Torfaen’s Post-16 Proposals

‘The revised proposal will see Torfaen County Borough Council build a purpose built 6th form centre in Cwmbran which will open in September 2019 and cost £20,000,000. It will be run by Coleg Gwent on behalf of the council through a partnership agreement between the two organisations which will ensure the best possible scope and standard of provision for learners in the county borough.’

We feel the need to respond to Torfaen’s proposal, which would make us lose our wonderful sixth form, lead to job losses and economic instability for our school’s future, and have a detrimental effect on the education of our young people. We want to make students and parents more aware of the reality of the impact these proposals will have. Whilst it may seem to be a good idea to have a brand new facility, there are many troubling implications of Torfaen’s proposals.

Torfaen’s proposals are hugely costly – not only will the new building cost £20m, but the estimated cost of redundancies in the three schools affected would be around £1m. Torfaen want Coleg Gwent to run the college, because the Council wants no accountability for post 16 education. Management of post 16 will be taken from academically successful schools and given to a business. Coleg Gwent’s results are inferior to those of the sixth form schools (seen in the figures they were forced by Estyn to publish in the report on the consultation process).

Torfaen claims the proposals will ensure the best possible scope and standard of provision for learners. How? Coleg Gwent struggle to recruit high quality staff. Many of their staff are on zero hour contracts. Croesyceiliog and St Albans offer a good range of academic qualifications, and Coleg Gwent do not plan to divert students from Cross Keys for more specialist vocational courses. The Cwmbran college would not be a ‘one-stop shop’- they are unable to provide all of the courses in this one facility. They plan to ask students to go between campuses for different courses (Something not specified in the proposals).

Torfaen state the main driving forces behind the proposal are:

  • the need to improve retention and stay – on rates and learner outcomes

Retention rates from Coleg Gwent are lower than from Sixth forms in the county.

  • the need to transform post 16 education in line with Welsh Government’s vision

Welsh Government does not have a preference for colleges above sixth forms.

  • the need to replace 6th forms with a more efficient and sustainable delivery model

Sixth forms are efficient when they are part of a school which already has a strong department with several staff members, all with differing areas of subject specialism, who are already there to teach. In a college, you may need 2 Chemistry lecturers one year, then next you may only need 1. They can hire and fire at will and there’s no guarantee the students will have a strong department to lead them through their exams.

  • Linkages with other projects within the council’s 21st Century Schools Programme, most notably the provision of a new school for Croesyceiliog School.

They have decided to reduce Croesyceiliog’s capacity in their new build design, which doesn’t make sense due to increase population in the area, more new build housing estates, and it seems foolish to build Croesyceiliog’s new build design around a no-6th form structure. Why not redesign the school with 6th form provision? This is surely cheaper than a £20m new structure which is isolated for 6th form provision?

Torfaen’s main objectives are to improve the effectiveness and outcomes of service to all learners and improve learner experience and attractiveness to all learners. However, there is no proof that outcomes will improve at all. Also, feedback from students suggests they will not be improving learner experience. Learners will have to travel for longer, and further, to access post 16 education. They will be taught in large classes of 25-30 students in a large building where they will be anonymous. If the college experience is what students want, they can already choose to go to Pontypool, Cross Keys or Ebbw Vale. But many students want sixth form, and that choice is being taken away.

Torfaen treated the Consultation process as merely tipping their hat to democracy. The views were collated and published in the report, each with a vague response completely dismissing any concerns. In the board meeting agenda where the proposals were being considered, item 4 on the agenda was ‘which contractor will we appoint?’ It is clear that Torfaen want to railroad this proposal through, regardless of the concerns of staff, parents and learners. For example, in the Report on the Consultation the point was raised that the proposed closure of school provision will have a detrimental effect on the excellent school staff. Torfaen responded: ‘There is no evidence to suggest that the loss of a 6th form will have a detrimental effect on staff. ‘ Staff are already seeking jobs outside of Torfaen where they can teach in an 11-18 school. There is no reason for them to stay in Torfaen if all schools are 11-16. The college will not offer Teacher’s pay and conditions, so this is not an attractive proposition for staff to move to the college. A Zero-hour contract, limited payscale, no TLRs, different holidays, would make it a very uncertain position to be in. Torfaen are willingly turning a blind eye to these facts.

Students have expressed their concerns too. One student wrote ‘I am strongly opposed to St Alban’s Sixth Form being closed and replaced with a college because this is unnecessary as the St Alban’s grades are actually better than the grades in Coleg Gwent and it would hinder our education and could result in our grades dropping by a significant amount.’ Another student commented ‘I read online that the new sixth form is going to be built adjacent to Morrisons in Cwmbran. This is too far away for students who go to St Albans who live in Abergavenny.’ Students also felt strongly that the cost towards the new sixth form centre would be better spent improving our building at St Albans.

