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Education

New Welsh education body announced

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Proposals ‘a made in Wales’ approach: Kirsty Williams

PROPOSALS to create a new commission to oversee the higher and further education sector in Wales have been published by the Education Secretary Kirsty Williams.

The Welsh Government White Paper also sets out how the new body, which will succeed the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, will regulate the skills sector and have responsibility for funding research and innovation.

In March 2016, Professor Ellen Hazelkorn published her independent review of post-compulsory education in Wales with a range of recommendations that were accepted by the Education Secretary in January this year.

A consultation on the White Paper has today been launched, with the key proposal being the establishment of the Tertiary Education and Research Commission for Wales to provide oversight, strategic direction and leadership for the post-compulsory education and training sector.

Kirsty Williams said: “I am publishing proposals for a ‘made in Wales’ approach to post-compulsory education and training so that it is easier for people to learn and acquire skills throughout their careers.

“Our lives and economy are undergoing huge technological change. The knowledge and skills needed in a transformed workplace mean that ‘average is over’. There is rapid change in other parts of the UK and the realities of Brexit. Doing nothing, or maintaining the status quo, is not a viable option.

“Our national mission does not stop at the school gates. We need to ensure that those leaving our schools progress into a post-compulsory system which provides genuine parity of esteem for vocational and academic routes, and which equips them with the skills required for sustainable and rewarding careers. Such a workforce will allow our economy to be more productive and competitive and our people more prosperous and secure.”

A Universities Wales spokesperson said: “We are pleased to see today’s announcement of the Welsh Government’s ‘Public Good and a Prosperous Wales’ White Paper, with a full consultation on implementation being taken forward over the next few months.

“We share the Welsh Government’s aim of reaching the very best outcome that we can for prospective students who aspire to go on to study at a higher level, and of enabling universities in Wales to continue performing at a high level in research and innovation. Ensuring the best possible contribution from Welsh universities to our economic and social wellbeing must be a priority.

“Furthermore, a new approach to post-compulsory education, centred on quality and excellence, should serve to meet Wales’ skills needs both now and in the future. Analysis shows that the most successful economies have high levels of graduate employment and we will need to increase graduate employment opportunities in the coming years if we are to fuel the next phase of economic growth in Wales.

“Universities Wales is very supportive of the open approach being taken by the Cabinet Secretary in regard to today’s announcement, and while we will have strong views in some areas, we look forward to playing an active role in the consultation process and working together with Welsh Government and key stakeholders to build a consensus on the way forward.”

Commenting on the Cabinet Secretary for Education’s statement on Post Compulsory Education and Training Consultation, Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance and Economy Adam Price said: “Numerous reports by leading experts have called for the Welsh Government to establish a National Innovation Body, but in true Welsh Government fashion it has adopted a diluted down version of this by creating an innovation committee. Where is its ambition?

“The Welsh Government is going against the recommendations of two separate reports by world leading experts and of its own advisory council, all of which say that establishing an innovation body is key to allowing Wales to reach its potential. Research and Innovation Wales – the Committee announced by the Welsh Government today, will not replace the need for a dedicated innovation body.”

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Education

Poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live

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Dr Siu-Ting: Specialises in amphibians

​ABERYSTYWTH UNIVERISTY​ scientist Dr Karen Siu-Ting discuss​ed poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live ​last Thursday ​(Sept ​28​).

Dr Siu-Ting is an IRC ELEVATE-MSCA Co-fund Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University.

Her research into poison arrow frogs feature​d​ as part of ‘Ask a Biologist’​,​ hosted by The Royal Society of Biology.

An evolutionary biologist from Peru,​​ Dr Siu-Ting specialises in amphibians and combines field work in the Amazon rainforest with laboratory and computational analyses to address biological questions.

She is currently working on a project on poison arrow frogs between Aberystwyth University and Dublin City University.

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Education

Apply for six-month traineeship scheme

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Applications open: Join the National Park Authority’s Skills in Action traineeship scheme

​IF YOU’D like to earn as you learn hands-on skills to prepare you for a career in practical conservation or estate management, apply now for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Skills in Action traineeship scheme.

The project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future scheme, will provide two six-month salaried apprenticeships with the National Park Authority’s Ranger and Warden Teams.

Skills in Action Project Coordinator for Pembrokeshire Coast Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Tom Iggleden said: “The successful candidates will be learning the skills and experience that are essential to be successful in obtaining employment within a highly competitive sector.

“The main duties of the placement will include practical hands-on work-based experience in conservation and estate management.”

The six month traineeship will see the successful applicants learn a wide variety of skills including traditional hedgelaying and modern conservation methods that are essential to the work of the National Park Authority.

This is an extension to the original three-year project which has helped many of the 15 previous trainees gain employment​.​

The closing date for applications is October 2​4 with interviews to be held on November​ 6​.

Application packs are available from the National Park Authority’s website ​at​www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/jobs or by contacting contact Joanne Morgan by calling 01646 624856 or by emailing joannem@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk.

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Education

Committee concerned at £12.7m error

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ALN Bill: Savings turn into costs

​A £12.7M alteration to the cost of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill has been described as concerning by a National Assembly for Wales committee.

In the original figures submitted alongside the Bill the Welsh Government identified savings of £4.8m over a period of four years if the Bill was passed.

But the estimates were challenged by children’s charity SNAP Cymru which claimed the Welsh Government had misinterpreted figures it had provided concerning disputes and resolution services. The Welsh Government admitted the error and revised the figures from the original saving to a cost of £7.9m – a difference of £12.7m.

The Finance Committee asked the Welsh Government to delay the financial resolution on the Bill, the mechanism by which government gains support to spend the money enacting the law and the government agreed.

“A £12.7m swing from a saving to a cost is very concerning, as it shows a government which doesn’t fully understand the figures it quotes,” said Simon Thomas AM, Chair of the Finance Committee.

“It also throws into doubt any future costs connected to Bills which come before this committee as we are left wondering whether the government has done its sums right.

“We are grateful to SNAP Cymru for highlighting the inaccuracies and acknowledge the steps taken by the Minister subsequently, but we will need further reassurance that such errors will not happen again.”

The Bill’s aim is to improve the quality of support available to children with additional learning needs through a person-centred approach which would identify needs early on and make sure the right support, monitoring and evaluation was put in place to help them.

The Finance Committee welcomed the actions taken by the Welsh Government to address the situation. But Members were concerned and surprised that inaccuracies as significant as this were raised and that SNAP Cymru was not consulted on the final figures before they were published.

The Committee acknowledges that revisions have since been made and the Minister’s assurances that the revised figures are robust, however, it is concerned at the need to have made this level of changes to the original costings.

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