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Education

Estyn optimistic about improvement

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There is sustained improvement: Kirsty Williams welcomes report

THE BIGGEST trend in Welsh education over the last seven years has been the move towards a culture of self-improvement.

According to Estyn’s Chief Inspector’s Annual Report published on Wednesday (Jan 24), schools and other education and training providers increasingly take ownership of their own improvement and share expertise and best practice with each other.

Chief Inspector Meilyr Rowlands says​:​ “Looking back over the last seven-year cycle of inspections, there’s been a shift in education in Wales towards greater collaboration. It’s clear from our inspections of over 2,700 schools, non-maintained settings, colleges and other education and training organisations that there is enough excellence across Welsh education to support improvement and help reduce variability.

“This spirit of cooperation is most obvious in the way that the new curriculum is being developed with the teaching profession and how schools themselves are beginning to develop innovative teaching and learning practices. Consortia of local authorities work together and schools support each other to improve teachers’ professional skills.”

In schools like Ysgol Gynradd Bynea, Llanelli, pupils led a project to develop an outside learning village. Learners developed a range of skills from designing architectural models to budgeting and placing orders. In the further education sector, Pembrokeshire College has developed partnerships that support the development of skills in Pembrokeshire, improve learners’ access to post-16 education and engage with hard-to-reach groups.

More findings from the seven-year inspection cycle:

  • Inspection findings this year are broadly similar to those for the last seven years as a whole. Seven-in-ten primary schools inspected this year are good or excellent, similar to last year, while half of secondary schools inspected are good or excellent, a bit better than last year
  • There are many strengths in nursery settings, maintained special schools and in further education colleges, where the quality of education provided is good or better in most cases. Variability within and between providers remains a challenge in most other sectors.
  • Schools that are most successful at raising standards for all their pupils and at closing the gap in the performance of pupils eligible for free school meals compared to their peers, encourage greater involvement of parents and the community and create a culture where education is respected and valued.
  • In the quarter of schools that deliver the Foundation Phase well, pupils make good progress, become confident learners, and are well-prepared for future learning. But many schools remain reliant on more traditional teaching methods, especially for children aged 5 to 7.
  • As the secondary school accountability system became increasingly linked to examination results, some schools focused too much on examination technique rather than on providing a broad education. The best schools develop learners’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes to learning by capturing their interest through engaging learning experiences.
  • Mergers of further education colleges have resulted in a smaller number of large providers. The new leadership teams of these institutions have overseen improved provision in this sector over the last seven years.

Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams, welcomed the report as further evidence that Wales’ education system is uniting in a mission of self-improvement.

The Welsh Government also expressed pleasure in the ​’​spirit of cooperation​’​ with the teaching profession in developing a new curriculum.
The report also welcomes:

  • The establishment of a National Academy of Educational Leadership;
  • A “more systematic approach” to how pupils learn, apply and practise their literacy and numeracy across the curriculum;
  • Major changes in how professional learning is organised;
  • Improvements in attendance and behaviour;
  • Strengths in learner wellbeing, care, support and guidance, and learning environment; and
  • Strengthened links between higher and further education.

Welcoming the report, Kirsty Williams said: “Our national mission for education seeks to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and enjoys public confidence.

“It is clear from reading this report that there is sustained momentum in Welsh education; a culture of self-improvement that is embedded in the system and, most importantly, owned by those working in the profession.

“I am heartened to see the Chief Inspector welcoming the steps we have taken to drive up standards and support improvement in our schools – particularly our efforts to work with the teaching profession in developing the new curriculum.

“The report notes our efforts to reduce the attainment gap, but we know there is no room for complacency. That’s why we’re doubling the Pupil Development Grant for our youngest learners, so that every child has the opportunity to reach their potential.

“By continuing to work together, I am confident that we can achieve our national mission and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.”

David Evans, Wales Secretary of the National Education Union Cymru, said: “This report shows that despite increasingly difficult funding settlements and the ongoing concerns of workload schools and teachers in Wales are continuing to provide an education service we can be proud of. Amongst the many positives identified, it is especially good news to see recognition from Estyn for the work schools are doing to work constructively together.

“The profession has always espoused the benefits of self-improvement, collaboration and the focus on teaching and learning. This report highlights those issues and the benefits to be gleaned when teachers are allowed to take ownership of their teaching practices. This will be a big boost as we seek to implement the new curriculum and highlight the cooperative approach that we see being priorities in communities across Wales.”

