ONE of Britain’s leading women scientists has called for girls to be encouraged to play with “creative” toys such as Lego and Meccano to get them interested in areas such as engineering and construction.
Dame Athene Donald, professor of experimental physics at Cambridge University, said toys help to reinforce gender stereotypes that stop girls following certain paths in life.
She also pointed out that her own field of physics was notorious for its lack of girl students, who accounted for only about a fifth of all those taking the subject at A level.
And the same issue was responsible for schools failing to help girls find work experience placements in sectors that go against gender stereotypes.
Speaking before her inaugural address as the new president of the British Science Association (BSA), Dame Athene said we should start thinking about what’s appropriate for boys and girls from an early age.
“We introduce social constructs by stereotyping what toys boys and girls receive from the earliest age. Girls toys are typically liable to lead to passivity – combing the hair of Barbie, for instance – not building, imagining or being creative with Lego or Meccano.”
Dame Athene also pointed out that girls looking for work experience were likely to find them in hairdressing salons, which she said did not benefit either gender.
“If teachers and parents, peers and the media give the message to the teenage girl that physics and engineering are subjects for boys and men we should not be surprised,” she said.
It is not the first time the link between play and career choice has been made, as experts have also suggested that the video game Minecraft could be a way to get young people interested in construction jobs.
Award winning apprentice, Nadia Connabeer, stated in a recent blog “Being a female in the construction sector doesn’t bother me at all. I’m inspired each and every day by this industry and I look forward to a long, fulfilling career in construction.
“I plan to continue gaining more skills and knowledge before becoming a workshop manager and eventually progressing into a lecturer/ teacher role. In this way, I can pass on my experience to the next generation of construction workers – hopefully including more and more women who are just as passionate about the industry as I am.”
Commitment to reducing single-use plastics in schools
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.”
Pupil Language Ambassadors’ key role
EACH year Pupil Language Ambassadors (PLAs) from schools across the ERW region work hard to increase awareness of the skills and opportunities, which come from studying a language amongst their peers. They speak in assemblies and to groups of their peers at school events. Their ambassadorial role is wide and varied and each year they work with their teachers to increase the number of pupils studying language at GCSE.
This year, the focus has been to utilise the skills of language ambassadors to work with primary school children where these committed linguists go into their nearby primaries and speak to key stage 2 pupils about the benefits of learning an additional language. This has helped to fulfil a crucial element of the national and regional priorities as set out in the work of Global Futures, a Welsh Government funded scheme to promote language learning for all.
In addition to their fantastic and creative work and projects, in March these motivated ambassadors attended the annual ERW Pupil Language Ambassador training at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. They met with other ambassadors from across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Swansea to discuss their role and heaR from some inspirational speakers.
The purpose of the day was to help the pupils understand their role, to develop ideas for events they could run in their schools, to take part in language tasters and create a plan of action for supporting language learning in their school and their cluster.
The day began with a fantastic presentation from the Pupil Language Ambassadors from Ysgol Dyffryn Taf in Whitland. They spoke to the new PLAs about their achievements last year. They addressed the audience in many languages and set the tone for the day perfectly. The keynote speaker was Rhodri Bendle, Chief Consultant at Snowstyle Travel Company in Austria that specialises in Ski and Snowboarding holidays and tuition. He shared his own story about learning a German and how it has helped him to develop his own business.
Pupils then went into a series of workshops delivered by Routes Cymru, a team of professionals and student language ambassadors from Cardiff University who facilitated idea sharing and discussion about how to set up a language club and other ways of getting the message across about language learning.
Diane Evans, ERW, helped pupils to draw out their knowledge of the role of the ambassador across Wales and internationally. Pupils learned how to get their voices heard and how to make an impact in their time as language ambassadors in their community.
Alex Pickering represented the Goethe Institute at the event speaking with ambassadors about the importance of language in business. Ariane Laumonier, a consultant with the Institut Français ran a brilliant workshop on language and the world of work. Both Ariane and Alex used their own languages to convey the importance of learning a language and the benefits of developing multilingual learners.
Another aim of the day was to build confidence in ambassadors in learning and speaking an additional language. The language taster sessions from staff and postgraduate students at Swansea University all ran tasters that strengthen the priorities across Wales to learn and speak a new language. These were extremely well-received as always, pupils tried out languages that many of them had not learnt before including Polish, Italian, German and Mandarin.
Mererid Hopwood, Professor of Language at University of Wales Trinity Saint David inspired staff and students alike with her talk on the importance of striving for a Multi-lingual society in Wales with children and adults using their newly acquired language at every opportunity.
Local students shine at skills competition
KATIE WAITE and Ben Thomas, from Pembrokeshire and Llanelli, have won a gold medal in the photography and coaching 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.
Katie, 18, who is studying foundation art, competed against 18 other students from across Wales in a photography challenge. The competitors were tasked with creating photography that focused on the theme discovering Wales.
Katie said: “I am over the moon to have won the photography competition.
“’Discovering Wales’ was the theme of the competition and we had to base our photography around the great outdoors, adventure and culture.
“I focused on the cultural aspect of the brief by looking at how the landscape of Wales reflects its culture.
“It was fascinating to see other people’s work at the competition and see how different people can interpret a brief and show their creativity in other aspects.
“I love photography as it can capture a moment in a unique way and shows another way of seeing things.”
Ben, 21, who is studying level two fitness instructing, competed against 17 other students from across Wales in a series of coaching challenges in within one hour. The competitors were tasked with coaching a one on one strength training session, warm up and circuit session.
Ben said: “Competing in the coach competition was a big success for me that has brought me closer to achieving my goal in making a real difference to people.
“Last year I was struggling with both my physical and mental health and turned to fitness. I got a personal trainer, Zak Hearne, who helped me lose three stone in three months which had a hugely positive impact on my mental health.
“Being able to make the same difference with other people is something I want to achieve in the future through personal training.
“For me, it’s all about pushing people to achieve great things and showing people that they can do anything if they put their mind to it and aim high.”
More than 40 competitions are taking place this year, across a wide range of different vocations from forensic science and fashion technology to 3D game and food preparation.
Those who are successful may then go on to be shortlisted for the UK Squad, competing against the world’s most talented young people at the WorldSkills international final in Shanghai, China in 2021.
Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates said: “Skills Competition Wales is such an important event, allowing multi-talented young people the length and breadth of Wales to put their skills to the test, building on their excellence and experiences across various fields with the opportunity to then progress and compete at UK national and international level.
“It’s also an opportunity to show the breadth of talent we have here in Wales and to celebrate the Welsh companies who are nurturing and reaping the rewards of such highly skilled, talented employees. Ensuring Wales has the skills needed for economic success has long been a priority for me personally and for the Welsh Government more broadly and it’s fantastic to see skills acknowledged in this way.
“I would like to say well done to everyone who has competed this year and add my congratulations to Katie and Ben on their brilliant achievement. Best of luck to them in the next stage of the competition and I look forward to seeing them prosper in their future careers.”
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