EDUCATION MINISTER, Huw Lewis has set out plans to improve the fortunes of some of Wales’ most vulnerable and disadvantaged learners.
At the National Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) conference in Cardiff, the Minister outlined initial plans aimed at driving up standards and improving the provision offered to learners in PRUs through a fresh and strategic approach.
The Minister will announce that the Welsh Government will draw up a new framework for improving PRU provision that is focused on the six areas of leadership, accountability, resources, structure, learner wellbeing and outcomes.
The Minister has established an Education other than at school (EOTAS) Task and Finish group, chaired by Ann Keane, to drive forward the necessary changes.
Speaking ahead of the conference the Minister said: “Pupil Referral Units can provide an opportunity for some of our most vulnerable young people to get back on track, both emotionally and educationally.
“For many young people the PRU might be their last chance of formal learning so it is vital that we ensure the experience is both enriching and positive.
“We know that provision in some PRUs delivers exactly that, but in others the experience is less positive and this is not acceptable.
“The evidence cries out for a fresh and strategic approach. That is why the Welsh Government is working on a new framework to improve PRU provision. I have established a Task and Finish group, chaired by Ann Keane that will focus on identifying actions that can improve the sector and drive forward progress.
“I want PRU staff to be involved and engaged with the work of the Task and Finish Group so they can help to shape and improve future PRU provision.”
Ann Keane said: “I am pleased to have an opportunity as chair of the Task and Finish Group to discuss ways of securing improvements in the education delivered to learners in the sector and establishing a framework for change. I look forward to taking forward this work with other members of the group.”
In his speech the Minister will highlight that the PRU sector is represented in wider work to develop a curriculum for Wales and that PRUs are being considered for Capital Investment as part of the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Education programme.
As part of 21st Century Schools £1.4 billion is being invested between 2014 and 2019 to refurbish and rebuild over 150 schools and colleges in Wales.
However, in West Wales – especially in Pembrokeshire – Councils are planning to close Pupil Referral Units and subsume their functions within mainstream education.
PhD conference hears from Welsh researchers
WELSH agricultural researchers, Non Williams and Eiry Williams, showcased their work to academics and industry representatives at the Agricultural and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) 2020 Livestock PhD Conference in Nottingham last week.
Both researchers have been part of a scheme which brings the industry and universities together to undertake work which benefits key sectors of the economy. The two PhD’s are funded through the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (KESS 2) scheme supported by European Social Funds through the Welsh Government and in these cases, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is working in partnership with Bangor University and Aberystwyth University on projects which will directly benefit livestock farming.
In the final year of her research at Bangor University, Non presented her work during the first day of the conference. Titled ‘Optimised management of upland pasture for economic and environmental benefits’, Non has been looking at how upland cattle systems can increase production efficiencies, the farms financial return and helping to identify opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will help meet the agricultural sector’s emission reduction target.
“Field trials were set up at Bangor University’s farm which is a typical upland system with the aim to determine the effect of improved and unimproved upland grazed pasture on cattle performance, improved grazed pasture on cattle urine and dung composition and consequently, greenhouse gas emissions from soil following excretion” explained Non.
On the second day of the conference, Eiry Williams presented her poster on sustainable control of gastrointestinal nematodes in sheep. Eiry’s PhD is titled ‘Design and development of a targeted selective treatment (TST) strategy for nematodes during the periparturient period in ewes’.
Eiry explains that “the aim of the project is to help better advise farmers on the most suitable worm control management of adult ewes and their lambs. This work is an important factor in preventing further development of anthelmintic resistance.” Eiry is currently in her second year at Aberystwyth University.
The aim of Eiry’s PhD is to design molecular and computational modelling techniques to develop a novel targeted selective treatment strategy for controlling nematode infections in ewes during the peri-parturient period.
Non has also been presenting results of her experiments on home turf at Coleg Meirion-Dywfor, Glynllifon and Coleg Sir Gar, Gelli Aur at two events organised by HCC as part of the Red Meat Development Programme which is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.
Tesco donation puts school on fundraising path.
Carmarthen children have held a charity ‘walkathon’ to mark the re-opening of a path around their school, made possible thanks to £4,000 from Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme.
