NUS Wales has published all of the policies that will be discussed at our upcoming NUS Wales Conference in March. These are all policies that have been submitted by delegates and will now be voted on to prioritise those ideas that will be discussed at Conference as part of the priority ballot.
At conference we will have the space to discuss each of these issues and delegates will have the opportunity to find out more information on all the key issues.
Click on any one of these policy ideas to read the proposal summary:
Due to the current pandemic, students have adapted to online learning with face-to-face learning where possible due to government guidelines. Students have reported that they are enjoying online learning however for the future, they feel it’s important to have blended learning; online and face-to-face.
Why is this important to us as a movement?
As well as education, mental health is also one of NUS Wales’ main priorities.
What would the world look like if we solved it?
Students have stated that blended learning is important for their mental health and wellbeing and also for the environment.
With regards to mental health and wellbeing, it is important for students to be able to see their classmates/friends and engage where possible in the college environment.
With regards to the environment, a blended learning approach would reduce travelling costs and the impact on our environment.
When ILS students finish their ILS studies, they often progress to mainstream courses, but also in mainstream there may be other learners with ALN (Additional Learning Needs) who have not been through an ILS course. These other learners may not have had the benefit or experience of the additional courses or skills taught to ILS learners, such as how to manage relationships, parenting awareness, rights and responsibilities, healthy eating & living among many others. This is something which should be an essential right, and a key driver as part of equal opportunities, thus, we feel it should be written into the Welsh curriculum.
Why this is important:
When we think of FE/HE curriculum we often ask: “How can we assure that people are equipped with the necessary skills for the future?” The best way to ensure such a thing is to ensure that subjects that prepare those in FE/HE to cope in the real world are also made available.
For example, far too often students go into College and Uni with no idea how to cook even basic meals, resulting in too many takeaways, which in turn adds to the current physical/mental health crisis. Often, these same students would have no idea how to pay their rent, budget for food or other necessities, or even ironing their clothes.
We acknowledge that in general terms basic living skills are often taught to students through parenting. However, this is based on an assumption that our students and parental circumstances are similar. Of course, this is often not the case, and this fact should be considered for all learners.
Furthermore, many students with a disability or ALN may not be on a specialist/ILS course, but could benefit from training in these subjects; e.g. a learner with autism could study on a course alongside students without disabilities with a little extra help from the ALN department, but struggle and need extra assistance learning how to use an oven safely.
For this reason, we feel it's important that ILS subjects are made available across all courses in FE and undergraduate courses in HE, so that students and ALN students in mainstream can access those vital life skills ensuring that all students have the same opportunities.
Natspec [The Association of National Specialist Colleges] describe ILS subjects as enabling:
“... students to develop their knowledge of and skills in areas such as keeping safe, being healthy, looking after their own home, and dealing with problems. Students would also have the opportunity to take units of learning relating to aspects of the wider community, such as getting out and about and going places, getting on with other people, rights and responsibilities, and encountering experiences.”
What Wales would look like if we solved this:
Making the 15 core skills available to mainstream, as well as ILS in 6th form/FE/HE, would be a progressive development in this to support equality throughout Welsh Curriculum for post 16 education. Our call for this at Coleg Cambria is already working on a continuous improvement action plan led by our Inclusion Manager; this would be a key enabler for upskilling and training staff for mainstream as well as ILS.
Natspec’s 15 core areas used in example colleges:
We think that these should also be made available for our 6th form, FE and HE students across Wales, as all our students at some point will need to deal with each of those areas; knowing how to use those skills is critical for success in life and employment.
By teaching these in college and/or uni, you would help students be better prepared for coping in the world at large. This will lead to a More Equal Wales.
Content note: sexual assault, violence.
There is a need for an educational consent programme which aims to facilitate positive, informed and inclusive conversations about consent in universities and colleges across Wales to prevent sexual harassment and assault on campuses and the wider community.
The issue facing students
There is a lack of education for students on the complexities of consent. Students who reach further and higher education come from a range of backgrounds and have different levels of understanding of consent. Consent is not part of the current curriculum, so we rely on students to learn about consent from family or friends.