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Gweinidog yn agor Canolfan Addysg Iechyd newydd Aberystwyth

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Gweinidog yn agor Canolfan Addysg Iechyd newydd ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth
Bydd Gweinidog Iechyd Cymru yn agor canolfan newydd gwerth £1.7 miliwn i hyfforddi staff y gwasanaeth iechyd ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth heddiw (dydd Gwener 30 Medi).
Mae’r Brifysgol wedi creu ystafelloedd ymarfer clinigol ansawdd uchel, yn ei Chanolfan Addysg Gofal Iechyd newydd, sydd gyferbyn ag Ysbyty Bronglais yn Aberystwyth. Cafodd y datblygiad gwerth £1.7 miliwn ei gefnogi gyda grant o £500,000 gan Lywodraeth Cymru.
Rhan ganolog o’r safle newydd yw Uned Sgiliau Clinigol gydag ardaloedd efelychu ansawdd uchel sy’n adlewyrchu taith y claf o’r cartref a gwasanaethau cymunedol i asesu, gofal wedi’ i gynllunio a gofal acíwt.
Mae’r offer addysgu newydd yn cynnwys dyfeisiadau realiti rhithwir ar gyfer profi heneiddio a modelau dynol sy’n efelychu ystod eang o gyflyrau iechyd.
Dechreuodd y garfan gyntaf o fyfyrwyr nyrsio ar eu hastudiaethau yn y Ganolfan ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth ddechrau mis Medi.
Disgwylir y bydd y datblygiadau newydd yn hwb mawr i ymdrechion i gadw a recriwtio staff i’r gwasanaeth iechyd, yn enwedig yn y Canolbarth.
Dywedodd y Gweinidog Iechyd Eluned Morgan AS: “Rwy’n falch iawn o agor y ganolfan newydd hon ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth. Mae’n gydweithrediad ardderchog rhwng y byrddau iechyd a’r Brifysgol a bydd yn hwb o ran recriwtio nyrsys yn yr ardal yma.
“Rwyf hefyd yn falch iawn y bydd myfyrwyr yn cael y cyfle i astudio drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, a fydd yn helpu i gyflawni ein cynlluniau i gynyddu’r defnydd o’r Gymraeg yn y gwasanaeth iechyd, fel y nodir yn ein strategaeth Mwy na Geiriau.”
Datblygwyd addysg nyrsio ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth gyda chefnogaeth nifer o bartneriaid, gan gynnwys byrddau iechyd Hywel Dda, Betsi Cadwaladr a Phowys yn ogystal â defnyddwyr gwasanaethau a gofalwyr.
Fe ddyfarnodd Addysg a Gwella Iechyd Cymru gytundeb i Brifysgol Aberystwyth hyfforddi nyrsys ar gyfer oedolion ac iechyd meddwl sydd wedi ei ariannu gan Lywodraeth Cymru.
Caiff y myfyrwyr sy’n astudio ar gyfer y graddau newydd a gychwynnodd eleni y cyfle i ddilyn hyd at hanner eu cwrs drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg.
Ychwanegodd yr Is-Ganghellor yr Athro Elizabeth Treasure:
“Anrhydedd fawr yw cael y Gweinidog yn ymweld i agor y Ganolfan, sydd yn fuddsoddiad arwyddocaol iawn i’r Canolbarth. Rwy’n ffyddiog bydd hyn yn hwb o ran recriwtio a chadw staff yn lleol ac yn rhanbarthol. A, thrwy gynnig llawer iawn o’r hyfforddiant drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, bydd yn fuddiol i’r ddarpariaeth iaith yn ein gwasanaeth iechyd yn ogystal.”
“Rydym yn ddiolchgar iawn i Lywodraeth Cymru am gefnogi’r prosiect. Hoffwn i ddiolch hefyd i’r holl bartneriaid sydd wedi cyflawni hyn, gan gynnwys y Byrddau Iechyd lleol, Cyngor Sir Ceredigion ac Addysg a Gwella Iechyd Cymru“
“Dros y blynyddoedd i ddod, ac wrth weithio gyda phartneriaid, rydym yn awyddus i gyfrannu mwyfwy at gwrdd ag anghenion hyfforddi ein gwasanaeth iechyd. Rwy’n siŵr bydd y Ganolfan newydd yn adnodd pwysig yn hyn o beth. Dyma ni heddiw yn gosod sylfeini ar gyfer twf darpariaeth addysg gofal iechyd yma yn Aberystwyth ar gyfer y dyfodol.”

