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Education

Minister SKIPS to school

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The Meads Infant and Nursery School: Part of the SKIPS project

REBECCA EVANS AM, Minister for Social Services and Public Health has visited The Meads Infant and Nursery School in Milford Haven to see the impact of the SKIP project – Successful Kinesthetic Instruction for Pre-schoolers.

The SKIP project is a major programme of professional development in West Wales that aims to develop pupils’ motor development in the Foundation Phase. SKIP is run by the Wales Institute of Physical Literacy, part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and The Meads School was one of 100 schools that trialled the innovative scheme.

The programme is part of the Welsh Government funded Physical Literacy Programme for Schools which the Wales Institute for Physical Literacy manages in the region.

It is led by Dr Nalda Wainwright, Director of the Wales Institute of Physical Literacy, who has been instrumental in changing behaviour by working with schools across south west Wales.

“We are facing issues that we have never encountered before in our society,” says Dr Wainwright.

“As a result of the increased levels of inactivity in children it has been predicted that they may die five years earlier than their parents despite improvements in modern medicine.

“The bill to the NHS is estimated to be £30b for the treatment of conditions linked to inactivity, which is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide. Changes in society have created a ‘perfect storm’ for sedentary behaviours. “Modern technology, lack of green space, fear of strangers, a habit of driving, baby gadgets, coffee shop culture and screen time have all eroded time that would have been spent moving.

“Research into the implementation of the Foundation Phase shows that in Wales we have a potential solution to this with a world leading play based early childhood curriculum.

“However, this potential has not been realised as teachers and supporting adults don’t always have the necessary knowledge to ensure children are having appropriate experiences to develop the important movement foundations for good brain development and life-long physical activity.

“Drawing on research which identified the gap in knowledge, a programme of training and support was implemented in target schools.”

Working with Professor Jackie Goodway of The Ohio State University and honorary research fellow at the Wales Institute of Physical Literacy, SKIP trains teachers, teaching assistants and parents about the importance of early movement for child development. The training shows how children learn to move through developmental stages; how to alter tasks and the environment to move children through these stages, and crucially, to achieve the mastery of these skills needed for life long physical activity.

Part of this project also involves running parental engagement sessions with parents taking a bag of equipment home to play with their children and in some cases, even taking over the running of sessions.

“We have been assessing the impact of the project on samples of pupils from schools across the region. The analysis of the data thus far shows we are having a significant impact on pupils’ motor skill development. Importantly, teachers are developing their understanding and confidence so we are building real capacity for sustainable long term change,” continues Dr Wainwright.

“It’s great news that our research on the SKIP programme in Wales has shown that in as little eight weeks there is a significant impact on motor skills. Teachers also report huge improvements in the children’s concentration, focus and engagement in the classroom.”

Sonja Groves, Acting Head of The Meads Infant and Nursery School, Milford Haven has seen the positive impact of the SKIP project on both pupils and parents in the school.

“Since beginning the SKIP project we have been overwhelmed with the improvement in our pupils’ physical well-being. The training that the staff received has enabled them to teach vital skills of physical literacy in a developmental and sequential way. This means that pupils’ motor skills have improved significantly as well as developing positive behaviour and an enthusiasm for physical activity,” says Ms Groves.

“The parental workshops have provided an opportunity for parents and children to work together to build coordination and physical stamina. The weekly workshops have allowed parents, children and staff chance to engage enthusiastically in SKIP activities. The parents thoroughly enjoy the ‘Parental Engagement’ bags that the children bring home weekly. These bags contain a range of equipment and suggestions on how to get their children physically active.

“As a result of the success of the project, staff have been proactive in developing opportunities to integrate SKIP skills across the curriculum. Getting children moving at this young age is vital for their long term health and for the health of the community. It is crucial that the skills of physical development are understood by all teachers to enable this to happen effectively,” she continues. Having seen aspects of the project being delivered during her visit, Rebecca Evans AM, Minister for Social Services and Public Health added: “It was great to see the physical literacy programme at Meads Infant and Nursery School, which aims to give all children the opportunity to develop physical skills, as well as the confidence, motivation and opportunities to take part in sports and physical activity.

