Wales

Claim government's online learning tool 'barely used'

School children with laptops Image copyright bbc
Image caption The Welsh government says the Hwb+ project is popular with teachers and pupils

An online learning resource set up by the Welsh government to help teachers and pupils is "barely being used", according to Plaid Cymru.

The Hwb+ project has cost around £4.5m since it was set up in 2012.

One teaching union has questioned the government's decision to spend millions of pounds on it rather than investing in training for teachers.

But the Welsh government said the project is "hugely popular with teachers and pupils".

Hwb+ allows pupils and teachers in Wales greater access to online resources and allows them to access and share information.

Pupils can access videos and tutorials on the site via a personal Hwb+ account - 529,481 have so far been set up.

Figures obtained by Plaid Cymru via a Freedom of Information request show users have used the service on 162,837 occasions between September and November 2014.

The party said the information shows "only 31%, at most, of Hwb+ accounts" were used during the period.

'Sound in principle'

"The ideas behind Hwb and Hwb+ are sound in principle; in practice as is so often the case with the Welsh government the delivery does not seem to happen on the ground," said education spokesman Simon Thomas AM.

"Clearly some schools are using it successfully but others need support and it needs to be as user-friendly as possible."

Five Welsh government staff are employed to work on digital learning projects which include Hwb+.

Over the next three years, £4,452,500 will be spent on the project.

"I think we all know that money at front line in schools is extremely tight and we are seeing budgets cut across local authorities in Wales which will inevitably lead to teacher shortages," said Owen Hathway from the National Union of Teachers Cymru.

"I think that the profession may question why £4.5 million has been put into a website rather than actually into teachers training and ensuring whether classrooms are adequate and fit for purpose, those questions will need to be answered.

'One resource'

"As it gains a better reputation it may be used more and more but the reality is that it's one resource.

"It should be seen as something teachers can use, but it's not the panacea to all of the issues of sharing best practice and if teachers have already got their own practices in terms of where they go for their resources, how they work with other teachers, then I don't think we should discourage them from doing that either.

"We should see Hwb as an addition to rather than the only way that we can work together across the profession."

A Welsh government spokesman said: "Recent figures show that over 98% of schools have now been set up with their own Hwb+ site.

Eighteen centres

"As part of the extension, a Hwb+ Centres of Excellence Programme will now be commissioned which will accelerate the adoption of the Hwb+ learning platform across schools in Wales.

"Eighteen Hwb+ Centres of Excellence will be established in schools which will provide other schools, local authorities and regional education consortia staff the opportunity to see how the Hwb+ learning platform has made a positive difference to teaching and learning.

"This is excellent news for learners and underlines our commitment to digital learning and investment in technology in schools."

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