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Be the #1 – inspiring looked-after learners

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screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-13-42-29THE UNIVERSITY OF WALES TRINITY SAINT DAVID (UWTSD) is playing an integral part in an inspirational new campaign that will be launched during National Care Leavers’ Week later this month.

The aim of the Be The #1 campaign is to encourage Foster Carers, key workers and teachers to help the young people in their care to raise their educational attainment and aspirations.

National Care Leavers’ Week is about highlighting the needs of Care Leavers and encouraging the agencies responsible for looking after them to work in a coordinated and effective way.

The dedicated carers week also offers an opportunity to focus on the numerous issues facing an invisible minority who have to deal with a particular set of challenges as they enter adult life. It’s also a chance to raise awareness amongst the public and to underline the support that’s desperately needed for these young people.

Trystan Rees from UWTSD has been working collaboratively with the South West Wales Reaching Wider Partnership to develop the Be The #1 campaign – a series of short films, focusing on four individual students and graduates on their unique academic journey from Year 13 to entering employment following their graduation from university.

With the Be The #1 campaign launched to coincide with National Care Leavers’ Week, one film will be released each day from October 20 until October 30.

Staff from UWTSD and the South West Wales Partnership will also be delivering a programme of Be The #1 training sessions to Foster Care networks from across South West Wales from November 2016.

“UWTSD is committed to providing a very high standard of care and support for its students,” said Trystan Rees.

“If you are a student entering Higher Education from care, you can be assured that the university will offer the necessary support and information. This support is available whilst you are deciding what or where to study, continuing throughout the university application process, and is ongoing once you have started your course. Help and information is also available if you are someone advising a student from care,” continues Trystan.

Young people from a care background can declare on their UCAS application form that they have been in care, or their Social Services team can let the university know that the student is a Care Leaver. This enables the university to make sure that support is in place from an early stage.

“UWTSD provides a friendly, safe and welcoming place in which to study. After the student has been offered a place at the university, they will have the opportunity to come to a support meeting which will be arranged to help them with the transition to university life,” continues Trystan Rees.

“The meeting can include the student, their Looked after Children team member, the university’s named person for Care Leavers, and, if required, the Accommodation Officer and a representative from the academic school that they will be joining. During this meeting, it will be possible to establish how much financial support is available to the student, and the type of accommodation they would prefer and, where appropriate, to make provision for any additional support they may need such as for a disability or specific learning difficulty like dyslexia,” he added.

Katie King has been through the care system and is currently studying at UWTSD’s Carmarthen campus.

“I’m Theatre Design and Production student at the university and am currently in my third year. I’ve had a social worker for longer than I can remember and was in and out of foster care a lot – I think in one year I managed seven or eight placements,” says Katie.

“I would say the biggest hurdles in getting into higher education is getting people to listen to you and understand you and see that you’re serious. Whilst in higher education, I’ve received great support from different departments, particularly from student services and from a lady called Delyth Lewis.

“Delyth is the finance officer but also deals with Care Leavers at this university. She has been extremely helpful in providing support – it’s probably down to her that I’m still here. She pushed me to continue because she knew that it’s what I wanted to do – she’s always giving me options of how I can do that and basically gone beyond what her job requires her to do.

“University has definitely changed me as a person for the better. I’m a lot more confident. I’m now working as a student ambassador for the university – I do a lot with Reaching Wider and with the marketing team, showing people around and telling them about the university and how good it is, how much it’s helped me,” added Katie.

Alex Sommerville, who’s also been through the care system, recently graduated from UWTSD and found her university experience invaluable.

“I did the Youth and Community Work degree and that has directly led on to the work that I do now – working with young people around substance misuse in Swansea,” said Alex.

“I’d always had the impression that to go to university you need to have A Levels, like going through sixth form, so I did actually sign up and do an A Level of English literature. It’s when I was talking to my friend about having to do another two A Levels that she told me about an access course I could do. It’s at the university, but it’s at A Level standard and I found the whole experience really useful, especially because it was then that I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia.

“I accessed support at the university through student services and it was really, really good. I got contacted not long after I started because I’d ticked the box on the application form that said I was a Care Leaver. I then had a chat with a lovely lady who said that she would be my contact for the whole time I was at university.

“I do think everyone has the potential. I think it should be open to everyone and I did have the impression that if you’ve been in care, university is something that you’re really ever going to achieve, which is totally wrong. Don’t get me wrong, a degree isn’t for everyone but I think that everyone should have the option,” said Alex.

For further information on the support offered to Care Leavers, please visit www.uwtsd.ac.uk/care/.

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Education

821% increase in homeschooling for Ceredigion area

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OVER the last decade homeschooling has risen by 821% in the Ceredigion area, according to figures supplied through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by homeschooling provider Wolsey Hall Oxford.

In 2013, figures revealed that 28 children were homeschooled in the Ceredigion area but by 2022 this had increased to 258.

