THE MINISTER for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis, is proposing a change to regulations to allow Estyn to inspect schools and other providers at least once every seven years, instead of once every six years. The change would take effect from September 2016 and be reviewed again after a seven-year period (one cycle of inspections). The move will introduce more flexibility into the planning of inspections and allocation of resources. Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says: “I welcome the flexibility the proposal to move to a sevenyear inspection period gives Estyn. The extended inspection cycle will allow us to be more responsive to implementing any changes that may result from our recent consultation on inspections. Early analysis of the responses show that there is support for a more proportional approach.
We also look forward to being fully involved in shaping the new curriculum.” Commenting on the Education Minister’s proposal that the inspection period for schools should be extended to seven years to allow Estyn to be fully involved in developing the new curriculum, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in Wales, said: “The NASUWT’s notes the Minister’s concern for the workload of the Welsh inspectorate, the workload of teachers and schools merits equal concern during this period of radical change. “Estyn, along with other stakeholders in the education system, has an important role in play in taking forward the development of the new curriculum, but it is teachers who have the experience of delivering a curriculum and understanding how children learn and make the best progress.
“In order for the new curriculum to be a success, it is teachers who should be at the heart of its development. “The NASUWT would welcome the positive engagement of Estyn with schools on implementing the new curriculum. Unfortunately, Estyn’s approach to inspection has created a climate of mistrust which needs to be overcome before Estyn can play an effective role in curriculum change. “Education Scotland, Estyn’s equivalent in Scotland, played a positive role in supporting schools with curriculum reform. It was only able to do so because it had the trust of the profession.”
Rex Phillips, NASUWT National Official Wales, said: “The work to develop and design the new curriculum is fundamental to the future of the Welsh education system. “Those who will be at the heart of delivering the curriculum must be at the heart of its development. The involvement of Estyn, the Consortia and other stakeholders must be additional to, not instead of, the direct involvement of teachers. “Previously, the Minister said that the new curriculum should be built by the profession, for the profession. We expect him to keep to that pledge.” Commenting on the Welsh government announcement on Estyn, Rob Williams, Director of Policy, NAHT Cymru, the school leaders’ union for Wales, said: “we welcome the announcement that the current six year cycle of school inspections will be extended to seven.
“This extra year will be crucial to fully develop the recommendations in Professor Graham Donaldson’s report. It will provide the necessary space for schools across Wales to work in the most creative ways, and recognises the need for Estyn to be able to release pressure upon schools within the current inspection cycle. This backs up previous promises made by the Minister to place trust in the profession in order to work towards agreed common goals. School leaders in Wales know that the new inspection arrangements planned for 2017 onwards have an opportunity to play a vital part of the shared goal of driving up standards in education. The question of current added pressure associated with an Estyn inspection has now happily been addressed. “NAHT has campaigned for this extra time, which will help school leaders to fully bring in the changes, and will allow the inspectorate to be fully involved in developing the new curriculum
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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