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Education

Princess Royal backs girls in STEM

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Prof. Julie Williams: Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales

ON MONDAY (Mar 13), leaders from business, academia and the Welsh Government, joined forces at the Senedd, Cardiff to tackle head on the lack of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) in Wales, in the presence of HRH The Princess Royal and Julie James, Minister for Skills and Science.

The WISE Celebration of Talented Women brings together ministers, academics, businesses and schools who are backing the Welsh Government commissioned report to address STEM skills shortages by getting more women and girls into science, technology and engineering.

‘Talented Women for a Successful Wales’ was commissioned by Professor Julie Williams, Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, who will chair a Q&A with industry leaders on the day.

The report highlights challenges in education – which range from few primary school teachers having STEM backgrounds to the poor take-up of girls studying physics and computer science A-Levels – and in the workplace, leading to women working in less than one in six STEM jobs.

Helen Wollaston, chief executive of the WISE campaign which organised the event and which campaigns for gender balance in STEM, said: “Wales has an impressive number of female scientists in top positions, including the Chief Scientific Adviser and the newly appointed deputy vice chancellor at Cardiff University. They are living proof that choosing science opens doors. Today’s event is an opportunity for us all to work with the Welsh Government, education and industry to get a positive message out to the next generation of girls in Wales and their families, inspiring them to choose science, technology and engineering for a brighter future.”

The report was co-chaired by Professor Karen Holford, newly appointed deputy vice-chancellor of Cardiff University and Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, senior pro-vice-chancellor of research and innovation at Swansea University.

Professor Lappin-Scott said: “We have a ‘leaky pipeline’ when it comes to women and academic careers. More girls than boys are studying science at degree level but this huge pool of talent is ‘leaking away’ as men’s and women’s careers progress.”

Holford explained a programme which helps female academic staff: “Participants spend time with a member of the university executive board for a very honest Q&A on their career path and share how they managed challenges. The feedback has been hugely positive and has motivated many colleagues to successfully apply for promotion.”

At the event Royal patron of WISE, HRH The Princess Royal met 50 girls from eight Welsh schools taking part in People Like Me sessions. These allow girls to define themselves by adjectives – such as organised, creative or friendly. They then relate their personality types to careers in STEM and discuss these with young women working in STEM jobs.

Panel discussions include Trudy Norris-Grey, chair of WISE and MD, worldwide business development at Microsoft, Helen Samuels, director of engineering at Network Rail, La-Chun Lindsay, MD at GE Aviation Wales, Sharon James, Senior Vice President R&D, RB (Reckitt Benckiser), Chris Jones, chief executive of Welsh Water and Helen Wollaston. Professor Julie Williams will moderate the panel, sharing best practice examples to achieve more women in STEM, from recruiting students to putting women on boards.

Encouraging women into STEM makes economic sense, said Julie James, Minister for Skills and Science: “The under-representation of women in the STEM workforce is a critical issue for Wales. The recommendations in the ‘Talented Women for a Successful Wales’ report go some way to try and address this need and everyone has a role to play to encouraging more women and girls to pursue STEM opportunities and careers.”

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Education

Globalisation with a difference at Lampeter

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Tabula Peutingeriana: A copy of a Roman original world map

AN INTERNATIONAL multidisciplinary conference that aims to explore approaches to the theme of ‘globalisation’ across the ancient world will be held at UWTSD’s Lampeter conference next month.

Entitled “Re-Thinking Globalisation in the Ancient World” up to 30 academic experts from Asia, Europe, South and North America will visit Ceredigion to present papers and take part in discussions at the three-day event. Keynote speakers at the conference include Professor Mark Horton from the University of Bristol and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany and Professor Michael Sommer from Universität Oldenburg.

Conference organiser and Senior Lecturer in Roman History and Archaeology at UWTSD Associate Professor Ralph Häussler said: “We’re very much looking forward to hosting this conference and welcoming so many distinguished experts in the field to Lampeter – it truly is a ‘global’ conference. The purpose of the conference is to provide new insights into cross-cultural interactions and responses in inter-connected and entangled regions of the ancient world.

Methodological issues relating to the theme of ‘globalisation’ will be analysed in different contexts, notably the application of this concept in different regions and different periods of the ancient world. In the 21st century ‘Globalisation’ is a buzzword for our interconnected and fast-moving modern times. But globalisation is not new. Already 2,000 – 3,000 years ago, we can identify comparable developments, like an ever increasing inter-dependency between distant regions of the ancient world. Nowadays, the concept of ‘globalisation’ and of a cosmopolitan society has come under increasing scrutiny for contemporary society. Therefore the study of globalisation with regards to the ancient world will enable us to place this modern debate within a wider historical framework. Everybody is welcome to come along and take part in what promises to be a fascinating discussion.”