The grant allowed Model Church in Wales School to carry out work on the path around the perimeter of the school field, which was previously off-limits to children as it was unsafe.
The school decided to mark the opening of the path with a charity walkathon in aid of the British Heart Foundation, during which the pupils raised an impressive £3,000.
The school was chosen for the top £4,000 award after Carmarthen shoppers used their blue tokens to support the school by voting for them in local Tesco stores.
Amanda Bowen-Price, Headteacher at Model Church in Wales School, said: “We are truly grateful for the funding from Tesco through the Bags of Help scheme and to everyone who took the time to vote. The funding has transformed a previously unsafe path to a fantastic resource for the whole school and the local community.
“We know that a high number of people don’t get their daily recommended steps in to keep fit and healthy, so we decided to put the new path to great use and hold a sponsored walkathon. Over 400 pupils from the school walked the equivalent of half a marathon between them, and I’m sure the £3,000 will be a great help for the British Heart Foundation.”
“The new path will be an asset not only to the school, but to the whole community,” she added. “We will be able to promote exercise and health and wellbeing activities through the use of this path.”
The Tesco Bags of Help grants, which are administered by the charity Groundwork, sees money awarded to thousands of local community projects every year.
Rhodri Evans, Tesco’s Communications Manager for Wales, said: “We are really proud of the impact Bags of Help has had in communities across Wales. Model Church in Wales School is just one of many schools across the nation which have benefitted from funding through the scheme, and we have awarded more than £5million to projects across Wales. We would encourage anyone with a project that could make a difference to their local community to find out about how Bags of Help could help them.”
To date, Bags of Help has provided more than £80million to more than 27,000 community projects across the UK.
Graham Duxbury, Groundwork’s National Chief Executive, said: “Bags of Help continues to enable local communities up and down Britain to improve their local spaces and the places that matter to them.
“The diversity of projects that are being funded shows that local communities have a passion to create something great in their area. We are pleased to be able to be a part of the journey and provide support and encouragement to help local communities thrive.”
Further information is available at www.tesco.com/bagsofhelp.
New lights reduce carbon footprint
A STATE of the art greenhouse at Aberystwyth University that is helping breed next-generation plants is itself cutting its carbon emissions by installing new LED lights
In doing so, the National Plant Phenomics Centre at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) will reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 60 tonnes per year.
The Centre is home to pioneering research work that sees biologists working with engineers, computer scientists and mathematicians to identify and develop resilient crops that can help combat the effects of climate change on agriculture, such as increased drought resistance and the ability to survive floods.
Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the greenhouse is the only one of its kind in the UK and one of only a handful of similar facilities in the world.
It provides open access to its technology nationally and internationally, and here Aberystwyth University scientists are contributing to global food-security by breeding ‘smart’ plants, better adapted to the climate of the future.
Dr Fiona Corke, Smarthouse Manager at the National Plant Phenomics Centre at IBERS, said: “Plant phenomics is a science that can change our lives by responding to and predicting future environmental needs. We are very lucky that the Centre features a computer-controlled greenhouse, where plants are tended and measured automatically daily.
“We then take that data and use it to identify what genes within the plants have caused the different traits, so we can selectively breed stronger plants with the features we want to make them more resilient to conditions caused by climate change, such as drought or even flash flooding.
“It is therefore vital that our Centre is not adding to the world’s carbon footprint itself, as that goes completely against the principles of work we aspire to here. By installing these LED lights, we are contributing to help Aberystwyth University’s effort to limit global warming.”
96 of the original lights in the robotic greenhouse have now been replaced with LED lights that provide the correct wavelength for plant growth, particularly during winter months.
As well as significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions the new lights will also cut the Centre’s annual electricity bill by around £17,000.
Dewi Day, Aberystwyth University’s Sustainability Advisor, added: “We have recently invested in two innovative green energy lighting projects on our Gogerddan campus. This means we will now see a saving of 12% on previous annual electricity running costs for the site and will save over 100 tonnes of Carbon dioxide – significantly reducing the facility’s carbon footprint.
“Whilst the University has already achieved substantial reductions in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions over the last 10 years, it is now developing a new Carbon Management Strategy in-line with the Welsh Government’s ambitious target of a Carbon Neutral Public Sector by 2030.”
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