“We are committed to creating opportunities for children to develop healthy behaviours and I encourage all schools to develop innovate approaches to make physical activity part of the school day.”

The Wales Institute of Physical Literacy at UWTSD has a range of projects such as SKIP that will help Wales become a more physical literate nation. SKIP is aimed at early years and young children but Physical Literacy is developed throughout life. It is much more than learning skills and playing sport.

It’s about being confident, motivated and about understanding why activity is important and how to be active – whether that’s playing sport in a club, walking in the hills, doing yoga, cycling, swimming or taking a dance class.

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Education

Free school meals opportunity for WG

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No reason to make Wales' poorest children pay: Bevan Foundation Director calls for investment

THE WELSH G​OVERNMENT​ has a unique opportunity to make sure that children from low-income families don’t go hungry, writes Victoria Winckler, Director of the Bevan Foundation.

Each year, around one in six of Wales’ school pupils claims a free school meal because their parents receive a benefit such as Employment and Support Allowance, Job Seekers’ Allowance or Income Support. At around £2.50 a go – £12.50 a week per child – this is quite a big help.

And the benefits of a nutritious midday meal are not just financial: a decent meal contributes to better concentration in the afternoon and ensures low income children have better diets too.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT CHANGES

The introduction of Universal Credit means that new rules about who can get a free school meal are needed. Universal Credit is set to be in place for new claimants in all parts of Wales by the end of 2018. The process of switching existing claimants to UC will take place gradually from 2019.

Universal Credit is paid to families where someone is working as well as families which are out-of-work. This means that the old rules for getting a free school meal can no longer be used.

In anticipation of this, the National Assembly for Wales passed the Free School Lunches and Milk (Universal Credit) (Wales) Order in 2013.

Put simply, this piece of secondary legislation enabled the children of all recipients of UC to receive a free school meal, irrespective of circumstances, while the benefit was being rolled out.

In practice, the numbers of children who benefited from the new rule were likely to be very small as the roll-out of UC doesn’t apply to claimants with children.

As Universal Credit is set to be rolled-out to all types of households, including those with children, the UK Government is cutting back on eligibility.

The plan is that children in families receiving UC which have an income from work of more than £7,400 will not be eligible for a free school meal.

The move has prompted a row in the House of Commons about the UK Government allegedly ‘taking away’ free meals from a million children, with equally furious counter claims.

It’s worth checking Channel 4’s Full Fact for the details, however.

CHANNEL 4 FULL FACT ANALYSIS

There’s some respectable maths behind Labour’s claim that a million children will lose out on free school meals after the government introduces a means test.

But they haven’t mentioned two key points:

  • No one who is currently eligible for free school meals under Universal Credit will lose their entitlement.
  • In fact, under Universal Credit, 50,000 more children will receive school meals by 2022 than would have done under the previous benefits system.

This is not a case of the government taking free school meals from a million children who are currently receiving them: it’s about comparing two future, hypothetical scenarios. Both of them are more generous than the old benefits system.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN WALES?

Universal Credit, as everyone knows, is not devolved. But free school meals are. It is for the Welsh Government to decide who can receive a free meal.

Provision is already less generous in England, where all infant pupils get a free meal regardless of their families’ income. The question is whether the Welsh Government will follow the same route as the UK Government for children in families receiving Universal Credit.

WHAT ABOUT THE COST?

Because the UK government has limited the eligibility for free meals in England there’s no Barnett consequential to help cover the cost of increasing eligibility in Wales.

But that is no reason to make Wales’ poorest children pay.

Aneurin Bevan famously said in 1949 ‘the language of priorities is the religion of Socialism‘. And on this he was right.

