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Education

Top Y12 students get Yale opportunity

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Summer School Chance: At Yale University

THE SEREN Network has announced a major partnership with Yale University which will see 11 Seren students attend a fortnight-long summer school at Yale’s US or China campus this summer, at no cost.

The partnership is aiming to broaden the academic horizons of Welsh students by giving them a taste of university life in the States. The main cost of the summer school – usually $6000 dollars – will be covered jointly by Seren and Yale.

Year 12 Seren students have until Tuesday, February 13, to apply, and will be selected via a competitive application process.

A similar collaboration between Seren and Jesus College Oxford last summer, which resulted in 73% attendees subsequently applying to Oxford, was so successful that it will now treble in size, offering around 70 pupils the chance to sample life at the prestigious institution in August.

The news comes as an independent report on the success to date of Seren, published yesterday, has found that the programme is delivering clear value for Welsh pupils and raising their aspirations.

The report found that the Seren Network is boosting Welsh pupils’ confidence, and encouraging them to think more ambitiously about their university choices.

It found that Seren had been valuable in helping students make more informed choices and providing with the skills to make competitive applications.

Liam Rahman, a Yale graduate who now works as a representative for Yale in Wales, said: “Since returning to Wales last year, it’s been a real privilege to work with high potential Welsh students through the Seren Network and Yale’s Alumni Schools Committee. Over the past few months, I’ve worked to build the relationship between Yale and The Seren Network, which has culminated in this fantastic partnership and scholarship opportunity. This scholarship will deliver life-changing opportunities to some of Wales’s brightest sixth formers and gives Yale the opportunity to access some of Wales’s very best talent.”

Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, said: “Since launching in 2015, Seren has quickly grown to become a recognised and valuable vehicle through which more than 2000 pupils in Wales are channelling their academic talents and ambitions.

“The report details the Network’s considerable early success, from plugging gaps in support across Wales, to forging new strategic partnerships between Wales and some of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world including most recently Yale.

“Of course, there are areas for improvement which the report outlines, including a number that we’re already working to address. Nonetheless, it’s very encouraging to see a positive overview so early in the process.”

Lowri Morgan is a sixth-form student from Abercynon who has recently received an offer to study at Oxford University. She is part of the RCT/Merthyr Seren hub. She said:

“The support I received through Seren was so helpful, my degree area is Physics and Philosophy which is quite niche – but through Seren I had the opportunity to take part in several workshops with Oxford and Cambridge Universities, which taught me what to expect in the interviews.

“One of them was an exam practice workshop with Oxford and, even though the exams I ended up sitting were slightly different, the essay writing and critical thinking elements were so important. Then, ahead of the interview itself, I was taken to Howell’s School in Cardiff for a prep session, and given practice with other pupils within our subject area.

“After that I had a mock interview with Stephen Parry Jones, my Seren hub co-ordinator, which was so helpful. Without these opportunities through Seren, and the help from my head of sixth-form, I would have been completely in the dark. I wouldn’t have had the confidence that I had going into that interview, and I’m truly grateful for that.”

Dr Matthew Williams, Access and Career Development Fellow, Jesus College, Oxford, said: “Seren is a fantastic network. It has been of enormous benefit to its participants, as well as being invaluable to academics like me who want to meet the brightest and best from across Wales.

“It is with the help of Seren that we in Oxford will be able to host our first ever all-Wales summer school in August 2017. Without the expertise and help of Seren, we would never have made as many meaningful connections with Welsh students.”

Stephen Parry Jones, RCT Seren Hub Co-ordinator and Steering Group Chair, said: “The report is a great boost. Only three years ago, I and my fellow coordinators had blank sheets of paper, and a brief to translate Lord Murphy’s report into some sort of reality. We were initially perhaps rather daunted, but the increased confidence and ambition among Welsh students highlighted in the report are really pleasing.

“I was delighted to be at the Jesus College summer school. As coordinators, we were so impressed by the intellectual ability of students from all over Wales. The Yale offer is another exciting development. Of course, there’s still work to be done, but we’re so glad to see that Seren is already proving its worth.”

Areas for improvement outlined in the report include:

  • Greater collaboration across the hubs to ensure activities benefit as many pupils as possible
  • More data is needed on the overall destinations of participants, though it was recognised that this data is not yet available due to the Network’s early stages
  • Though flexibility is important from hub to hub, there should be a minimum offer across hubs so participants know exactly what to expect over their 2-year programme when they join the Network
  • The report notes that a Seren-style model should be extended to pupils at Key Stages 3 and 4, to impact them earlier in their academic journey
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Business

University to host industry summit online

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SUPPORTING industry’s recovery from the impact of the pandemic is a key priority for the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

The University has a track record for working with industry through knowledge transfer, research innovation, workforce development and by providing a ready pipeline of skilled students and graduates, in partnership with employers.

In addition, UWTSD’s MADE Cymru initiative was established to support manufacturing industries in Wales to adapt to the challenges of Industry 4.0.

