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Education

Talks call in lecturers’ strike

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Pensions dispute: Lecturers plan four weeks of action

UNIVERSITIES UK has called University and College Union (UCU) to meet to engage in ‘serious, meaningful’ talks on the future of the USS pension scheme.

A strike by UCU members in the week ​of February 19-23 was only the first of a planned four weeks of industrial action as employers and lecturers battle out a dispute over the future shape of the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Universities UK claims that the current scheme – the largest funded scheme in the UK – is unaffordable and that a projected £6.1bn deficit means that retirement benefits have to be cut. The union claims that the deficit is overstated and that, having already eroded some pension rights, further cuts to it are unfair.

In a press statement which accompanied an open letter to UCU members, Universities UK said: ​”​It is of paramount importance that both side make every effort to meet – despite the ongoing industrial action – to stop any impact and disrupton to students.

​”​Universities UK has never refused to continue to try to find an affordable, mutually acceptable solution. We would be willing to discuss a credible proposal that addresses the significant financial issues the scheme is facing.

​”​The problem that we share as interested parties in USS is that, to continue to offer current benefits, contributions would have to rise by approximately £1 billion per annum. The scheme has a £6.1 billion deficit and there has been an increase of more than a third in the cost of future pensions.​”​

Responding to that statement, UCU said it would certainly be attending as it had been calling for talks for weeks, but refused to call of scheduled industrial action.

However, it said that unless the employers were prepared to talk about the January decision to slash pensions then it did not see how the dispute could be resolved. In its statement UUK said ​’​talks would not re-open the Joint Negotiating Committee decision made on 23 January​’​.

That decision is the very reason staff are on strike.

UCU said it was disappointed UUK had ignored the wishes of universities minister Sam Gyimah who stated explicitly that the talks should be without preconditions.

University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: ​”​Because this is so serious for students and for staff we will of course attend. I am however very concerned that UUK has explicitly ruled out discussing the imposed changes that have caused the strikes.

​”​The universities minister was very clear that he wanted talks without preconditions and we hope UUK will reconsider his words before we meet. We remain committed to serious negotiations aimed at resolving this dispute.​”​

Universities UK’s position is not assisted by the long-running dissatisfaction with some of the extraordinary pay packages its members dole out to some university vice chancellors.

University vice-chancellors have enjoyed huge pay rises in recent years. The average pay (excluding pensions) for vice-chancellors in 2005/06 was £165,105. Over the next decade it increased by 56.2% to £257,904 in 2015/16.

Professor Peter Mathieson, recently appointed as vice Chancellor of Edinburgh University, will be paid a basic salary of £342,000 – £85,000 more than predecessor Sir Timothy O’Shea. Professor Mathieson will also receive £42,000 in lieu of pension contributions and relocation costs of £26,000, taking his package up to £410,000. He will live in a five-bedroom grace-and-favour home in central Edinburgh.

Professor Mathieson quit his contentious and controversial tenure as vice-chancellor of Hong Kong University to take the Edinburgh post.

Stuck in the middle of the dispute between lecturers and universities are students.

The programme of strikes is taking place at one of the most sensitive times of the year for higher education students, with many final year students rapidly approaching the end of their courses. A suggestion has been made that some universities will take account of disruption to studies when making degree awards, In addition, while many students sympathise with their lecturers’ predicament there is growing frustration among those who are likely to be most severely affected by strikes that will last 14 days initially, with the possibility of further action during summer final exams.

Some students are contemplating demanding compensation, with The Guardian quoting one saying: “I am a third-year student in his last term of university and the fact that my vice-chancellor has told me that I could be without any assistance for a whole 14 days over four weeks in my most important term of education is a joke.”

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Education

Seren and Sbarc kick off new series of books with a story to coincide with Rugby World Cup

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WELSH Government and WRU announced a partnership to encourage more school children to use Welsh.

