Monday, 19 March 2018

Our penultimate meeting

Two guest speakers attended our meeting. First to speak was Dr Vince Browne, the new Executive Headteacher at the new mixed school in Barry. He discussed the lack of funding for Vale schools. It has become a well known fact that pupils in the Vale receive the lowest amount of money per head from Welsh Government in the whole of Wales, and it has been this way for over five years. 

We questioned Dr Browne on the formula used to calculate funding, and he tells us that the data being used is from the early nineties, and that the formula itself has not been reviewed for almost twenty years. Other than the size of catchment areas, Welsh Government have not released a lot of information on how funding is calculated for different local authorities in Wales. Dr Browne continued by saying that in order to keep schools performances up, the council is having to give funding boosts to education by cutting other services. The low funding has a chain effect on many other services, the one most relevant to us being the Youth Service. 

Our second guest speaker was Rhys Jones, a Senior Youth Manager of the Vale Youth Service. He came to talk to us about the proposed changes to the Youth Service. There are to be many less part time jobs in the service, but the creation of several new full time posts. In addition, Llantwit Youth Centre is to be sold off to save money and because it needs a lot of money spent on it to make it more suitable for young people.  The Youth Service is still going to provide youth provision in the area but it would be run differently.  A group has been set up trying to save the youth provision too. 

Despite the commitment to keep the Youth Cabinet and Youth Action Groups as they are, and to press on with the youth exchange in summer, there is still a cloud of uncertainty above the Youth Service’s future and the way youth provisions will be run. The Youth Mayor & Vice Chair of the Vale Youth Forum will be attending the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee next Monday (26th March) where the youth service restructure will be on the agenda, and they will be asking questions on behalf of young people in the Vale. 

Other than these hot topics, we approved the draft plan of the work experience menu. We have ideas on the types of placements that we would like the Council to offer young people in Key Stage 4 & 5.  We now need to communicate this to the Council's relevent department. 

This was our penultimate youth cabinet meeting. The next meeting in April will be the last joint meeting with the Cabinet and the last meeting of our term of office. We agreed to hold the Youth Cabinet elections in late April by holding an extraordinary Vale Youth Forum meeting. This will get the new Youth Cabinet together before exams. We are continuing to press that individuals may make a video, pamphlets, give a speech or canvass in any other creative manner to enable a diversity of people to stand for election.  

Monday, 19 February 2018

What's on the menu?

At our Youth Cabinet meeting tonight we began to work on our idea to create a "Work Experience Menu" for young people across the Vale.  We would like young people to be given the opportunity to pick from a range of work experience placements available at the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  Not only would this give young people the opportunity to experience a potential future career and look amazing on our C.Vs, but it would also raise the profile of the Council as a future place to work.  Something that many young people do not consider! 

We began to draft what information should be given to young people; how young people could get involved; and the process they would have to go through; what the placements should involve; and what skills and opportunities young people should get out of it.  We can't wait to take our idea to the next Vale Youth Forum meeting and run it past the members for their input. 

We also discussed the recent stories in the media about the lack of funding pupils in the Vale receive, and we agreed we would like to find out more information about this and invite Dr Brown to our next meeting.  This follows the recent letter sent out to all parents in the Vale. 

We also completed the National Assembly for Wales' consultation on removing the 'defence of reasonable punishment' and discussed how it would protect children's rights covered in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).  The consultation is open until 2nd April 2018.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


Great to celebrate 100 years since *some* women had the right to vote! #Vote100

And now Wales will give the right to vote to young people aged 16 and 17 - it get's even better! This was announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services on 30th January. Read more here.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Our Welsh Baccalaureate Meeting

This month we were glad to welcome some professionals from the world of the Welsh Baccalaureate (W.B) to answer some of our questions.  

At our meeting we had representatives from WJEC and Welsh Government, as well as Cllr Bob Penrose, Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture, and David Davies, Head of Achievement for All at the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  We learnt more about the qualification, including the different levels and requirements, and we were able to question professionals on some concerns that young people had raised to us directly.   

Universities - We requested information about how universities value the W.B.  From our presentation from WJEC it was clear that the uptake in Welsh universities is significantly higher than the rest of the country.  It was also evident that there has been a growing interest from English universities. However, it became clear that not all departments in all universities value the W.B the same, and this is reflected in the offers that they make students.  The representative from WJEC showed several examples of where the qualification was included in an offer.  We are concerned that a lot of universities aren’t fully on board with the qualification being worth that of a full A-Level and that many consider another A-Level to be more valuable than the W.B.  We feel that more work needs to be done to raise the profile of the qualification and ensure more departments in more universities accept it.  

The Syllabus - The W.B syllabus was created by WJEC and throughout the presentation it appeared really good and everything we would look for in order to prepare us for the world of work, yet this isn’t the experience of young people.  The W.B doesn’t transfer into a qualification that inspires and improves the skills of young people as young people have expressed their views to us that they don’t see the point in the W.B.  They don’t know what they are learning!  Hopefully, after a period of time we will be able to see the long term effects of the W.B.  However, some students feel that a fourth A-Level would be more beneficial.  Teachers, students and schools all have finite resources, time and money and feedback from young people suggests that the W.B impacts on the time on other subjects that could be more useful to them.  We find ourselves in a vicious cycle where due to poor experiences and quality; students, teachers and universities do not like it, which results in the disillusionment of the qualification. 

The Political Aspect - We also feel like there is a political aspect to the W.B that interferes with students' learning. The W.B belongs to Wales, it’s something no other country has, and it is something to rival English equivalents. It may look good on paper for Wales, but unfortunately we think it doesn’t translate into reality.  Furthermore, from understanding the roles of different organisations who are responsible for the W.B (WJEC, Welsh Government and Qualifications Wales) who is ultimately accountable and who will take responsibility for making much needed improvements?         