The initiative, funded by the EU via the Welsh Government, aims to support the economic recovery of manufacturers in Wales by offering part and fully funded training to businesses to upskill staff, as well as research and development that improves processes and products to reduce waste and costs.

In addition, UWTSD and MADE Cymru have organised an Industry Summit to be held online between June 8-10 to inform, engage and inspire businesses during this critical period of post-Covid recovery.

Expert speakers will be sharing their insights including James Davies from Industry Wales, Carol Hall, Regional Investment Manager, Development Bank of Wales, Chris Probert, Innovation Specialist, Welsh Government and Geraint Jones, Knowledge Transfer Adviser at KTN.

The line-up also includes Welsh manufacturers who will be sharing their own experiences, including Tim Hawkins, Managing Director, Markes International, Julia Chesney-Roberts, Commercial Manager, Riversimple, Angus Grahame, Founder of Splosh and Jacques Bonfrer, Co-Founder and Team Lead, Bot-Hive.

There will be guest talks from circular economy expert Eoin Bailey and lean author Daryl Powell and an opportunity to find out about the range of services offered by the University.

Graham Howe, Executive Head of the MADE Cymru project at UWTSD says: “This Industry Summit aims to explore issues and challenges facing manufacturing in Wales so that we can work together with employers to find solutions. 

“We always start with asking a manufacturer what their biggest problem is today and look at how we can help them with it.

“We aim to unravel potentially confusing challenges like these. Our approach begins by looking at what companies need to increase their productivity and competitiveness.

“We aim to lead the businesses we work with through a journey of continuous improvement – a journey that makes the most of Industry 4.0 technologies and their ever-growing digital capabilities to help solve the specific problems faced by each company.

“All of the feedback we receive from businesses shapes our curriculum – we want to produce employable, digitally literate graduates who can contribute to their workplace from day one”.

Alison Orrells is CEO and Managing Director of Safety Letterbox and has been one of the organisations participating in the MADE Cymru initiative.

She said: “It was important to keep innovating and investing to set us apart and come out stronger. It’s been intense but we had a game plan – now it is all about business future-proofing, being agile, collaborations and being adaptable.”

Covid-19 has affected every part of a business and shifted the focus from production to survival.

UWTSD recently led a round table discussion with Welsh manufacturers about the future of manufacturing in Wales.

That discussion found that their outlook is positive about the future.

Manufacturers accelerated their adoption of new technologies to enhance and optimise production.

With many employees on furlough, managers took the opportunity to rethink and invest in better IT, particularly communications, training and diversified into new product areas. They looked to local colleges and universities to help shift perceptions of jobs in manufacturing and demonstrated the career opportunities and pathways available.

They also loosened their reliance on overseas imports and looked for suppliers in the UK to minimise future risk of disruption.

All sessions of the Industry Summit are free to attend and places can be booked on the UWTSD website: https://uwtsd.ac.uk/made/made-cymru-industry-summit/

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Education

A long road back for education

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EVEN before schools find out what the new normal will be, the pressure is already on the education system to deliver significantly more.

Some talk about a ‘lost generation’ needing to ’catch-up’ amid concerns those comments stigmatise children. However, the reality is that children have missed months of face-to-face teaching, and that has inescapable consequences.

DISADVANTAGED SLIP FURTHER BEHIND

Wales’s learners have been part of the pandemic’s ‘collateral damage.’

Although, for now, there are more questions than answers, solutions to repair that ‘damage’ will need to be carefully considered and delivered during the Welsh Parliament’s sixth term.

Even before the pandemic, Wales already faced an uphill struggle to secure good educational outcomes for all its learners.

The most disadvantaged learners have extra challenges which can prevent them from achieving their full potential.

Even though the previous Welsh Government invested £585 million since 2012 through the Pupil Development Grant (PDG), the attainment gap it was seeking to close, didn’t narrow.

It also typically widens as learners get older.

There’s a stark difference between children eligible for free school meals and their peers at Key Stage 4, the two years where learners usually take GCSEs and other examinations.

Children and young people themselves are well placed to give their verdict.

A 2021 Children’s Commissioner survey of 20,000 children found that 35% didn’t feel confident about their learning, compared to 25% in May 2020. 

63% of 12–18-year-olds were worried about falling behind.

There are countless reports setting out adults’ views about how missing more than half a year of ‘face-to-face’ schooling has affected learners.

One of the major concerns is the variation between what schools have delivered to pupils.

There’s a long list of potential impacts:

·        ‘Lost learning’ meaning pupils could underperform academically and have their long-term prospects affected.

·        A loss of confidence in the examination and assessment system.

·        Long-term reductions in school attendance, a factor known to be key to educational outcomes.

·        Difficult transitions between school years and from primary to secondary.

·        Challenges in re-engaging learners and addressing low motivation.

