FOUR Welsh universities are among 61 institutions across the UK that will be hit with 14 days of strike action, the University and College Union (UCU) announced on Monday (Jan 29).
Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Cardiff University and the University of Wales will all be affected by the action that begins on Thursday, February 22. UCU members at Swansea University are being balloted to see if they will also take action.
The union confirmed an escalating wave of strikes over an initial four week period that will begin with a five-day walkout either side of a weekend. The universities will then be hit with four days of strikes from March 5-8 and a full five-day walkout the following week (Mar 12-16).
The strike dates are:
Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)
Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)
Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Friday 8 March (four days)
Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)
Last week talks between UCU and the employers’ representative Universities UK (UUK) ended without agreement and UUK’s plans to transform the scheme were forced through by the chair’s casting vote.
The dispute centres on UUK’s proposals to end the defined benefit element of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme. UCU says this would leave a typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.
In the recent strike ballot UCU members overwhelmingly backed industrial action. Overall, 88% of members who voted backed strike action and 93% backed action short of a strike. The turnout was 58%.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Staff who have delivered the international excellence vice-chancellors use to justify their own lavish pay and perks are understandably angry at efforts to slash their pensions. They feel let down by leaders who seem to care more about defending their own perks than the rights of their staff.
“Strike action on this scale has not been seen before on UK campuses, but universities need to know the full scale of the disruption they will be hit with if they refuse to sort this mess out.”
Swansea University was one of seven universities’ that failed to meet the government’s new 50% turnout threshold that must be met. Although 88.5% of members who voted backed strike action, the 49.7% turnout figure was not high enough.
A fresh ballot will close on Friday, February 16. If UCU members at the Swansea University back strikes again, and at least 50% participate in the vote, they would be able to join the action from Monday, March 5.
Commenting on the results of the UCU ballot on possible strike action, a Universities UK (UUK) spokesperson said: “The prospect of industrial action at 61 out of the 68 higher education institutions balloted by UCU is disappointing as talks between employers and the union on USS pension reform continue. A solution to the significant funding challenges facing USS needs to be found. UUK’s priority is to put USS on a secure and sustainable footing while offering attractive, market-leading pensions – the very best that can be afforded by both employers and employees.
“We should be under no illusion, this is not a problem that will go away if ignored. To retain the status quo would only serve interests in the short term. Without reform now, universities will likely be forced to divert funding allocated from research and teaching to fill a pensions funding gap. The option of no reform is a dangerous gamble. It is a risk that employers cannot take.
“If industrial action takes place it could cause disruption to students at some universities. We hope that this can be avoided through further talks with UCU and that union members carefully consider the possible impact on students of taking industrial action.”
One of the key issues for the pension scheme is the size of its deficit. Against just over £60bn in assets, are accrued pension benefits of over £72bn.
That £12bn deficit represents an increase of around £7bn since the last formal valuation of the fund. Among the factors blamed in the actuaries’ report are undefined ‘economic changes’ that were not foreseen in 2014 and are claimed by Universities UK to be have been unforeseeable.
Universities UK claims that in order to address the pension fund deficit, it will have to reform the pension scheme. A reduction in pension benefits scheduled to be paid to members will have the mechanical effect of reducing the deficit – unless, of course, further unforeseeable economic circumstances arise.
Against that, the Union claims that the current deficit is over-stated and that the scheme’s potential liabilities are significantly lower than claimed. With Universities’ future income from tuition fees likely to remain static – if not fall – in the short to medium term, resolving the issue before the deadline of June this year, is likely to be difficult – if not impossible.
Careers advice for deaf children
THOUSANDS of young deaf people across Wales will benefit from tailored careers advice for years to come thanks to a new partnership.
Careers Wales, which gives free and impartial careers guidance to young people, has joined forces with the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru to help better meet the needs of the country’s 2,500 deaf young people.
The partnership was established after deaf young people revealed they were worried about how being deaf would affect their employment prospects.
Concerned that young people wrongly thought their deafness was a barrier to employment, the two organisations held two focus groups to ask deaf young people about the careers advice they’d received and how it could be improved.
The results showed that deaf young people were often low on confidence, unaware of their rights and knew little about Government funding or technology that could help them in the workplace or higher education.
In response to the findings, the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru will now work together with Careers Wales and provide training to its careers
advisers to enhance their understanding of deaf awareness, accessibility and the key careers information that affects deaf young people.
The partnership means that current and future generations of deaf young people in Wales will benefit from more accessible and tailored careers advice.
As a result, thousands more across Wales could receive the knowledge, confidence and encouragement they need to make informed career choices and pursue their chosen ambition.
Previous research from the National Deaf Children’s Society with over 100 deaf young people across the UK showed that two thirds would hide their deafness on a job application, while almost half (45%) did not feel supported by their school or college when thinking about choices for the future.
Debbie Thomas, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Careers Wales and with this extra training, careers advisers will be able to give deaf young people the crucial advice they need in a format that’s tailored to them.
“Deaf young people are just as capable as hearing young people, but all too often they’re held back by the myths and misconceptions that surround deafness and the workplace. This needs to change.
“There’s an entire generation of deaf potential out there and this is a really positive step towards fully unleashing it.”
