At this point in time, the UK has not fully entered a Covid-19 recovery phase and children, young people and families are still facing disruptions to access to routine services and schooling as a result of the pandemic. For example, we are not fully sure of the impact over the long term on children’s health and well-being, because of disruptions to education during home-schooling for instance. We have faced some challenges as key experts have been unable to input into this process up until this point for a variety of reasons. It is also important to acknowledge that some indicators and research show disruptions, due to Covid-19 especially, which makes planning at a time of uncertainty particularly challenging. We will review our analyses to ensure they reflect current and future trends as and when new or more reliable information becomes available.
The most important outcome for any school is to give as many pupils as possible the knowledge and skills to flourish in the later phases of life, including providing qualifications for continuing education and employment. However, they also need to consider the other ways they need to educate and nurture the children in their care, including through personal development, and the teaching of life skills.
Academic success has a strong positive impact on children’s subjective sense of how good they feel their lives are (life satisfaction) and is linked to higher levels of well-being in adulthood.
Measurements of the personal development and well-being of children are currently limited, particularly after the foundation phase of education (aged 3-7). However, some of the markers of educational development show distinct differences between the attainment of children in the most deprived families (indicated by those in receipt of free school meals) and the rest of the school population.
Since March 2020, the education of all children in Wales has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. During the periods of schools closures during the academic year 2019 to 2020, the Relaxation of School Reporting Requirements (Wales) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 removed the obligations on schools to supply the usual performance data to local authorities, and on local authorities to supply that information to the Welsh Ministers. During the academic year 2020 to 2021, further announcements were made by Welsh Government to confirm the suspension of performance measures being calculated for the academic years 2020 to 2021 and 2021 to 2022.
In the early part of the pandemic, schools were repurposed to become childcare hubs for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Staff kept in touch with the other pupils and provided learning activities and well-being support for them at home whilst the national curriculum was suspended by Welsh Government. Staff in secondary schools had to adapt quickly to the interim assessment methods introduced for 2020 qualifications.
In September 2020, all schools re-opened to pupils and the recovery phase began. It quickly became apparent that the disruption to learning for some pupils would continue as cases of Covid-19 caused contact groups to be placed into isolation. However, this time, schools were ready to switch to remote learning, ensuring that pupils could continue to learn whether in school or at home. As a response to increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations, the Welsh Government instructed all secondary schools to close to most pupils on the 14th December and move to remote learning. Following the Christmas holiday, further moves to remote learning were announced for all primary schools. Unlike the first lockdown, the schools remained open for learning with face to face provision being available for vulnerable learners and children of critical workers. The special schools and pupil referral units remained open to as many pupils as possible. Teachers continued to deliver lessons, both face to face and online and well-being support continued.
In February 2021 the Foundation Phase pupils began to return to school, followed by key stage 2 and exam years at secondary school on the 15th March, and a return of all pupils after Easter. For many schools, the summer term continued to be disrupted by periods of isolation following the identification of Covid-19 cases in the schools until the end of the term.
Schools, with the support of local authorities and the regional consortia, will be prioritising recovery from the pandemic, while recognising that we remain in it. As mentioned above, there will be a considerable focus on pupil well-being.
Areas of multiple deprivation
The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation measures relative deprivation across a range of domains (income; employment; health; education; access to services; community safety; physical environment; housing) at the lower super output area level for the whole of Wales. An area is multiply deprived if, for more than one of these domains, the area has a concentration of people experiencing that type of deprivation.
Conwy County Borough, with 4 of its Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) being in the 10% most deprived in Wales (5.6% of all its areas), has a greater proportion of its LSOAs than would be expected in the top 10% most deprived for the access to services domain.
7 LSOAs in Denbighshire are in the 10% most deprived in Wales (12.4% of all its areas) for most of the domains (and especially in terms of health) except the Physical Environment domain. Denbighshire has the top 2 ranked LSOAs most deprived in Wales overall: Rhyl West 2 and Rhyl West 1.
