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Pilot projects launched to tackle the impact of poverty on educational achievement

09 Jan 2023 6 minute read
Photo by CDC on Unsplash

A new pilot programme to support schools in tackling the impact poverty has on attainment has been launched.

Seven headteachers from across Wales, who have a wealth of experience and have already helped shape key national policies and overseen community inspired projects, have been recruited as Attainment Champions.

The pilot will run for six months with the Attainment Champions providing support to schools and helping inform government policy around educational attainment drawing on their own experience and sharing best practice.

The National Academy for Educational Leadership are supporting the Welsh Government and has helped recruit the new Attainment Champions.

Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said: “I am delighted to be able to announce our new Attainment Champions.

“Those appointed have demonstrated sustained progress in addressing the impact of poverty on educational attainment. They have strong experience of mentoring and insight into the increasing pressures the cost- of-living crisis is having on families. I very much look forward to working with you all over the next six months.”

The National Academy for Educational Leadership, Chief executive, Tegwen Ellis, added: “We are extremely pleased that the National Academy for Educational Leadership is to be leading this important pilot on behalf of Welsh Government.  Tackling the impact of poverty on education is a priority for us all and the attainment champions will provide us with an approach to do this.”

The seven Attainment Champions are:

Janet Hayward OBE, currently Executive Headteacher of Cadoxton and Oak Field Primary Schools in Barry. Janet has 22 years’ experience as a Headteacher in Barry and prior to that taught in Wiltshire, in a small village school and Newport in a large multi-cultural primary school.

Janet chaired the task and finish group which created the vision for Hwb and chaired the National Digital Learning Council for five years. Janet also led the creation of the original “Big Bocs Bwyd” shipping container and “pay as you feel” food shops at Cadoxton and Oak Field. She went on to support the roll out of Big Bocs Bwyd in over 60 other schools in Wales.

Heather Nicholas, Headteacher at Tonyrefail Community School. An experienced Headteacher, Heather has supported several schools across Wales and is a member of Estyn’s Stakeholder Forum and Headteacher Advisory Group, Cardiff Met Strategic Partnership Board and CSC Representative Stakeholder Group.

She has developed a bespoke approach to addressing the impact of deprivation ranging from forming a charity to run several Flying Start settings, to establishing a school ‘Promise’ to ensure that no child leaves school with a ‘poverty of experiences’ (for example every child will experience a residential visit, will have spoken in public about a cause close to their heart, will own books etc).  Other strategies have ranged from excellent mixed ability teaching to a ready access to laundry facilities for those that need them.

Jennifer Ford is Headteacher at Treorchy Comprehensive School in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

As an English teacher, Jennifer is committed to raising literacy and driving this skills agenda. She is committed to working across phase, ensuring there is consistency in assessment, and, more importantly the consequent ‘next steps’. Jennifer has built holistic assessment models – focusing on attitude to learning, wellbeing and attainment –  in three schools and is now championing ‘the joy of assessment’ as a post-covid strategy to ensuring that our most vulnerable learners understand that knowing our own gaps is empowering.

This work has ensured that students from poorer backgrounds can grow in confidence and set high targets for themselves.

Joe Cudd currently leads two schools, as an executive headteacher Ysgol Pen Rhos and Ysgol Pentip in Llanelli. He creates amalgamations, manages new builds, and integrates families into the schools’ work.  For example, he has a full time Family engagement officer, who delivers bespoke courses to families to support them with resilience, art for well-being, Welsh language lessons and ‘cooking on a budget’. In 2023 the school plans to run budget management courses for families with their community partners and a Parent and Child Relational Health programme to support parents.

Joe is also the headteacher of Ysgol Pentip – a Church in Wales Primary school which he led out of special measures in one year from 2021-22.

Innes Robinson is Headteacher of Whitmore High School in Barry. He has experience as an Estyn Peer Inspector and is currently completing a doctorate with a particular focus on the effect of poverty on attainment.

Stuart Davies has been the Headteacher at Cathays High School in Cardiff since September 2020. Stuart is also a Peer Inspector with Estyn and has been part of the Estyn senior leaders forum.   Stuart joined Cathays High School in January 2000 and has worked there in a variety of curriculum and pastoral roles and in a senior leadership position since 2011.

Cathays High School has implemented a range of practices in teaching and learning around inclusion to try and limit the impact of deprivation on the progress and outcomes of young people.  This has included ensuring that the professional learning offer for teachers is based on rigorous self-evaluation of current areas for development being matched with evidence-informed strategies. In recent years the school has focused on improving questioning and teacher modelling. Cathays High uses an extensive range of well-being interventions to support the most vulnerable learners (particularly since the return to face-to-face education) such as trauma-informed strategies.

Gethin Richards is headteacher of Ysgol y Bedol, Cwmaman in Carmarthenshire. He has experience as an Estyn Peer Inspector, is currently an NPQH assessor is a member of the CYDAG working group and is contributing to the development of Welsh language education and school’s leadership across Wales.

Ysgol y Bedol is a community school and works closely with the community, local organisations and the voluntary sector to offer their pupils and families the skills and opportunities to overcome any barriers and facilitate lifelong learning. The school provides families with access to practical support such as the food bank, but also opportunities for children to access clubs during holidays and after school. Pupils at the school have opportunities to keep animals – up to 15 hens and several pheasants currently reside at the school.

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