Another pertinent question raised was about  the transition arrangements for those students starting their year 12 studies in September 2018 in their current school 6th forms settings who will then be expected to study in a new building with potentially new teachers in year 13 from September 2019? No satisfactory answer was given. Can this proposal, which affects thriving sixth forms in strong communities, be seen a positive forward-thinking progress in education in our area? We appeal to parents to place an objection and send it to secondaryreview@torfaen.gov.uk and copy in Kirsty.Williams@assembly.wales. You can also sign our petition here.

Mock COP conference

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The Mock COP is a fantastic event held at the Welsh Assembly where students participate in teams of three, each representing a different country. We were Brazil and Australia. Size of Wales ran the conference along with CEWC as a model UN discussing climate change.

The Philippians gave a draft resolution and then countries began negotiating, proposing amendments. Size of Wales tweeted: “Climate change knows no war, no politics and no religion” Very wise words from  on behalf of Brazil .

CEWC tweeted: Final amendment to draft prpsd by , for every country’s statistics on to be available to public is passed.

The students found it great fun and a real eye-opener for how international politics works. It was brilliant to meet students from a range of schools all over Wales and the quality of discussion was inspiring. It’s also a fantastic venue so we will sign up for next year too!

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Highlights from Llangrannog

Each year Year 7 students are invited to go on a residential trip to Llangrannog, an activity centre in Cardigan bay run by fluent Welsh speakers. Here a few of our MAT pupils blog about their experience:

‘Wow! What a thrilling day! Today we have arrived at an exquisite destination called Llangrannog. It is filled with a variety of bewildering activities. I can just remember the exhileration rushing down my spine.

Our first activity was the low ropes. We also faced the ‘Wall of Doom’. I was very muddy after trying to get onto the wall. I thoroughly enjoyed the low ropes challenge, even though I fell over a number of times.

[The next day] Our day started with a high ropes course. When I saw the high ropes, I was absolutely terror-stricken. I did conquer the rope course even though I had fallen off at one point. I also managed to climb an extremely high climbing wall. After our climbing experiences we all set off for the swimming pool. We had an incredible time playing water volleyball.

After lunch, we all went tobogganing, which was my favourite part of the entire trip. Unfortuntaely, I did fall once during my tobogganing experiences. We then went go-karting, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Typically, my kart ran out of petrol. The sun then started to set over the deep blue waters. Our last activity of the day was skiing, which I adored;  I felt so free when I was skiing. The sky was dusky and it was a bright shade of orange.

I had an exceptional time at Llangrannog and I would love to go again. I did things that I never thought I would have done before.’ Lucy Stokes

‘Everyone was so excited to get to Llangrannog. The low ropes were fun and cool but I felt as if my fingers were going to snap off, like hitting the icicles off the tip of the roof. We had to pretend we were stranded in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.

For our tea we had a home cooked meal and around every hour the paw slush would open!

The following morning we all got dressed in our massively messy room. The high ropes were interesting: some people were scared and some were ready for the “adventure”. I remember everyone taking a step on each course was a “life changing”, “death moment” step.

Tobogganing was my favourite as it was so fun. Me, Ella and Millie were superglued to each other as we were having so much fun sledging. We would turn the sledge around as a joke and set ourselves a mission. We went backwards and made a train. The bottom of the steep hill was so wet that we would splash into the wet puddle and get soaked.

The next morning Lucy’s alarm didn’t go off so we woke up at ten to eight, only twenty minutes to get ready. Everyone was panicking, running around. Luckily we all packed the night before (phew!).

First we did horse riding. I, a girl called Hannah and Charlotte had a white horse called Diva. Diva didn’t like my friend’s horse Trigger so those two horses had to stay out of each other’s sight. I went first as my other friends were too scared and bribed me on first. The clip clopping noise was quite relaxing until Charlotte’s turn. Charlotte didn’t have the best relationship with our horse as on Hannah’s turn, Diva was a diva and tried to bite Charlotte’s elbow. After, when she was getting on the horse, Diva saw Trigger and started to charge at Trigger. Charlotte wasn’t able to get her foot out of the stirrup in time and horse kicked her back until Evan was able to calm Diva down.

Then we travelled back home, all thinking and knowing that we have had such an incredible experience in Llangrannog. We were all tired and wanted to go back home, but also wished we stayed longer. It was so fun. Such an experience. Such a trip! I loved it.’ Romilly Hodgkinson

‘At 1pm we arrived to the breath-taking scenery of Llangrannog. After an exciting atmosphere on the bus; all of Year 7 were glad to arrive. A ropes challenge is what we tackled first. As a treat the staff let us take on the Wall of Doom! The Wall was like the ones you get from Ninja Warrior. With a little help, we all made it.

Our next activity was teambuilding. We all had to stand on the bench and arrange ourselves in height and age order, without falling off. We all found it so hard, we collapsed on the floor laughing.