They have been inspiring school children to use Welsh in and out of the classroom for a while, but Siarter Iaith mascots Seren a Sbarc have now moved on to the next level with their very own book. Released as part of a partnership, the book will be issued to all primary schools in Wales to encourage children to read more Welsh and to cheer Wales on in Welsh.

The book, Seren a Sbarc yn Achub (Cwpan) y Bydysawd (Seren a Sbarc Save the Universe (Cup)), written by Elidir Jones and illustrated by Huw Aaron, tells the tale of the heroic characters fighting off monsters and villains using the skills they have learnt through rugby and speaking Welsh.

The book gives children and parents fun way of learning and using Welsh through rugby, as the nation eagerly watches Wales on their World Cup journey.

All primary schools in Wales will receive copies of the book to help inspire the next generation of Welsh speakers as part of the Siarter Iaith.

Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan, said: “As rugby fever grips the country, children right across Wales will be reading about the heroic antics of Seren and Sbarc as they fight off monsters with their fantastic Welsh and sport skills! This exciting project with the WRU is a great way of inspiring the next generation of Welsh speakers, and future rugby players. Rugby is a sport that brings the nation together and the Welsh language is a big part of that.”

To launch the book, Seren and Sbarc joined pupils of Ysgol Bro Allta in Ystrad Mynach for a busy day of rugby practice and sending good luck messages to the Wales team. Dragons players Aaron Jarvis and James Benjamin also joined the Year 5 and 6 pupils as they carried out tasks from the WRU Digital Classroom resource, launched to inspire pupils to achieve in all areas through rugby.

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Education

Ceredigion Schools Succeed in Exam Results

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The GCSE exam results published today (22 August) by the WJEC show that very high standards are being maintained in Ceredigion schools.

 

98.8% of entries for WJEC exams were graded A* to G, with 24.9% of the entries achieving A* and A grades. 72.5% of entries were graded A* to C.

 

Councillor Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said, “We are delighted with Ceredigion pupils’ achievements in a wide range of subjects. They have proven once again that hard work and commitment leads to success. I would like to sincerely thank staff and governors for their leadership and their continued support for our pupils. We wish the young people of Ceredigion the very best as they confidently progress on their chosen path.”

 

The following table provides the figures for Ceredigion and Wales:

           Ceredigion                                                Wales
Grade   A* – A                              24.9%                                                     18.4%
Grade A*-C                                  72.5%                                                     62.8%
Grade A*-G                                 98.8%                                                     97.2%

 

Compared with the Welsh average, an additional 6% of Ceredigion entries achieved A*-A grades and, in the case of A*-C grades, Ceredigion’s entries achieved almost 10% more than the Welsh average.

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Education

GCSE joy at Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi

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There was delight at Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi yesterday as students celebrated the GCSE results.

Headteacher Nicola James said: “In a year when key performance measures have changed, it is pleasing to note that our Capped 9 score (the pupils’ best 9 GCSE results including Numeracy, Literacy and Science) has increased to over 400.

“Our focus is on maximising the progress of every pupil across a broad range of subjects, and most of our students sat between 12 and 14 GCSEs or equivalent qualifications.

“We are proud of the achievements of all our students, which are the result of their hard work and the input of our excellent teaching and support staff who ensure high quality learning experiences and pastoral care for all students.

“I congratulate everyone on their success.”

There were many noteworthy individual successes, including: Catrin Rees 9A*, 4A; Sarah Greenshields 8A*, 6A; Emily Cross 6A*, 6A, 2B; Lleucu Berwyn 5A*, 6A, 1B; Lol Maskell 4A*, 7A, 4B; Tessa Hieatt 2A*, 9A, 3B; Georgia Harrington 2A*, 8A, 4B; Lowri Adams-Lewis 2A*, 8A, 3B,1C; Ewan Kelly 2A*, 6A, 5B; Ashleigh Gordon 2A*, 6A, 4B, 1C; Hatty Francis 9A, 4B, 1C; Amy Dangerfield 8A, 5B, 1D; Rhys Hughes 1A*, 6A, 7B; Emily Holmes 7A, 4B, 2C.

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