In the last four years alone, the Ceredigion area has seen an overall rise in homeschooling of 52%. The number of Primary-aged children being taught at home rose from 65 to 109 (67%) and the number of Secondary-aged children has risen from 104 to 149 (43%).

These figures show that despite Covid-19 restrictions easing up, and schools re-opening, many parents have opted to continue homeschooling their children. They reflect a similar picture seen across the UK, as statistics show that there are now more than 71,515 homeschoolers – up from 59,559 in 2018 and 22,408 in 2013. Wolsey Hall Oxford has been collating this information from over 100 UK Councils through FOIs.

Wolsey Hall Oxford Principal, Lee Wilcock, comments: “What seems very apparent is that those parents who chose to try homeschooling for the first time during Covid-19 have realised how beneficial online learning can be. Homeschooling allows children to learn at their own pace and at a time which suits them. It is a much more child-centred approach to education than is available in a traditional classroom.”

Of course, the pandemic is not the only reason parents opt to homeschool their children. At Wolsey Hall we’ve found that some of the most common reasons for parents to choose homeschooling include:

Lack of progress or underachievement at mainstream schools
Frustration with teaching standards in mainstream schools
Concerns for their child’s safety/bullying
Behavioural issues that are not suitably dealt with in mainstream schooling
Medical reasons or learning difficulties that inhibit a child’s ability to learn in a conventional environment
Travelling and expat families
Gifted/higher learning potential students or those who are elite athletes/in the performing arts industry

It is also interesting to note that a well-being survey conducted by Wolsey Hall Oxford in September 2022 – and completed by 343 parents – concluded that 91.5% of parents believe that their child’s well-being has improved since they opted to homeschool.

One parent noted, “My son has thrived. He is a true (gregarious) introvert… He loves being around people socially, but it tires him out, so school left him feeling drained, with no energy for true social interactions. Being able to learn alone and quietly has left him with plenty of energy for social and extra-curricular activities – scouts/young leaders, tennis, drama club, youth group etc. He has become confident in his own abilities and also learnt when and how he can take the initiative to get help when needed.”

To find out more about these statistics or to interview any of our team members, please contact Danielle Hilton: danielle.hilton@wolseyhalloxford.org.uk

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Education

Aberystwyth academic helping to improve British wrestling

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A LECTURER in Film Theory and Practice from Aberystwyth University is contributing towards a ‘code of better practice’ for British wrestling.

Dr Thomas Alcott from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies has been invited by the All-Party Group on Wrestling at the UK Parliament to participate in a conference on the topic later this month.

The group – which includes MPs from across the political spectrum – recently led an inquiry and published the findings in April last year.

The cross party group reviewed regulation, funding, safeguarding and wellbeing in wrestling, and sought to find ways to better support and regulate the industry.

Dr Alcott’s doctoral research, which explored the relationship between audiences, stars and industry within the world of Professional Wrestling, was one of the resources used and quoted in the report.

Organised by the groups of MPs, Loughborough University and wrestling training school Playfight, the conference will be attended by academics, wrestlers, promoters and coaches.

It is intended to provide an opportunity for training and discussion, and lead to a safer and more inclusive environment.

Dr Alcott told The Ceredigion Herald: “For over a century, wrestling has been a popular form of culture and entertainment. However, a lack of clarity on whether it sits within the sector of sport or theatre has led to complexities about how the industry is governed and regulated.

“The inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling is the first official analysis and intervention in the wrestling industry for many decades. The conference that follows the publication of the group’s report will provide an opportunity to discuss a guide of better practice to improve the industry for the future, for the benefit of both performers and fans.”

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Education

New Japanese partnership to boost climate change research at Aberystwyth University

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ABERYSTWYTH University has signed up to a new partnership with a Japanese university in a boost to its climate change research.

The new memorandum of understanding with Ritsumeikan University includes exchanging research and joint investment in cutting-edge technology.

As part of the partnership, the two universities are collaborating on major projects studying climate change in Mexico and Japan.

In southern Mexico, a joint team will investigate records of past climate change in the region and its role in the collapse of the Classic Mayan civilisation.

Professor Sarah Davies, Head of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University said:

“It’s a pleasure to confirm our commitments with this new memorandum which builds on a long-standing research relationship between our two institutions. These projects will make an important contribution to our understanding of climate change, and its role in the development of human civilisation.

“Together with our Japanese partners and the support of Aberystwyth University and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, we have made a significant investment in our X-ray Fluorescence core scanner. This is a resource of both UK and international importance, enabling very high-resolution geochemical analysis of sediment cores to reconstruct climate variability. These joint investments in instrumentation are an important boost to our future research work.”

Professor Takeshi Nakagawa from Ritsumeikan University commented:

“We are delighted to forge even closer ties with our partners at Aberystwyth University as we conduct ground-breaking research together. The joint research on climate change is a very exciting opportunity to unlock some of humanity’s secrets and better understand our world.”

As part of the partnership, Professor Takeshi Nakagawa and Dr Ikuko Kitaba from Ritsumeikan University are visiting Aberystwyth until 14th November.

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