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Education

Look to Wales on Student Finance

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Kirsty Williams: Implemented 'most generous student finance system'

IN A much-trailed intervention into the debate on the cost of higher education to those participating in it, PM Theresa May has announced that the UK Government is to reconsider the operation of tuition fee loans taken up by students to fund their degrees.

Mrs May made her move in an effort to recapture some of the youth vote lost by the Conservatives in 2017’s General Election; particularly in those marginal seats containing university towns, where students voted in significant numbers, reduced Conservative majorities, and unseated some sitting MPs.

Among suggestions trailed by the UK’s Education Department is ensuring Universities do not charge the maximum tuition fees for every course, with a differential being proposed between STEM subjects and the Arts and Social Sciences. Such a move would suggest that the government acknowledges the abject failure of the supposed ‘internal market’ for higher education it anticipated would be created when it trebled the maximum tuition fee payable by students during the Conservative/Liberal coalition led by David Cameron.

While the changes suggested affect only English students, any change would almost inevitably impact upon student finance in Wales, where the government has adopted a significantly different approach under Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, Welsh Liberal Democrats reminded the UK Government that they only need to look to Wales to find what they says is ‘a fair and effective student finance system’.

In 2016 the Diamond Review recommended replacing tuition fee grants in favour of support for students’ living costs. This recognised the fact that living costs are a greater financial concern than tuition fees for students and reflected Welsh Liberal Democrat policy.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams has since implemented Professor Diamond’s recommendations and created the most generous student finance system in the UK.

Whilst the UK Government ended maintenance grants in England, the Welsh Government have created a system that gives students the equivalent of the National Living Wage through a combination of grants and loans. The system is also the first in Europe to provide equivalent support for part-time and postgraduate learners.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Fair Wales Rhys Taylor commented: “Thanks to Kirsty Williams and the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Wales now has the most generous and progressive student finance system in the UK. This effective and sensible approach to student finance is backed by students and universities alike.

“Whilst the UK Government preoccupied themselves with ending maintenance grants, Kirsty Williams has been busy ensuring that for every student in Wales it is your academic ability and not your ability to pay that determines whether you can study at University. If the UK Government want a better and fairer student finance system they don’t need a new review, they just need to look to Wales.”

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Education

Aberystwyth Young People create powerful short film to raise awareness of Youth Homelessness

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October 10, 2020 is World Homeless Day, which is an international day to raise awareness and encourage local communities to help those who are homeless.

In February 2020, young people from Penparcau Youth Club, who form the Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors Group, embarked on a new project in partnership with Arad Goch to create a short film in a bid to educate and raise awareness of youth homelessness. The project was funded by Ceredigion Association of Voluntary Organisations’ (CAVO) Youth Led Grant Scheme.

The group researched the topic, discussed with local organisations, created a script, filmed scenes in and around Aberystwyth and edited and evaluated every stage of the project. The film was produced by young people, for young people under the support and supervision of local Theatre Company, Arad Goch. The project was also supported by drama pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Gymunedol Penweddig who participated and supported the production. The short film follows the poignant journey of a young person who faces family breakdown and subsequently homelessness, before finding support with a local organisation.

Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors said, “We feel that this is an important issue for not only people in Aberystwyth but across wales. We wanted to help tackle the issue of homelessness, but not only homelessness, the stigma that surrounds being homeless. We feel that there is a need to raise awareness of homelessness, where to get support and that it could happen to anyone.”

Carwyn Blayney the director of the film said, “It was a pleasure to work on this project with such a great team of youth workers, very talented young people and based on a true story of a very brave individual; thanks to him for sharing his story and for letting us use it as the basis for this short film. Every one of the young people – the producers and the cast – worked hard on this project back in February, and you can be very pleased with the way you’ve discussed such a sensitive and important issue through this film.”

Catrin Miles, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Support and Intervention, said: “Huge congratulations to everyone in the team who got together to create this inspiring and contemporary film that highlights a serious problem in our society. Thanks to all the partners who cooperated on this project, one that is pertinent and of interest to everyone, Wales-wide. It particularly shows our children and young that homelessness can arise totally out of the blue but that support is on hand to enable a bright and positive future.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the original launch for the film has been postponed, but a virtual launch will take place in November, where the film will be launched and made available to view.

Ceredigion Youth Service would like to thank Aberystwyth Community Ambassadors, Arad Goch Theatre Company, pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Gymunedol Penweddig, CAVO and Ty Curig, Aberystwyth.

For more information about the work of Ceredigion Youth Service, visit their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page @GICeredigionYS or visit their website at www.giceredigionys.co.uk.

For more information about the work of Arad Goch Theatre Company, visit their website https://aradgoch.cymru/?lang=en.

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Education

Two face masks for each Ceredigion pupil

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EVERY secondary school pupil in Ceredigion will receive two reusable masks.

Welsh Government has funded and provided two reusable masks to secondary school pupils.

The mask should be worn to help protect the pupils and others, alongside other measures such as social distancing and washing hands regularly.

In school, the pupils will be instructed when to wear a mask. This will happen when pupils are outside of their contact group and where it is challenging to maintain social distancing.

Pupils will receive their masks through their school over the next fortnight.

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Education

Newtown: Online threat to ‘use of firearms at a school’ lead to swift police action

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE was made aware this morning, the force said, of “utterly irresponsible and scaremongering posts” on Facebook, suggesting that the authors of the posts were going to use firearms at a school in the Newtown area.

The posts were by individuals local to Newtown, and police acted swiftly to address this, which resulted in the arrest of three local men, aged 20, 21 and 27 on suspicion of malicious communications and public order. As part of the initial response schools were also given advice to be vigilant.

A spokesman said: “Understandably the posts caused serious concern in the area, and unfortunately the subsequent rumours led to misunderstandings. This is turn led to calls to the police alleging there was a man with a firearm seen outside Newtown High School.

“Police had to respond appropriately to these calls based on the threat allegedly posed, and a firearms unit was sent to the school. We can confirm that there was no man at the school, and when we have delved further into the detail of the calls, it has transpired that they were as a result of the rumours circulating, and not based on first-hand accounts.

“Police have also carried out thorough searches as a result of the arrests, and no weapons have been recovered. The local Neighbourhood Policing Team will also be present at the school at home time to reassure and inform parents, pupils and staff.

“We hope this clarification will reassure the community of Newtown that there is no threat to schools in the area, and the matter was dealt with seriously and swiftly. We would also appeal to everyone to stop sharing the posts and any associated rumours, in order to prevent any further unsubstantiated fear and alarm in the area.”

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