Multiple Deprivation in West and South West Rhyl is among the highest in Wales and encompasses worklessness, low incomes, and poor educational outcomes amongst other things. Unfortunately, Rhyl West 1, Rhyl West 2 and Rhyl South West 2 are identified by the Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation as areas of ‘deep-rooted’ deprivation. Areas with ‘deep rooted deprivation’ are those that have remained within the top 50 most deprived – roughly equal to the top 2.6% – small areas in Wales for the last five publications of WIMD ranks.
The health domain of WIMD measures lack of good health. Of all the WIMD domains, the highest number of areas in Rhyl in the 10% most deprived areas was in this domain; clearly demonstrating the relationship between socio-economic disadvantage and health and well-being.
These factors would indicate a level of inequality existing in Denbighshire between poor affluent pupils and those facing socio-economic disadvantage.
“while the educational attainment of children in Wales has improved overall, children living in deprivation (as measured by eligibility for free school meals) show poorer attainment on all performance measures, with the gap increasing as pupils progress through school.”
Foundation phase (aged 3-7)
Foundation phase assessment by teachers of all children aged 3-7 measures personal and social development for all children, as well as language and numeracy skills, and physical and creative development. The Foundation Stage Indicator sets a level 5 achievement threshold for all areas of development.
Published data on performance at Foundation phase in recent years is not available.
In 2015 the difference between children receiving free school meals (FSM) and those not receiving FSM was about seventeen percentage points in both Conwy County Borough (69% compared to 86%), and Denbighshire (73% compared to 90%). The attainment gap for Wales was fifteen percentage points.
Conwy CB has performance levels below the Welsh average, and though overall levels have improved since 2012 the rate has fallen for those on free school meals.
Overall, Denbighshire results are comparable to the Welsh average, and have improved across the board since 2012, though the improvement has been steadiest and greatest amongst non FSM pupils
Key stage 2 (year 6)
All learners in their final year of Key Stage 2 – the stage at which pupils leave primary school and move on to secondary education – are assessed by their teachers. The general expectation is that the majority of 11 year olds will attain level 4 in each subject. Key stage 2 core subject indicator measures the percentage of pupils achieving at least level 4 in English or Welsh (first language), mathematics and science in combination.
What we do know, and continues to be the case, is that transition to secondary school can be a challenging milestone for some learners. Transition to secondary school is ‘a key point in which socioeconomic inequality in wellbeing may widen’ and is therefore ‘an important focal point for intervention’ (Moore et al., 2020, p.1111).
Published data on performance at key stage 2 in recent years is not available.
Overall in 2015, Conwy CB’s attainment levels were just below Wales averages, though pupils in receipt of free school meals are about five percentage points below the national average. Denbighshire’s attainment levels are similar to the national average for all groups.
The gap in attainment between those receiving free school meals and those who don’t is wider at age 10-11 than at the foundation stage (aged 3-7) for Conwy CB and the Welsh average – about nineteen percentage points for Conwy CB (70% compared to 89%).
In Denbighshire the gap is narrower than at foundation phase, at eleven percentage points (79% compared to 90%)
The gap between those who received free school meals and those who don’t has narrowed since 2012 by about 4.6 percentage points in Conwy CB and by 12 percentage points in Denbighshire (average Wales reduction was 4.3 percentage points).
Key stage 4 – school leavers (year 11)
In 2019, the Welsh Government introduced interim headline measures using which they would publish details of performance at key stage 4. These interim measures are:
The Capped 9 measure calculates the average of the scores for the best awards for all individual pupils in a cohort. It is capped at the equivalent of 9 GCSEs, three of which are the best grade in Welsh first language or English, the best grade from mathematics or mathematics-numeracy, and the best grade from a GCSE Science.
The literacy measure calculates the average score for all individual pupils in the cohort and uses the best grade from either the language or literature GCSE in English or first language Welsh.
The numeracy measure is similar to the literacy measure, but takes into account the best grade from mathematics or mathematics – numeracy.
