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University wins at UK Sustainability Awards

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At the awards ceremony: UWTSD Vice Chancellor Professor Medwin Hughes and Jane Davidson

At the awards ceremony: UWTSD Vice Chancellor Professor Medwin Hughes and Jane Davidson

THE UNIVERSITY of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) is celebrating its success following the prestigious Green Gown Awards in Bristol.
BEST NEWCOMER
Awarded to UWTSD for its Institute for Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resources Effectiveness (INSPIRE). INSIPRE is the University’s institutional approach to delivering sustainability through its culture, curriculum campuses and community.
The judges’ described INSPIRE as delivering ‘strong institution-wide strands for sustainability, embedded at all levels of the University. It demonstrates a top-down structured approach with clear goals and good results’.
LEADERSHIP AWARD
This award was presented to Dr Jane Davidson, Director of INSPIRE at UWTSD. Dr Davidson established INSPIRE in 2012 before which UWTSD had no history of involvement in sustainability. Three years on, INSPIRE has won the Guardian Award for Sustainability in HE in 2013 and the Soil Association Gold Catering Mark for its support of local producers in 2014. In 2015, UWTSD rose from 113th in the UK and a 3rd class degree to a 1st class degree and 8th in the UK (1st in Wales) in the People and Planet University League.
The judges’ said ‘Jane’s exemplary leadership demonstrates powerfully the role of a university as a catalyst for change and an ‘anchor’ institution impacting city/region and beyond. Jane has championed the embedding of sustainability throughout the university strategy. This is particularly powerful as the university is a dual sector institution, and this agenda connected the community during a time of change. Jane is an inspirational leader, charismatic and enabling of others – she is authentic and her passion has created a unique space for creativity and change led by others’.
SUSTAINABILITY CHAMPION – STAFF
This award was presented to Luci Attala, Anthropology Programme Director at UWTSD. Luci believes that to stimulate genuine and lasting change people need to experience how their actions make a difference. Recognising that future leadership demands confident individuals who make clear, bold decisions, Luci works stridently to empower undergraduates in diverse ways.
Her community work with students in Kenya was recognised with a UN Gold Star Award in 2014.
The judges were impressed with the breadth, quality and scale of the work undertaken by Luci. She has embedded sustainability into the anthropology curriculum, influenced other academics to adapt their teaching and learning techniques and provided a significant amount of support to students to help them raise money for developing countries. Her passion for sustainability was described by the judges as ‘truly inspirational’.
SUSTAINABILITY CHAMPION AWARD – STAFF
Highly commended in this category was Gwenllian Beynon, Art and Design Senior Lecturer and Programme Director at UWTSD. Sustainable Pedagogy incorporating ‘social, economic, environmental and cultural’ values, is central to Gwenllian’s role in Higher Education. She has enabled students to study in their own language, to look at their own and global cultures, and to embrace sustainability in creative practice.
The judges were ‘impressed by the way in which she had embedded sustainability into her art and design course, developed the new Welsh language degrees and the international project with St Michael’s School to share sustainability expertise and learning across borders. The judges were also delighted to see the way that Gwenllion had involved the local community in her work – providing practical, sustainability experience for a student from the local school’.
SUSTAINABILITY IS KEY FOR UNIVERSITY
Now in its eleventh year, the Green Gown Awards provide universities and colleges with benchmarks for excellence and are well respected by governments, funding councils, senior managers, academics and students alike. The Awards recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities, colleges and the learning and skills sectors across the UK. With sustainable development moving up the global agenda, the Awards are now established as the most prestigious recognition of sustainability excellence within the tertiary education sector, as well as the environmental sector.
The UWTSD Group, which includes Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion, was shortlisted in six categories representing cross-campus initiatives as well as individual staff contributions to the sustainability agenda.
Dr Jane Davidson said “This is excellent news that demonstrates clearly the University’s commitment to sustainability. Colleagues and students across the UWTSD Group have worked diligently to ensure that this important agenda is embedded throughout our core operations and culture.
“UWTSD has placed sustainable development as a core value and aims to ensure that our students and graduates develop the skills and attributes that are required by employers and society across the world.”
Professor Medwin Hughes, UWTSD Vice-Chancellor, said: “These are prestigious accolades and they acknowledge our commitment to sustainability as one of our core values. Most importantly it celebrates the excellent and inspiring work of colleagues and students across the University’s campuses.”
Iain Patton, Chief Executive of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC), said: “Every year the Green Gown Awards rewrite what business-as-usual looks like for UK universities and colleges. Sustainability makes business sense and this year’s inspiring initiatives prove that sustainability benefits staff, students, the wider community and of course the bottom line. Congratulations to all the finalists for their hard work.”

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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

Pupil Language Ambassadors’ key role

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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.

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Education

Local students shine at skills competition

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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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