something we could pick up. Because some of the comments that were in the press by the police, and the police and crime commissioners last week about their concerns, are things that we perhaps as a committee should be concerned about as well.

Okay. And we can perhaps look more into that after, and perhaps have a discussion as well. Great. Thank you for highlighting that, Heledd. Diolch.

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

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.

Motion moved.

So, yes, we will now resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Everybody content? Yes.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:47.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:47.