The science measure will take into account the best grade from a science GCSE awarded to a pupil, from biology, chemistry, physics, science (double award), applied science (double award) and applied science (single award).
The Welsh Baccalaureate Skills Challenge Certificate measure considers the average of the scores for the individual awards in this qualifications for all pupils in the cohort.
Published data on performance at key stage 4 is not currently available. Schools will continue to use their own data to rigorously self-evaluate to facilitate their ongoing improvement.
Overall, our last assessment showed that both Conwy CB and Denbighshire had attainment levels several percentage points below the Wales level. Conwy CB’s levels are lowest of the two, though have seen a 3 percentage point improvement since 2012 whereas Denbighshire levels have stayed around the same.
With attainment levels for this measure at only 51 in Conwy CB and 52% in Denbighshire, there is considerable room for improvement.
The attainment gap between those receiving free school meals and those who don’t is over 29% in both areas (28% compared to 57%). The all-Wales attainment gap is 32%.
This is a much bigger gap than seen at the foundation phase or key stage 2, suggesting that inequalities widen as children move through the education system.
The gap between those who received free school meals and those who don’t has narrowed since 2010/11 by about 3.1 percentage points in Conwy CB, but had widened slightly for Denbighshire (by less than 1 percentage point). The general trend appear to be towards only marginal improvement in closing the gap.
21st Century Schools Programme
The 21st Century Schools programme aims to ensure that school buildings and facilities are developed sustainably to support improvements in attainment and the wider educational experience.
Denbighshire has worked with the Welsh Government to deliver the 21st Century Schools programme, managing surplus places and modernising school buildings. Over the past 6 years, in Denbighshire, projects have included the opening of a new school building for Rhyl High School, the opening of a brand new 3-16 Roman Catholic school in Rhyl, Christ the Word Catholic School, and the remodelling of Ysgol Uwchradd Glan Clwyd in St Asaph. , Primary schools have also benefitted at Ysgol Bodnant in Prestatyn, and the opening of four new school buildings in the Ruthin area – Ysgol Pen Barras, Rhos Street School, Ysgol Llanfair Dyffyrn Clwyd, and Ysgol Carreg Emlyn.
Denbighshire have worked with Welsh Government to secure funding for Band B of the 21st Century Schools projects. This round of funding will look at school provision in the Llangollen and Denbigh areas.
Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Reform
A learner is said to have Additional Learning Needs (ALN) if they have a learning difficulty or disability which results in the learner needing an additional learning provision.
A learner is has a learning difficulty or disability if:
they have a significantly greater difficulty in learning that the majority of their peers, or
they have a disability a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. This disability would prevent, or hinder, them from making use of the kind facilities generally provided for their peers in mainstream schools or colleges.
A new Additional Learning Needs statutory support system will come into force in January 2022 (delayed from September 2021 due to the pandemic). This new system will support children and young people aged 0 to 25 who have additional learning needs and who live in Wales. Local authorities, the local health authority, schools, pre-school settings and further education colleges are in the process of preparing to implement this new system of support, which is a significant change to the current processes.
The National Curriculum was first introduced in Wales as part of the Education Reform Act 1988. Since that time, there have been a number of revisions and new curriculums in Wales. The coming years will see a significant change to the way teaching and learning happens in our schools as a result of the new Curriculum for Wales. In this new curriculum, individual schools will develop their own curriculum which enables learners to develop towards the “four purposes”. These four purposes are to support learners to become:
ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
The four purposes will be underpinned by a set of integral skills, which will be developed within the range of learning and teaching. These skills are: – Creativity and innovation, Critical thinking and problem-solving, Personal Effectiveness, and Planning and organising.
The framework upon which the new curriculum is created places emphasis on the progression each learner makes. The basis of the progression will be formed by “statements of what matters”. As a whole, these statements of what matters will provide the breadth and depth in the curriculum, and ensure a level of consistency in the design of the curriculum across settings and schools.