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Education

Minister opens new Healthcare Education Centre at Aberystwyth University Wales’

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Health Minister will open a new £1.7 million center to train NHS staff at Aberystwyth University today (Friday 30 September).The University has created a suite of high-quality clinical practice rooms within its new Healthcare Education Centre, which is located opposite Bronglais Hospital in the town. The £1.7 million development was supported by a grant of £500,000 from the Welsh Government. A central part of the new site is a Clinical Skills Unit with high-fidelity simulation areas that reflect the patient’s journey from home and community services through to assessment, planned and acute care. The new teaching equipment includes virtual reality headsets for experiencing ageing and life-size human models that simulate a wide variety of health conditions. Aberystwyth University’s first ever cohort of nursing students began their studies at the Centre at the start of September. The new developments are expected to be a big boost to retain and recruit NHS staff, particularly in mid Wales. Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS said: “I am delighted to open this new centre at Aberystwyth University. It is an excellent collaboration between the health boards and the University and will provide a boost to nurse recruitment in this area.“ I am also really pleased that students will have the opportunity to study through the medium of Welsh, which will help deliver our plans to increase the use of Welsh language in the health service, as set out in our More than Just Words strategy.” Nursing education at Aberystwyth University has been developed with the support of several partners, including Hywel Dda, Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys local health boards as well as service users and carers. Health Education and Improvement Wales awarded a Welsh Government-funded contract to Aberystwyth University to educate both adult and mental health nurses. The new degree courses offer students who started their studies this year the opportunity to study up to half of their course through the medium of Welsh. Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure added: “It is a great honour to have the Minister visit us to open the Centre, which is a significant investment for mid Wales. I am confident this will boost the recruitment and retention of staff both locally and regionally. And, by offering much of the training in Welsh, it will also benefit the language provision in our health service.“ We are very grateful to the Welsh Government for supporting the project. Thanks go to all our partners who have helped make this happen, including the local health boards, Ceredigion Council and Health Education and Improvement Wales.“ Over the years ahead, and working with partners, we are keen to make an increasing contribution to meeting the needs of our NHS. I’m sure that the new Centre will be an important resource in that effort. We are today laying the foundations for the growth of healthcare education here in Aberystwyth into the future.”

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Education

Extreme droughts sparked cultural leaps in human evolution

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EXTREME droughts lasting tens of thousands of years played a critical role in human evolution by forcing Homo sapiens to develop the culture and tools to cope, according to new research.

An international team of researchers, including academics from Aberystwyth University and across a wide range of disciplines, extracted two 280-metre cores of sediment from the Chew Bahir basin in southern Ethiopia. This area boasts a large concentration of human fossils and is where early humans lived during the Ice Age between 2.5 million and 11,700 years ago.

The cores give the most complete record across the longest period for humans living in this area and provide unprecedented insight into how climate influenced their biological and cultural transformation.

In a paper published today in the journal ‘Nature Geoscience’, the research found that between 620,000 and 275,000 years ago, humans lived in long-lasting and stable conditions in southern Ethiopia alongside a range of closely related groups.

However, between 275,000 and 60,000 years ago, the area was rocked by extensive natural climate changes which transformed areas of lush vegetation and deep lakes into deserts and small salty puddles.

The research demonstrated that these changes in climate forced humans to adapt culturally, socially and technologically, developing enhanced language, sophisticated hunting methods, and stone tools such as blades and spear points.

The period between 60,000 and 10,000 years ago contained the most extreme drought and likely forced humans to move to wetter regions in north east Africa and the Mediterranean.

However, while Homo sapiens were able to develop strategies to help them adapt, other human species like Homo habilis and Homo erectus were unable to do so, which led to their extinction.

The extracted cores are among the most detailed obtained from the region, giving researchers the opportunity to examine every single decade’s climate for the past 620,000 years every half a centimetre of sediment.

Professor Helen Roberts and Professor Henry Lamb, both from Aberystwyth University’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, worked on the project, which involved researchers from 19 institutions in six countries.

Professor Roberts said: “These findings take us a step closer to understanding the links between past climate, the environment and human evolution. The period we studied was one of great human innovation in how people interacted with each other, their culture, and their use of stone tools. Because of our findings we can further understand the conditions in which humans lived, how they evolved and developed as societies.

“It also has resonance today as our project helped us explore how different climate drivers interacted in the past. This is something that can be translated into the modern day and help us to understand climate and climate change now.”

Dr Verena Foerster at the University of Cologne’s Institute of Geography Education, which also took part in the research, said: “In view of current threats to the human habitat from climate change and the overuse of natural resources through human activity, understanding the relationship between climate and human evolution has become more relevant than ever.”

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