The absence of consent education may put young people at risk of perpetrating sexual violence or becoming victimised. Early provision of consent education is key in helping young people identify and resist coercive behaviour in romantic relationships.
Some students will reach higher education perpetuating rape culture and victim blaming. According to the Guardian an estimated 50,000 incidents of sexual abuse or harassment take place in universities in England and Wales every year. During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen that sexual violence has not stopped. We must ensure that this becomes a top priority during the pandemic and beyond.
Why is this important to us as a movement?
As a movement we want to reduce harm and ensure the safety of our students. We want to ensure that all students have a positive university experience, and that universities are safer places to live, work and study. Education on consent is vital in reducing the number of sexual assaults and violence. Everyone should have the right to free and accessible consent education.
Education on consent will prevent and hopefully reduce the number of sexual assaults in FE and HE and will have a knock-on effect to the wider community and workplaces. Students will feel equipped with the knowledge of consent. Consent education will empower bystanders to call out harmful behaviour.
Fundamental principles in rolling this out:
Ideas for Implementation
Institutions, sector bodies and governments should work in close partnership with students’ unions and NUS to frame the consent training and implement it into the curriculum. They should have a two-way communication with students to understand the problems they face, highlight key solutions, and work together to implement sexual consent education into the curriculum. We want NUS to work collaboratively with the sector to develop training to help our students. We are asking for NUS to campaign and thus lobby HEIs/FEIs to develop and deliver this as part of their curriculum delivery, and work with the government to ensure that consent education is implemented as a mandatory part of education for all.
Over 70% of apprenticeships are delivered by private training providers. These providers not covered by the education act (1994), no requirement for learner representation, do not fall under the scope of college insolvency protection and are not required to have learner or staff representation on their boards.
Alongside chronic and endemic underpayment of apprentices the most pressing issue facing apprentices across the Wales is the quality of their education. The Welsh Government have attempted to address this but we have seen no significant shift in the number of apprentices receiving the training that they are entitled to; that education that providers are paid for and that entitles employers to pay apprentices a reduced rate.
Apprenticeships in Wales have developed two competing models of training. Those professions that maintained historic apprenticeship provision, construction, engineering and hair dressing continue to deliver their training predominantly through day or block release. Employers understanding that to develop new skills and understanding the apprentice needs to take time away from the workplace.
Employers and industries that have adopted apprenticeships more recently, Early Years, Retail and Business administration, have developed a different model. The Assessor visitor model ensures that an apprentice is in the workplace full time and must arrange their off the job learning around their duties at work. Rather than learning with other apprentices their training is delivered through online blended learning. An assessor will then visit the apprentice in their workplace once every 4-12 weeks.
It is disgraceful that online learning in schools, colleges and universities is a national priority to be ended as soon as possible, but remains the norm for most apprentices.
The day release model also allows apprentices to engage with other apprentices, compare experiences and access support services available within an FE college. Despite a decade of cuts FE colleges still provide access to childcare, student support, mental health support and sex and relationships education. In the 2019 election we have also saw FE colleges support voter registration drives ensuring young people are not disenfranchised.
At the moment the guidance allows for a very broad definition of what constitutes off the job training. We propose that this guidance be changed as follows:
Learning like this would make it simpler for apprentices to access essential skills in the language medium they choose. Far too frequently apprentices talk about not being able to access essential skills in Welsh.
As we see from the Apprenticeship pay survey the apprenticeships that are least likely to be delivering the legal minimum requirement of off the job training are those apprenticeships that are predominantly done by women. It cannot be right that we have an apprenticeship system that ensures high quality training and education through day release for young men, in engineering and construction, and another in social care and retail where an apprenticeship simply means low paid work with no education or training.
Finding the Funding
This change would incur no additional funding year on year. These apprenticeships are already receiving funding but apprentices aren’t receiving their education.
We believe that this change would significantly improve the educational experience of apprentices. It would also allow apprentices to meet from other apprentices and enjoy access to services most efficiently provided centrally. It would shift the focus of our apprenticeship programme from “what employers and providers can get away with” to a skills system fit for purpose.
NUS Wales is calling for: