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Education

Commitment to reducing single-use plastics in schools  

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has committed to working with its suppliers to reduce the amount of single use plastic used in schools.

Councillors debated the issue at Full Council, following a motion by Cllr Bill Thomas which called for action to identify ways of moving away from plastic milk bottles in schools.

He said he was aware of children in local schools that want to see change, citing particular examples in Ysgol y Felin and Five Roads School, where eco committee members are demanding action.

He said: “In April last year, Carmarthenshire County Council unanimously passed a motion that included a call for the council to reduce single-use plastics in Council buildings and offices. That motion also called on the council to encourage schools to stop using single-use plastics and to start to use sustainable materials.

“Pupils in schools across our county have taken up this challenge. At the June governors meeting at Ysgol Y Felin, we were told that the school’s Eco Committee had requested non-plastic containers for their milk. When the school contacted the council they were told that the milk contract couldn’t be changed and that they had received no other interest in providing glass bottles.

“To support a campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastic in their school, Five Roads School has created a poster showing pupils drowning in plastic.”

Cllr Thomas was supported by Cllr Glynog Davies, Executive Board Member for Education.

“This underlines our opinion as a council,” he said. “Steps are already in place to reduce single use plastics in our buildings. We are aware of the damage plastic is doing to our environment. I would like to praise the excellent work that’s done in our Eco School Councils, and we are proud that our children are taking such interest in this.”

He added: “The solution is a complicated one, but we as a council can continue to encourage and support our schools as much as possible whilst we evaluate the alternative options, and full financial and environmental benefits. We have to do what we can to protect the environment.”

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Education

NEU looks forward to conference

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NEU Cymru members are gathering in Newport on November 9 & 10 for the annual NEU Cymru Conference, where a range of issues which relate to education in Wales will be raised and debated.

There will be 27 motions debated in 6 different sections during the 2-day conference and teacher, lecturer, and support staff members will be present to discuss issues related to funding, the new Curriculum, mental health and Additional Learning Needs.

Also, on the agenda will be the launch of the ‘Making News Toolkit for Schools’ online resource, which is a collaboration between NEU Cymru’s Welsh Government funded Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF) project and Cardiff University’s Centre for Community Journalism (C4CJ), which will take place during the first day of conference at a 1.30pm lunchtime fringe meeting.

David Evans, Wales Secretary for the National Education Union Cymru, said: “I’m expecting some interesting debate from members across the education system here in Wales, who will bring their experiences from their classrooms to conference.

“Our members are passionate about learning and supporting young people in schools and colleges, and they will use this opportunity to speak on a range of challenges facing education here in Wales. We have motions from districts across the country on important issues such as workload, mental health, funding and the new curriculum.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union said: “I am pleased to be opening NEU Cymru Conference. This is an important conference giving members the opportunity to raise and debate issues that affect them on a daily basis. We’re facing challenging times in the education sector across the UK, as austerity impacts on funding for schools and colleges.

“Wales has the opportunity to deliver something different, and I’m pleased that our members have welcomed the new Curriculum in principle. Now we need to make sure that enough resources are made available to ensure members can deliver the aspirations of the new Curriculum.”

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Education

University staff to strike

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SIXTY UK universities will be hit with eight days of strike action from Monday, November 25 to Wednesday, December 4, the UCU has announced.

Three of Wales’ universities, Bangor, Cardiff and UWTSD, will be affected by the dispute.

Last week UCU members backed strike action in two separate legal disputes, one on pensions and one on pay and working conditions. Overall, 79% of UCU members who voted backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions. In the ballot on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads, 74% of members polled backed strike action.

The union said universities had to respond positively and quickly if they wanted to avoid disruption this year. The disputes centre on changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) and universities’ failure to make improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.

The overall turnout in the USS ballot was 53% and on pay and conditions it was 49%. The union disaggregated the ballots so branches who secured a 50% turnout can take action in this first wave. The union’s higher education committee has now set out the timetable for the action.

As well as eight strike days from 25 November to Wednesday 4 December, union members will begin ‘action short of a strike’. This involves things like working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘The first wave of strikes will hit universities later this month unless the employers start talking to us seriously about how they are going to deal with rising pension costs and declining pay and conditions.

‘Any general election candidate would be over the moon with a result along the lines of what we achieved last week. Universities can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling on these issues and we will be consulting branches whose desire to strike was frustrated by anti-union laws about re-balloting.’

Last year, university campuses were brought to a standstill by unprecedented levels of strike action. UCU said it was frustrated that members had to be balloted again, but that universities’ refusal to deal with their concerns had left them with no choice.

Last month, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner called on both sides to get round the table for urgent talks. She said she fully supported UCU members fighting for fair pay and decent pensions and called on both sides to work together to find solutions to the disputes.

The University and Colleges Employers’ Association dismissed the strike ballot results.

It claims, in all seriousness, the low turnouts in the unions’ ballots of their members is a clear indication that the great majority of university union members as well as wider HE employees understand the financial realities for their institution.

Extending that logic to a general election or other poll would create some rather interesting results and would, for example, overturn the outcome of the 2016 Referendum.

UCU has just 55 results from their 147 separate ballots supporting a national dispute over the outcome of the 2019-20 JNCHES pay round. While UCU members in these 55 institutions could technically be asked to strike against their individual institution, this would be causing damage to both union members and to students in an unrealistic attempt to force all 147 employers to reopen the concluded 2019-20 national pay round and improve on an outcome that is for most of these institutions already at the very limit of what is affordable.

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Education

Youth Parliament wants life skills education

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IN ITS first major piece of work from the body representing the views of young people in Wales, the Welsh Youth Parliament found huge inconsistencies in how life skills are currently taught, with almost half of those surveyed saying they received lessons once a year or even less.
In their second full session at the Senedd, members of the Welsh Youth Parliament today heard the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams’ response to their report on Life Skills in the Curriculum.
The Welsh Youth Parliament published its report earlier this week in its first major piece of work, having consulted with over 2,500 young people, parents and teachers across Wales. It found huge inconsistencies in how life skills are currently taught with members voicing concerns about leaving school as ‘A* robots with no knowledge of the real world’.
The report said: ‘We currently leave school with a handful of skills but no knowledge on how to speak in public, clean, maintain healthy relationships, buy cars, apply for mortgages, road safety, and many other skills that are needed to succeed in life.
‘We can’t survive adulthood or any part of our life if we leave school as A* robots with no knowledge of the real world. We’re going through this education system, our siblings and our kids will go through this system. We want them to feel equipped and able to function as productive adults, who don’t feel as though their worth is based on their exam results. We are worth more than this.
‘If life skills are correctly implemented into the curriculum, the next generation of students will leave school with not only the correct qualifications to succeed in life but also other abilities and knowledge to make life easier’.
The principal recommendations within the report were:
• A consistent, nationwide Life Skills Specification containing all core life skills mapped out across appropriate key stages and taking in to account all learning needs.
• The core life skills within the specification should be agreed upon by young people and education professionals – their focus shouldn’t be solely on teaching young people how to exist, but how to lead a full and healthy life.
• A life skills coordinator should be appointed within every school. The coordinator would be responsible for mapping the core life skills across the school’s curriculum, ensuring that each pupil’s experience is consistent and in line with the Life Skills Specification.
As she faced Welsh Youth Parliament members in the chamber, the Minister noted their report’s main recommendations including the call for the Welsh Government to be doing more to support teachers and to work with the Welsh Youth Parliament to create resources to support the teaching of life skills.
Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, said: “It is absolutely clear to me from your report that, as a government, we need to be doing more to support our teachers – we need to invest in their development to ensure they have the right tools to deliver life skills education effectively.
“Within government, we are currently in discussion over future budgets. I can assure you today that investment for professional learning for our workforce will be a priority of mine as I recognise the points that you make.”
The Minister also acknowledged members’ clear message in the report about leaving education uninformed about real-world skills. Kirsty Williams argued that educational reforms, including the new curriculum being developed by the Welsh Government, would help address some of those concerns.
Children’s Commissioner, Sally Holland, and the Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, Lynne Neagle AM also addressed the Members and gave their response to the report.
During the session, members who form committees looking at Youth Parliament’s other priorities, Emotional and Mental Health in Young People and Littering and Plastic Waste, also gave updates on their work which will continue over the next few months.

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