·        An unhelpful ‘catch up’ narrative about lost learning placing unnecessary psychological pressure on children and young people; and

·        A negative effect on learners’ ability and confidence to communicate in Welsh where they haven’t been able to do so at home.

WIDER EFFECTS

As well as these obvious educational issues, there are wider predicted effects.

Current learners could earn less, with one estimate of up to £40,000 in a lifetime.

The harm to children’s physical health and a higher prevalence of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, are also serious concerns.

 The pandemic’s wider economic impact is also likely to increase the number of children living in low-income families.

Again, it’s the most disadvantaged learners who are predicted to bear the brunt in the longer term.

For example, in March 2021, the Child Poverty Action Group found that 35% of low-income families responding to its UK wide survey were still without essential resources for learning, with laptops and devices most commonly missing.

The Fifth Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education (CYPE) Committee heard that there is “plenty of evidence” that” there are striking differences between families in terms of their ability to support young people in their learning: the resources they have around them, the enthusiasm, the engagement, the commitment”.

REBUILDING TRUST

There must be work to rebuild relationships that have been under significant strain during the past 12 months.

Those between teaching unions and the decision-makers within the education system; between parents/carers and schools; and perhaps, most importantly, re-establishing the relationship between learners and their teachers.

Some of the immediate solutions which are already on the table or up for discussion are: more money, including the ‘Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards funding’; more teachers and learning assistants on the ground; changing term times; and setting up summer schools, holiday clubs and home tuition.

However, the longer-term problems are far harder to solve.

One estimate puts the cost of Wales’s journey back from COVID-19 at £1.4 bn to meet the challenges to the education system alone.

The opportunity exists for major reform and an examination of the whole approach to and aim of education.

Children and young people’s return to the classroom has been heralded as a big chance to put their well-being at the heart of education. As well as having a positive impact on well-being, put, mentally healthy children are much more likely to learn.

Following pressure from the Fifth Senedd’s CYPE Committee and its stakeholders, Wales has already made a significant shift towards establishing a ‘Whole School Approach to Mental Health’. The challenge during the Sixth Senedd will be to deliver it.

PERMANENT CHANGE

The potential sting in the tail is that, at the same time, the education system is getting children back to school, it also contends with major legislative reform.

This is in the form of wholesale changes to both the school curriculum and support for learners with Additional Learning Needs.

Some may argue that there’s been no better time to have such significant changes.

If the education system can successfully implement these three major reforms, arguably Wales will complete significant leg work and be on a firmer footing to meet the challenges presented by Covid-19.

At this stage there may be many more questions than answers for the education system.

The world into which learners will move has changed forever.

Not only has the pandemic interrupted their schooling, but the future journeys they were expected to make into the workplace or further and higher education could be unrecognisable.

The skills and aptitudes needed in the ‘new normal’ are only now beginning to be identified and are likely to be different from those needed before the pandemic began.   

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Education

UWTSD launches new Vocal Performance degree

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UWTSD has launched a new Vocal Performance degree for the next academic year.


Building on the success of the postgraduate programmes at the Wales International Academy of Voice, the newly devised BMus (Hons) Vocal Performance is a specialist industry-focused programme for singers.
The new programme is delivered by expert academics and practitioners of national and international repute within a specialist facility.


Students will be offered extensive 1-to-1 vocal tuition, and masterclasses from world-renowned artists, and of course all of this will be located within our specialist facility in Cardiff.

Modules on the programme examine areas such as vocal technique, performance studies, movement, music theory, technologies of performance and performance projects designed to develop a holistic approach to vocal performance.


Assessment on this programme is by a range of methods offering opportunities to present learning in a variety of different ways throughout the course.


Learning methods include performances, portfolios, technical assessments, recording, electronic testing, arranging, mock auditions, podcasting, essay writing and presentations.


The staff at the Wales International Academy of Voice are looking forward for students to enrol on this newly designed degree.


David Bebbington, Academy Manager and Programme Director said: “Students on the new BMus programme will study voice in a holistic context, enabling them to engage with performance in a variety of settings, and introducing them to the multitude of opportunities available in their future careers.


“Central to the vision of the programme is ‘the industry’, and as such elements of the course will involve aspects of performance, recording, movement, music theory and studio techniques for example.


“At the end of the course, students will move into performance, music creation, teaching or a host of other session music opportunities.”


Barry Liles, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the Wales Institute of Science and Art (WISA) said: “The University is pleased to witness the strategic development of a BMus in Vocal Performance at the Wales International Academy of Voice.


“We believe this programme will provide an exciting opportunity for a significantly greater number of undergraduates to join our prestigious, world-class academy.


“Based on our enviable reputation within this vocal domain, the new programme will provide progression opportunities for our students on to postgraduate study or as practitioners in the sector.”


It is anticipated that graduates of the Vocal Performance programme will commence careers as performers, creators, teachers, recording artists and within various other related disciplines. The BMus (Hons) Vocal Performance may also lead to further postgraduate study.

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