Nerys Bourne, Head of Services to Young People at Careers Wales, said: “We’re very pleased to be working with the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru to enhance our commitment to providing effective careers guidance and coaching to deaf young people in Wales.
“Providing this additional training to our advisers will enable them to focus more efficiently on the specific needs of young people within this group and to support them with a tailored and empowering careers advice service.
“We believe that this is a positive step towards equipping deaf young people in Wales with the right knowledge, awareness and confidence to succeed in their chosen career path.”
Officers celebrate completing first programme with University of South Wales
A GROUP of eight Dyfed-Powys Police officers are celebrating becoming the first in England and Wales to complete a new graduate diploma in policing.
The PCs mark the end of the Graduate Diploma Professional Policing Practice at the University of South Wales (USW) with a virtual celebratory event on Friday, February 5th. A traditional formal graduation will take place once social distancing restrictions have been lifted and it is safe to celebrate in person.
Having experienced a combination of university lectures and academic learning with life on the beat, the officers are the first in Wales and England to complete the Degree Holder Entry Programme (DHEP) and gain a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.
With backgrounds ranging from sports management to criminology and biology, the officers are now based across the force as fully licensed police officers responding to calls and investigating incidents.
Superintendent Ross Evans, force lead for Learning and Development, said: “This event marks the end of two years of hard work by our students, who are the first police officers in England and Wales to complete the DHEP course.
“Not only have they been the first cohort to combine real-life policing experiences on division with academic learning, but they have successfully managed this while reacting to the operational changes and challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I have no doubt that the theory and practice of the diploma, coupled with the support from USW and our in-force learning and development department, will have put them in very good stead as they begin their careers with Dyfed-Powys Police in earnest.”
The DHEP forms part of the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF) and is a two-year graduate diploma.
Dyfed-Powys Police and USW are working in collaboration to deliver the PEQF initial entry programmes to all new police officer recruits, whether through the DHEP or Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA), and support students academically and occupationally.
From the first day of the course, the group became both serving police officers and USW students. Student officers gained independent patrol status by the end of the first year, and were required to complete an Operational Competency Portfolio by the end of year two.
Supt Evans added: “This is a new approach to police training, and one we have embraced and embedded at Dyfed-Powys.
“The PCs from this course are already passing their learning on to the next cohort of officers, and we are confident that their unique skills and experience will enhance the force and the service we provide to our communities.
“My thanks go to the students themselves, who have shown dedication and commitment to both their university work and their policing duties, as well as their families and friends for their support over the past two years.”
Peter Vaughan QPM, Director of the International Centre for Policing and Security at USW, said: “We are incredibly proud to be partnered with Heddlu Dyfed-Powys Police (HDPP) and to be celebrating this significant achievement with the graduates of our first Policing Practice programme.
“Congratulating these Dyfed-Powys student officers on becoming the first in Wales and England to achieve their Graduate Diploma under the PEQF marks a very important occasion for us all and we very much hope that they have enjoyed studying with us as much as we have enjoyed teaching them.
“The professionalisation of the education provided to those who enter the police service at the rank of constable is a fundamental aim of the PEQF and we are proud to be contributing to this important endeavour with our partners at HDPP.”
Dafydd Llywelyn, Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner said: “I’d like to congratulate each and every one of the eight graduates for their fantastic achievement in gaining this new and innovative qualification.
“Gaining a qualification where the study methods include a combination of experience out on the beat, and also an academic input from both our Dyfed-Powys Police Learning and Development team and lecturers at University of South Wales, provides an excellent foundation for developing a successful career in policing, and I look forward to working with all eight graduates here in Dyfed-Powys, and hopefully see their careers developing further.”
Jo Noakes, Director of Workforce Development at the College of Policing, said: “The College is pleased to congratulate Dyfed-Powys’s eight newly confirmed police constables on completion of the Degree Holder Entry Programme. This is a significant milestone in the adoption of the new initial entry routes into policing as they are the first in England and Wales to complete any of the new programmes for police constable.
“We would like to commend Dyfed-Powys on their enthusiastic and positive approach to the challenge of bringing the new learning programmes to life. This is a huge achievement, particularly in the context of the national police uplift programme and the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Pupils at Ysgol Bro Pedr asked to self-isolate as COVID-19 case confirmed
A SMALL number of pupils at Ysgol Bro Pedr, Lampeter have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days following the confirmation of a COVID-19 case at the school.
The Contact Group have been asked to self-isolate as a precautionary measure in the first instance. All confirmed contacts of the positive case must remain at home for 14 days to reduce the possible spread of the virus to family, friends and the wider community.
In addition, pupils travelling on the same bus as the confirmed positive case have also been contacted and asked to self-isolate for 14 days again as a precautionary measure in the first instance. These pupils come from more than one Year Group from Ysgol Bro Pedr.
Due to the strong procedures that have been put in place in the school, only a small amount of pupils are having to self-isolate. All parents have been contacted by the School.
The Council urges all parents to refer their children for a test if they develop any of the symptoms, which are:
- a high temperature
- a new continuous cough
- a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.
Parents should also be aware of other symptoms early on, such as headaches, tiredness and general aches and pains usually associated with the flu.
You can apply for a test on https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.
No further details will be provided regarding this matter.
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