Key Skills - As you may know, the aim of the W.B is to "enable learners to develop and demonstrate an understanding and proficiency in the 7 essential and employable skills".  These are believed to be universal and long lasting.  We were told that the W.B aims to show a student a set of skills rather than their ability to pass exams.  We believe that the skills taught through the W.B overlap too heavily with other areas of the curriculum.  We believe that the skills would better be developed if integrated into the curriculum.  However, WJEC and Welsh Government believe that is more beneficial to represent them separately in this qualification.  Young people have expressed that these skills are not taught properly and may be too broad and vague to be assessed properly and consistently.   

No Teacher Training - During our meeting we discovered that teachers allocated to W.B classes do not receive any teacher training specific to the qualification.  This means that a teacher trained to teach geography at A-Level can be your W.B teacher without being trained in the qualification or even taught why it is important.  This isn’t the case for any other subject, is it? We believe this could lead to uninspiring teachers who feel forced to teach a course they don’t understand, having to lead a classroom without knowing the best way to transfer the skills included in the course.  We discussed this problem at the meeting and although resources are available on the WJEC website, we came to the conclusion that this could be the root of many of the problems with the course; including pupils having varying experiences of the qualification, feeling like the teacher don’t care, and not even knowing the content of the course and the skills they are learning. 

Employability - W.B makes us more employable but do employers understand the W.B?  Will they look at my C.V and value my W.B GCSE or A-Level? We understand that as a new qualification, employers and parents may be unaware of its importance.  We believe that more publicity and awareness raising is needed to promote the benefits of the qualification and ensure the W.B is seen as an equivalent to traditional GCSE and A-Level. 

Community Challenge - In response to a question regarding the Community Challenge and how it appears to have replaced work experience, WJEC stated they had no part to play in the discontinuation of previous Year 10 work experience, and also Welsh Government advised the Community Challenge is not meant to replace it.  Maybe it is a coincidence that the year work experience ended, the new W.B was introduced but many young people have raised concerns about this.  One of the main aims of the W.B is to prepare young people for the world of work, so surely sending young people into the work place for a week is the most effective way of doing this?  Both WJEC and Welsh Government explained the health and safety concerns surrounding work experience. We feel these concerns can be managed without detracting from the valuable experience these placements can bring, and have brought to many young people in the past. Furthermore, doesn’t the volunteering hours required as part of the Community Challenge raise the same health and safety concerns anyway?     

Grading - Why is the W.B graded differently to our other subjects? We raised this as a concern because it is confusing for students and parents.  This was seconded by parents in the room.  Wouldn’t it be easier to grade them using the normal A*-G grades.  We were told Qualifications Wales are carrying out a review of the qualification so maybe this is something they can consider?

As you can imagine, there was a lot more discussed at our meeting but we wanted to summarise a few points.  We’d also like to thank the representatives from WJEC and Welsh Government for attending and listening to our views.  We are hopeful we can work together in the near future to make positive changes for young people across Wales.  We’re also looking forward to working with the Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture and the Head of Achievement for All to improve young people’s experiences of W.B locally.  

Friday, 15 December 2017

Merry Christmas from the Youth Cabinet

At last night's final Youth Cabinet meeting of 2017, we met with Vale of Glamorgan Council Officer Hannah Davies  to learn more about the Council's budget and how there is a need to change the way services are provided.  This video below gives you a good overview of the current situation and how the Council are looking for new ways of working.  If you have any good ideas make sure you let the Council know by completing the current budget consultation.

For the rest of the meeting we went through the agenda and discussed some ongoing areas of work including the Welsh Bacc.  Good news ..... Welsh Government and WJEC are attending our meeting in January so we will be able to have more of an update then!

We are also progressing with trying to increase the number of work experience opportunities available within the Council and did a bit of fact finding about the current workforce.  Did you know the Council employs over 5000 people - we didn't! We also discussed the Council's Rights of Way Improvement Plan which looks at encouraging more people to access the countryside via footpaths and bridleways.

It's become tradition for the Youth Cabinet to do Secret Santa at our Christmas meeting and it was exciting to share our gifts with each other at the end!

We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and an amazing 2018!

FIS Christmas Party

This week I attended the Family Information Service (FIS) Christmas Party at Barry Leisure Centre.  At the event there were many stalls showing services in the Vale of Glamorgan for children, young people and families.  I helped out at the Youth Service stall which offered fun activities for children, as well as raising awareness about the projects that it runs including the Youth Cabinet!  Although there were many more children than young people at the event, being able to talk to them and representatives from other organisations was beneficial.  I've been able to make plans to visit organisations in the future such as Rhoose Homework Club!

At the event I also had the opportunity to speak to the Council's Rural Regeneration Team and learn more about the Council's plans to improve broadband connectivity in the Vale.  This relates to my manifesto, and in the New Year I'm hoping to find out some more information from young people about what they want with regards to digital technology and digital connectivity. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Emoji's celebration!

Last Thursday I attended the Emoji's presentation evening at the YMCA Barry.  I met with the Vale Youth Service staff who run the Emoji's project and support young people to develop confidence, self-esteem and learn to manage their emotions.  Along with the Deputy Vale Mayor, I presented certificates to the young people who had completed 10 weeks of creative work and watched a video showing what activities they had done. 

Afterwards I had the opportunity to meet the young people and talk about the project.  I also discussed the possibility of attending one of the sessions in the near future to learn more about the work they do and get involved in all the fun they have whilst on the project.