THERE has been a massive 35% increase in part-time undergraduates from Wales, thanks to the Welsh Government’s radical new student support package.
The statistics report on the new student support system for the first time, also showing a 58% increase in the number of postgraduates supported. Welsh post-grads were eligible for dedicated bursaries and support from Welsh universities this year, thanks to Welsh Government funding. Means-tested grants and loans will be introduced from September.
There is no Government-backed living costs grant funding for part-time undergraduates or post-graduate students elsewhere in the UK. Last year, the Education Minister set a goal of a 10% increase in the number of Welsh post-graduate students by the end of this Government’s term.
The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, said: “This is fantastic news and a real vote of confidence in our student support package, the first of its kind in the UK or Europe.
“We have always said that high living costs are the main barrier for students when thinking about university. Our package of support was specifically designed to address these concerns, making it easier for people to study part-time, especially if they have work or family commitments.
“Our radical approach to supporting part-time study is essential to improving social mobility, employment outcomes, access to the professions and delivering on our commitment to lifelong learning.”
Louise Casella, Director of The Open University in Wales, said: “The OU in Wales saw a 49% increase in our October student recruitment last year. This represents hundreds of more people embarking on learning that will transform the lives of their families and communities. We’ve had a 67% increase in students from Wales’ most economically disadvantaged areas, a 57% increase in disabled students and a 30% increase in BME learners.
“I am pleased the Welsh Government is highlighting the impact the new funding system is having on part-time study in Wales. With maintenance grants now available for part-time distance learners as well, flexible study has never been more affordable. This is helping The OU in Wales make studying for a degree a reality for those who may not have considered it in the past.”
Julie Lydon, Chair of Universities Wales, said: “We are delighted to see this increase in the number of students choosing to study part-time in Wales, clearly demonstrating that the new student support and higher education funding package in Wales is working.
“In the coming decade, Wales will face many challenges from the changing workplace and advancements in technology. These changes will mean that Wales will need a more highly skilled workforce.
Flexible learning, such as part-time study, will play a key role in preparing the people, places and businesses of Wales for the future.
“This increase in part-time and postgraduate study shows that, with the new student support and higher education funding package in Wales, we are on the right path to providing people of all ages and backgrounds with opportunities to benefit from higher education.”
Back to school song competition
CALLING all budding Ed Sheeran’s and Ariana Grande’s – it’s time to put your songwriting skills to the test!
Council leader and composer Cllr Emlyn Dole has written a song especially to welcome children back to school following the coronavirus pandemic.
Mynd ‘nôl i’r Ysgol is about the excitement of going back to school to catch up with teachers and friends, and all the fun the children will have when they are there.
The song has been recorded by popular Welsh singer Gwenda Owen from Pontyberem, who is also Cllr Dole’s wife.
Cllr Dole is asking Carmarthenshire primary school pupils for their help to finish it by writing another verse.
The winning pupils will have the opportunity to sing and record the song in a studio with Gwenda at the start of the new school year in September.
Cllr Dole said: “It has been a difficult time for everyone over the last few months, but particularly for our children who have been home from school and missing their friends and teachers.
“We wanted to celebrate their return to school, and I wrote this song to welcome them back and everything they have to look forward to.
“It wasn’t our intention to turn it into a competition at first, but then we had the idea to challenge our primary schools to write another verse.
“I am really excited to see what the children come up with and I would like to wish everyone the best of luck, but most importantly to please just have fun.”
Information on how to enter the competition has been sent to all primary schools in Carmarthenshire. The deadline for entries is Friday, July 17 and the winner will be announced at the start of the autumn term.
Video link: https://vimeo.com/434292752
Adoption worker’s back to school story
RACHEL Cook has always wanted to write a children’s story.
But she has never been able to find the time to sit down and do it.
And then the coronavirus pandemic happened – which gave her some free time and also the inspiration too.
Rachel, who works for Carmarthenshire County Council as an adoption support worker, used her time during lockdown to write and illustrate Sammy Sloth Goes Back to School.
The story will hopefully help children who are feeling anxious about going back to school after being home for so long.
Rachel, aged 36, who has always worked with vulnerable children and children with additional learning needs, said: “I have always enjoyed being creative and have dreamed of writing short children’s stories and illustrating them for a long time.
“I never imagined that the first story I would write would be about a pandemic, but in times of so much change and uncertainty I found myself thinking of the many children I’ve supported over the years through transitions and how challenging this would be for so many.
“Children often find change particularly challenging, and with the changes approaching us as we begin to return to school, with it may come a mix of emotions and feelings. Stories are a natural way for children to learn about their feelings, to help them learn that their experiences of feeling worried or nervous about returning to school are faced by many.
“This story focuses on the familiar, particularly around relationships, as sometimes feelings of anxiety come from the unknown, and while we may not know everything about what school will look like in the coming months, by thinking of some of the things that will be staying the same, we can help our children feel more secure.”
The council’s translation team has translated the story into Welsh, and the council has arranged to print copies to put into the county’s primary schools.
Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “This is a wonderful story which I am sure will help a lot of children feeling uncertain about returning to school.
“I would like to both congratulate and thank Rachel; I am delighted that the book will be going into our primary schools for pupils to enjoy.”
The story is also available on the council website carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education for parents to download and read with their children.
Video link: https://vimeo.com/432814176
Funding package of £3 million to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners
SCHOOLCHILDREN in Carmarthenshire will benefit from a funding package of £3 million to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners in Wales during the coronavirus pandemic.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement as part of Welsh Government’s ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ programme.
A digitally excluded learner is someone who does not have access to a suitable internet-connected device to take part in online learning activities from home.
The funding will be used to provide digitally excluded learners with repurposed school devices and 4G MiFi connectivity. Replacement devices will also be funded for schools out of the wider Hwb infrastructure programme.
In Carmarthenshire, schools have already started contacting parents and carers to identify digitally excluded learners, and the council’s IT department are identifying devices which can be repurposed with up-to-date software.
To date, more than 500 families who require further assistance with access to learning have been identified, with some further work to be carried out over the next week.
Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “We welcome this extra funding from Welsh Government to provide families with the support they need so that their children can continue to learn. No child should be left behind because they do not have access to a computer or broadband.
“This is a huge logistical effort and colleagues from across the council are working together to deliver this support for families as quickly as possible.
“I would like to thank the schools for working hard with us on this, we have already made a good start; and I would also like to thank parents for their patience, support and understanding whilst we put this into place.”
The council’s Education and Children’s Services department have put together a Distance Learning Plan which sets out the way forward for learning in Carmarthenshire during the coronavirus outbreak.
The main aim is to mitigate the impact of school closures on our children and young people as far as possible so that they can quickly catch up when schools reopen; and access to learning and connectivity is one of the key priorities.
Carmarthenshire’s Distance Learning Plan can be found on the ‘Information and support for Parents’ page on the council website, visit newsroom.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/coronavirus
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