Wales

School pupils' work experience axed over safety row

Work place Image copyright Getty Images

Secondary school pupils in parts of Wales are being told there will be no work experience for them this year, in a row over health and safety checks.

The Careers Wales body used to vet work placements, but that role has been scrapped by the Welsh Government.

Head teachers in Gwynedd and Anglesey said the decision had hit "the majority of authorities across Wales".

Government officials said £2.4m is being spent over four years to support links between education and industry.

Traditionally, students in Year 10 and 12 are sent on placements for up to two weeks during June and July to experience the real world of work.

Careers Wales used to check that employers and their workplaces were suitable, safe environments for students, and also met legal requirements on insurance and risk assessments.

But Skills and Science Minister Julie James wrote to all head teachers in 2015 to tell them the body would be forced to phase out the work, as it faced "a significantly reduced budget".

Image caption Work experience decision 'inevitable' says Ysgol Friars head Neil Foden

Head teachers have been writing to parents of pupils at secondary schools in Gwynedd and Anglesey explaining why no work experience will be offered this year.

"Unfortunately there were a very high number of locations that needed to be checked this year, and the necessary trained school staff were not available to carry out this work," said an official responding for both counties.

"This decision has already been taken by the other north Wales authorities and the majority of authorities across Wales."

In neighbouring Conwy, the picture is similar, where Year 10 pupils were being offered an alternative range of career activities.

The authority said it would also "support sixth formers where work placements are required to fulfil university entrance requirements".

Neil Foden, head of Ysgol Friars in Bangor, and also a national executive member for the NUT Wales union, said the decision had been "inevitable".

"There was talk of appointing two officers to verify work experience placements for Gwynedd schools. That cost was just too much for us," he said.

'Priority'

Parent Owain Evans has a Year 12 son at Ysgol David Hughes in Menai Bridge on Anglesey who was supposed to be going on a placement with a legal firm.

Mr Evans also hosts students himself at his architects' office.

"I think I'm really disappointed - for ourselves as employers and also for the children," he said.

"It is a way of connecting with industry - for employers this is our future, the young people coming to us."

The Welsh Government said strengthening links between schools and employers was "a priority".

A spokesman said Careers Wales was working to establish a new Education Business Exchange which will "support a national network of business education partnerships".

He added: "There are many ways schools can provide pupils with activity to help them in their understanding of, and improve competence in, the world of work, including employer talks, visits to industry and employer coaching and mentoring."

Conservatives' shadow education secretary, Darren Millar, said hundreds of pupils were "missing out".

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