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Education

Savvy Pembrokeshire students on research placement

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On Placement: Sarah Cooper and Amy Staff

TWO savvy STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students from Pembrokeshire College replaced four weeks of their summer holidays for a research placement via the Nuffield Foundation – a charitable trust working to improve social well-being by funding research and innovation in education and social policy. 

College A-level students Sarah Cooper and Amy Staff were two of only 75 students to be selected for a summer placement out of more than 300 applications. Nuffi eld Research Placements (previously Nuffi eld Science Bursaries) provide over 1,000 students each year with the opportunity to work alongside professional scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.

Placements are available across the UK, in universities, commercial companies, voluntary organisations and research institutions. Sarah and Amy didn’t take long to understand that this type of work experience would catapult their chances of getting into the university of their choice. Both students had exposure to high profi le research projects, including The Barcode Wales Project, which aims to catalogue all 1,143 species of native fl owering plants based on their unique gene sequence.

Sarah and Amy praised the foundation for their high quality placements saying they were; “amazing”, “so worthwhile” and “a great stepping stone to university.” Sarah has her sights fi rmly set on studying a Masters programme in Ballistics at Kent University so she was more than pleased to have won a place at Aberystwyth University to work on a project researching the transference of particles on fi bres led by forensic scientist Dr Deborah Croft.

“Only 75 students were placed this year so I feel honoured that I had such a valuable placement” said Sarah. Sarah also achieved 82% for her project work, the summer school’s highest grade and is now set to receive The Crest Award for young scientists. It wasn’t all hard work for the students however; both were involved in recreational activities – cinema trips, meals out and day trips including The Royal Welsh Show. Amy Staff’s placement was working on the Barcode Wales project at The National Botanical Gardens of Wales.

The project led by Dr Natasha De Vere gave Amy a real insight into wildlife conservation, a subject that she hopes to study at the University of West England (UWE) next year. “I was delighted to be given an opportunity to work on the DNA barcoding project and contributed to it by preparing Herbarium specimens, I also attended a seed collecting course led by Dr Stephanie Miles from Kew Gardens and a bee-keeping course.” Both Amy and Sarah received £80 per week and additional travelling expenses were paid by the foundation. Both students received a possibly life-changing experience, which will ultimately pay off when they commence their university studies next year. Who said swapping four weeks of sun for a lab coat wouldn’t be worthwhile!

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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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