At the same time as Wales’ least well-off children have to pay £12.50 a week for a dinner, there’s free bus travel on the Traws Cymru service for anyone, a subsidised canteen for Assembly Members and government officials, and free swimming for over-60s.

If you had to choose who got the freebie, who would you select?

Any change to the rules will be via an order to be considered by the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.

If the Welsh Government is serious about the well-being of future generations, there is not better case for investing in the health and education of Wales’ children than this.

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Education

Gold for Ammanford skills pair

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Joshua Richards: Faced network security challenges

A 15-YEAR-OLD from Ammanford has won a gold medal in the final of a national skills competition.

Backed by the Welsh Government through the European Social Fund, Skills Competition Wales is a series of events held in colleges across the country, designed to celebrate vocational skills and create highly skilled, talented employees for the Welsh workforce.

Shane Ellis, 15, who is currently studying for an Entry Level BTEC at Coleg Sir Gar, competed against students from across Wales in a wood working challenge. The competitors were tasked with creating a wooden box using different woodworking joints.

Shane said: “I’d heard about the competition from a friend, and at first I thought I was too young to apply. When I found out that I could actually go for it, I entered myself into the competition straight away.”

“I felt confident during the competition, because I’d practised using the saw on different joints in my carpentry classes lots before, in preparation for the competition.

“I really enjoy wood work, so I’m hoping to do more carpentry as part of my course next year, and hopefully become a carpenter when I finish college.”

Shane will be joined by 17-year-old Joshua Richard, also from Ammanford, who won a gold medal in computing.

Joshua is currently studying for a Level 3 BTEC in Computing at Coleg Sir Gar, and he competed against students from across Wales in a series of network security challenges.

The competitors were tasked with a range of challenges, from using a Windows virtual machine and setting it up with firewall rules and group policies to using a Cisco Packet Tracer simulation tool to set up a secure wireless network.

Joshua said: “I really enjoyed taking part in the competition this year. I competed last year in the IT Technician Skills Competition, so it was great to be able to compete again, but in a different category this time.

“Once I finish this course I’m hoping to go to the University of South Wales and do a degree in cyber security and forensics. I particularly enjoy learning about the crime side of IT security.

“I’ve loved computers since I was young. I enjoyed IT lessons at school but always felt that I wanted to do more, so working on computers became more of a hobby outside of school. My dad is always fixing computers too, so maybe my interest in computers had something to do with growing up watching him at work.”

More than 50 competitions are taking place this year, across a wide range of different vocations from bricklaying and hairdressing to aeronautical engineering and culinary art.

The successful youngsters may then go on to be shortlisted for the UK Squad, competing against the world’s most talented young people at the EuroSkills competition in Austria, in 2020, or the WorldSkills international final in Shanghai in 2021.

Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan said: “Competitions like these are essential for establishing transferable skills for the future, and allow young people at the start of their careers to flourish.

“They provide individuals from Wales with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills as well as the chance to go further and compete on a national or even international level.

“I would like to congratulate Shane and Joshua on their brilliant achievements and wish them the best of luck in the next stage of the competition and I look forward to seeing them prosper in their future careers.”

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Education

Sky high opportunities with RAF

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Reaching for the sky: Students find out about RAF careers

PUBLIC services students at Coleg Sir Gâr have seen how their careers can take off with the help of the Royal Air Force.

A corporal and a warrant officer, who have served as far as Afghanistan, Copenhagen, Germany and Norway, visited the college, highlighting the global opportunities of the RAF.

Careers span from air traffic and fighter controllers, logistics, police, medicine and dentistry to survival equipment specialist.

Amanda Morgan, public services course leader at Coleg Sir Gâr said: “Visits such as these are vital for students to see for themselves what the opportunities are working for British forces and the team gave an excellent insight into RAF life and what opportunities and qualifications can be gained.

“They also offered an insight into its range of fighter aircraft used to protect the UK’s airspace, their combat air capability and how some models can gather airborne intelligence, it was an interesting and inspiring insight.”

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