Settings and schools will design the new curriculum using six areas of learning and experience:-
Health and Well-being
Languages, Literacy and Communication
Mathematics and Numeracy
Science and Technology
The new curriculum will be introduced in schools from September 2022.
Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP)
Conwy County Borough and Denbighshire are preparing new WESPs, consulting with the Welsh in Education Planning Forum. The WESP supports the duty of public bodies in Wales to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh language and to work towards the achievement of well-being goals, under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. The plan will include the local authority’s proposals for improving the planning of the provision of Welsh medium education, improving the standards of Welsh-medium education, identify the targets for these improvements and the teaching of Welsh, and report on the progress made on the targets contained in the previous plan.
In early 2022, the new WESP will be sent to Welsh Government for consideration, and then approval, before it comes into force on the 1st September 2022. Once formally published, the findings will be incorporated into our analyses here.
Play and Childcare Sufficiency Assessments
Play and Childcare Sufficiency Assessments are undergoing a full review (as at March 2022), and is due to be submitted to Welsh Government in June 2022. We will consider the findings of both assessments when they are published.
 Denbighshire County Council (2020). Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019: Results for Rhyl. Un-published report.
 Wales Centre for Public Policy (2021). Well-being and equalities briefing.
 National teacher assessment data collection, Welsh Government
 Wales Centre for Public Policy (2021). Well-being and equalities briefing.
With the absence of any form of comparative performance data, we have not been able to update this section yet.
Mirroring the UK as a whole, the qualification profile of the Welsh population has improved markedly in recent years.30 However, an educational attainment gap at GCSE level remains, with Welsh students eligible for free school meals much less likely to achieve top grades than other students.31 The number of young people not in education, training, or employment in Wales has been falling over the past decade, but the rate of decrease has reduced in recent years.
Children’s well-being is influenced by a range of factors and includes their subjective feelings as well as social, physical and psychological aspects of their lives. Consequently, schools are key places for shaping general well-being. The health and well-being of children and young people contributes to their ability to benefit from good quality teaching and to achieve their full academic potential.
Research evidence shows that education and health are closely linked. So promoting the health and well-being of pupils and students within schools and colleges has the potential to improve their educational outcomes and their health and well-being outcomes. The experiences of the coronavirus pandemic have left us with many unanswered questions about the future and how education will look moving forwards. Schools will continue to work on supporting pupils with their academic recovery and their wellbeing, including through the Welsh Government’s new Whole School Approach to Mental Health and Well-being, which is being implemented from September 2021. Pupil’s mental health and well-being, including but not limited to the impact of the pandemic, will be a priority for a long time to come.
There are currently gaps in our knowledge around these issues, as well as in the evidence that is available to measure pupils’ skills other than for educational attainment. This is an area for consideration for future work.
 The link between pupil health and well-being and attainment, Public Health England 2014
People are concerned about child poverty, and the extent to which the public sector is working to improve the quality of life for people and children in poverty. Child hunger is a particular concern for people and they want to understand the root causes for hunger. People also want to ensure we ask those living in deprived areas to find out what they feel would improve their lives.
People would like to see more investment in factors that support young people’s well-being:
Investment in activities for young people e.g. community projects, young people’s exercise classes, youth clubs (so young people have a place to go e.g. make them more attractive with better activities, more publicity so young people know about them)
Support to improve young people’s mental health, specifically following the Covid-19 pandemic
Young people more involved in council decision making
Leisure centre and facility improvements to attract young people e.g. better clubs, classes that are well publicised and targeted to young people.
With a focus on rural area improvements.
People identified those with disabilities, including learning difficulties, as people they feel should be supported, in particular to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness.
The need to support healthy lifestyles was also raised, particularly in respect of tackling obesity, through increased leisure opportunities, partnership working and by building on our active travel network (see our ‘transport‘ topic for further information).
The relationship between poverty and educational outcomes, and to what extent inequality has been exacerbated by Covid-19, needs to be explored thoroughly. We also need a better understanding of the educational outcomes of people with protected characteristics or those who face disadvantage (such as looked after children and care leavers) or discrimination.
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