On Monday, 8 May 2017, the Education Workforce Council held its second 'Professionally Speaking' event at Cardiff City Hall in partnership with the Open University in Wales.
We invited Wales' four commissioners to speak on the future of Welsh education and the roles they can play in shaping Welsh education policy. The Commissioners taking part were:
- Sally Holland, Children's Commissioner for Wales;
- Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner;
- Meri Huws, Welsh Language Commissioner;
- Sarah Rochira, Older People's Commissioner for Wales.
The evening was hosted by top ITV Wales journalist, Catrin Haf Jones.
You can follow all the events of the evening on Twitter with the #ProfSpeak17 hashtag.
You can also view a video of the talk here
Berni Tyler, EWC Council member was inspired to blog for us after attending the event.
A wonderful quote from Mary Poppins eloquently used by the Older People's Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira during her presentation at ‘Professionally Speaking’.
The key question used to set the scene at last night’s event was
'Can changing education change Wales?'
As part of Sarah's address she used the quote to lead into a lively debate about the key role of older people in shaping the future beliefs aspirations and achievements of young learners. It was encouraging to hear her refer to all age apprenticeships and the potential older people can have in filling the skills gaps that many employers face.
Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Hughes kicked off the evening’s proceedings with an upbeat summary of the age profile of Welsh speakers in Wales and how education, backed up by strong application and development of language skills is having a positive impact upon the number of Welsh speaking young people. For WBL providers this is such a challenge within apprenticeship programmes. Reflecting on Meri’s address I believe we need to work to demonstrate benefit, application and relevance to engage our apprentices in bilingual learning. This will not be an easy journey but one we absolutely have to succeed in.
Sally Holland, Children's Commissioner for Wales reminded me of the importance of the learner voice and ensuring that we hear what our learners have to say and act on their feedback. She hit on all the areas we are currently embedding; safeguarding, skills training for learner representatives and digital literacy.
The final speaker was Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner, this was very thought provoking! She talked about training our learners for jobs that don’t yet exist, future-oligists, and how jobs currently undertaken by ‘people’ will be carried about by ‘robots’ much sooner than we can possibly imagine. This throws up such a challenge for educators and what an exciting one!
Questions for the panel followed and covered a range of topics with well-being being a big focus in the debate. When asked to pitch their idea on how to move education forward in Wales the responses were, we need to:
- Innovate, build on wellbeing, be great communicators,
- See the benefits of the older generation,
- Adopt children’s rights, have a healthy approach,
- Create a bilingual nation.
After a busy day the evening was a refreshing opportunity to reflect, learn and to consider strategically how we can take a broader approach, not only to developing the bilingual needs of our apprentices, but how we can harvest the skills of older workers to build emotionally resilient employees for the future we can't yet see! We must involve our learners, hear what they have to say and take action.
To summarise.... 'Can changing education change Wales?' I believe it can, well definitely for apprenticeship learners. By adopting the ideas and best practice highlighted this evening we can adapt our programmes to ensure we make our apprentices future proof!