[The next day] After some cereal, we headed for the climbing centre. There we got kitted out with the correct gear, and we partnered up. My partner was Romilly. She did the high ropes first while I cheered her on and then we swapped. Suddenly as I stepped on the rope, my legs were trembling and shaking. I was terrified. However, with a little bit of support from my friends, I completed the course. Climbing was amazing. We practised by bouldering across the whole wall. There were 16 sections in total. We all made it to the top in the end. We were so proud.

Horse riding was scary. Me, Millie and Ella’s horse was called Trigger. Trigger was strong and aggressive. Ella, Millie and I found this difficult.

To end on a high, we trampolined. All too soon, we had to board the buses and head home. We were all sad to leave Llangrannog, but I’m sure it will be something we will never forget. Everyone had an amazing time and experience.’ Isobel Hill

 

Christmas newsletter

  • Christmas holidays means lots of opportunity to read, and we are running our Christmas reading challenge again for MAT pupils. Check our reading list page for the texts for each yeargroup. I’d also like to plug Pontypool Library’s reading group for 12-16 year olds, which meets monthly on Saturdays 11am-12 noon, and the next meeting is 17 December. Contact Carla Teague for more information.
  • We have started a ‘Talent’ register of any student with exceptional talent where they are competing at a national level or achieving outstandingly, such as musical competence far above their age, or other achievements outside of school. Please inform us if your child is competing at a high level in any field because we would love to celebrate their achievement.
  • Dentistry student Jack McSweeney from King’s College London is coming in to speak to Y10+ students interested in dentistry on 5th January, 2.20pm.
  • Trip to Oxford University for Y10+ is booked for 31st March- places £10 each on Parent Pay.
  • Y9 MAT trip to ‘The Crucible’ provisionally booked for May- more details to follow.

A Christmas Carol

Many thanks to Quantum Theatre for visiting us on Monday 28th November for an amazing performance of the classic Dickens story of ‘A Christmas Carol’. Students from Year 7,8 and 9 attended and were a spell-bound audience as the story unfolded.

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Many thanks to our Year 9 MAT team who ran front of house on the day and stewarded the event.

Time to get into the Christmas spirit- no bah humbugs here!

True Tube Voiceover Competition

Win a voiceover recording session in London with True Tube’s Easter competition “Jesus Christ Voiceover Star”.

We will be awarding prizes for the best poems or pieces of poetic prose which can be used as voiceover scripts for three two-minute films that tell the Easter story. The films are made using excerpts from the BBC1 documentary “The Story of Jesus”, and as such are high quality, dramatic reconstructions which tell the story of the Last Supper, the crucifixion, and the resurrection.

Good voiceover scripts are essential in today’s media: on the news, in documentaries, over adverts – they help to guide viewers from scene to scene, to make sense of what they seeing, or to provoke an emotional response.

Students’ scripts might explain what the viewers are seeing, comment and reflect on the action, or be an emotional response. We will ask judges to look for:

•A clear knowledge of the Easter story.
•An understanding of what the events of Easter mean for Christians.
•A voice-over that matches and creatively responds to the images on screen.
•An imaginative use of language in poetry or prose.
We will shortlist four entries for each film in two categories – Key Stage 3 (Years 7, 8 and 9) and Key Stage 4 (Years 10 and 11) – from which winners will be chosen by our judging panel.

 To view the three clips, click here.

The winning students will be invited to come to our studio with a teacher, parent or guardian to record their entries as voiceovers. Recording sessions will be held in London between Monday 17th March 2014 and Friday 28th March 2014, after which the recordings will be dubbed onto the films and hosted on the TrueTube website.

For each winning entry we will cover the cost of return journeys to London by train for two people – including the student. Winners will also receive a DVD of the finished films and a certificate.

How to Enter
The competition is open for submissions until 5pm on Friday 28th February. Please email Mrs Toovey with your entry!

What is peace to you? Competition

This year, the WCIA (Welsh Centre for International Affairs) are celebrating two big anniversaries – the 40th of the WCIA and the 75th of the Temple of Peace, our home in Cardiff.

To mark these occasions, they’re running a competition:

What Is Peace to You?

Here’s the details:

Enter our Peace75 competition by telling or showing us what peace means to you in 75 words or 75 seconds. Entries can be words, poetry, a video, song, voice recording or any other format, in either Welsh or English. Just download our entry form below and send the form, with your entry, to peace75@wcia.org.uk or Peace75, Temple of Peace, Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3AP.

As well as prizes for the best answers, a selection of the entries will be exhibited in The Temple of Peace as part of the Peace75 Festival on November 23rd, 2013. As well as an overall winner, there will be prizes in age categories and for runners up. Watch this space to find out what the prizes will be. We’re looking for entries that are original, inspiring, thought-provoking and creative. Entries will be judged by a panel including acclaimed Welsh Poet, Mererid Hopwood alongside WCIA staff and members.

Click here for more details.