The Conference will start at 8:30am on the 8th May and come to a close at midday on the 10th May 2018. More information can be found here

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Education

Creative coding challenge for schools

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Animating challenge: Schools invited to combine poetry and computing

ABERYSTWYTH U​NIVERSITY’S Computer Science Department is calling on primary school pupils across Wales to take part in a unique coding competition combining poetry, Welsh mythology and creative computing.

The challenge to children aged 7-11 years old includes animating a poem by Eurig Salisbury, a lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh & Celtic Studes as well as an award-winning writer and former Children’s Welsh Poet Laureate.

Alternatively, contestants can also choose to animate a Welsh myth or legend – from the Mabinogion, for example.

There will be prizes for the winning teams as well as a visit to the winning entry’s school by a team of computer scientists from Aberystwyth University who will hold a day of educational coding activities.

The aim of the competition is to encourage children to give coding a go and to learn new skills for the workplace of the future.

Organiser Dr Hannah Dee, Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Computer Science Department, said: “Coding is a digital skill which will only increase in importance. People often think that coding is just spreadsheets or numbers. This contest aims to show that it’s much than that – you can code pictures, animations, and even poetry. Creative coding is something everyone can have a go at, particularly using Scratch, a kids’ programming language.

“We have four top prizes this year with winners awarded either a Pi-top Laptop or Kano Computer Kit or and we are grateful to both companies for their sponsorship and support.”

Fellow organiser and lecturer Martin Nelmes said: “As a Department, we visit schools the length and breadth of Wales with our coding activities and find that creative coding like this really fires students’ imagination. We held our first coding competition last year and the entries were inspirational. I can’t wait to see what pupils come up with this year.”

First prize in last year’s competition went to Johnstown School in Carmarthenshire, with second place going to Ysgol Gynradd Pentrefoelas in Betws y Coed in Gwynedd, and third to Brynnau School, Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taff.

Eurig Salisbury, a lecturer in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies, said: “It was a privilege to be part of this coding competition last year and to see young children take up the challenge of creative computing to illustrate one of my poems. It’s a fun activity but it’s also educational with coding becoming an increasingly fundamental skill to those growing up in the early part of the 21st century.”

Further details about the competition and how to enter can be found on the website of the Department of Computer Science.

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Education

Pupil Deprivation Grant boosted

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Allocation levels guaranteed for two more years: Kirsty Williams

SCHOOLS across Wales are to share in over £90m in 2018-19 to help their most disadvantaged learners, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced.

The Cabinet Secretary has written to schools across Wales to confirm how much they will directly receive in 2018-19.

In addition to over £90m committed this year, £187m has been guaranteed for the remainder of the Assembly term, so that schools have the stability to plan ahead.

The Pupil Development Grant (PDG) helps schools tackle the effects of poverty and disadvantage on attainment and is targeted at learners who are eligible for Free School Meals or are Looked After Children.

Schools use the PDG in a number of different ways, including nurture groups for children who may be socially and emotionally vulnerable, out-of-hours school learning, on-site multi-agency support and better tracking of pupils as they progress through school.

This year, the PDG for the youngest learners (pupils aged 3-4 years old) has increased from £600 to £700 per pupil. This builds on last year’s doubling of financial support from £300 to £600 per learner in the early years.

Primary and secondary schools will continue to receive a rate of £1,150 per learner, and this rate also continues to apply to learners in education other than at school (EOTAS).

From this year, schools will also have greater flexibility to support learners who have been eligible for Free School Meals in the previous two years.

Advisers and coordinators from education consortia are also on-hand to provide extra support and guidance for schools on using the funding.

Kirsty Williams said: “Reducing the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers is at the heart of our national mission to raise standards. This is one of the most effective ways in which we can break the cycle of deprivation and poverty.

“Time and again, teachers have told me how much of a difference PDG funding has made in raising aspirations, building confidence, improving behaviour and attendance and in involving families with their children’s education.

“Teachers have also called for greater certainty around future PDG funding and that’s why I’m pleased to be able to guarantee allocation levels for the next two financial years and reaffirm our commitment to the grant for the lifetime of this Assembly.

“We have always said that the PDG is there to support all pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals, not just those that are struggling academically. That’s why I want schools to ensure they are supporting more able pupils as well.

“I would also encourage all schools to make full use of the PDG advisers and coordinators from the education consortia – they’re there to help when it comes to making the best use of the funding and ensuring that we raise attainment across the board.”

An independent evaluation of the PDG last year found that many schools consider the funding to be ‘invaluable’, with further evidence from Estyn and the Welsh Government’s raising attainment advocate, Sir Alasdair MacDonald, showing the majority of schools are making well thought out decisions on how to spend the funding.

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