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Mentors all trained up

an army of 180-strong mentor teachers have been trained to help colleagues become more aware of key skills in their subjects.

The arrival of the cohort in Welsh schools comes as the Assembly government moves towards more work-related learning, with the 14-19 learning pathways and Welsh baccalaureate qualification central to its policy.

Key skills include the application of six personal qualities - using numbers, communication, ICT, problem-solving, self-improving performance and working with others. They are seen as the "icing on the cake" to vocational qualifications that do not offer life skills.

Rebecca Weaving, a newly-trained coach and mentor, claims many teachers are not aware that their lessons already pass on these skills to pupils in some way.

Part of her new role at Abertillery comprehensive school, in Gwent, is to make clear what key skills are, and then help teachers convey them better.

The art and design teacher has been looking after NQTs, but she also advises more senior staff.

Miss Weaving, who recently was awarded the coaching and mentoring award under the key skills professional development award, a two-year programme, said: "I have tutored an NQT, but I also pass on expertise to staff who have been in the classroom longer than me.

"Staff are already teaching key skills. My job is to make them aware of them in their lessons."

Understanding of key skills is essential for the Welsh bac, due to be rolled out from September.

Currently, all candidates must achieve four key skills, two at level 2 and two at level 1, including the first three of communication, application of number and ICT at intermediate level, as well as produce evidence of having pursued all six key skills.

At advanced level, pupils must pass three key skills at level 3, one of which must be from the first three key skills, together with the other three key skills at level 2.

"I'm also enabling staff to enter pupils' work to Welsh exam board the WJEC, so it can be accredited for key skills," said Miss Weaving, who is training a key skills assessor from each department.

Teacher mentors are currently concentrating on the 14-19 agenda, with experienced staff expected to take newcomers to the classroom under their wing, such as learning coaches.

Another award-winner, Christine Robertson, is key skills co-ordinator at Coleg Gwent's Ebbw Vale campus. She wants to integrate key skills with vocational ones, so that students recognise their value for future employment.

"Employers want these wider skills," she said. "They can't show an employee how to communicate or get on with others."

* aled.blake@tes.co.uk

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