SCHOOLS across Wales have been told by the Education Minister to prepare for at-home learning starting in January.
Jeremy Miles MS has repeated the Welsh Government’s aspiration to stick to in-person learning in schools. However, he added that some measures may need to be taken to protect children and staff members.
He has written to schools, suggesting they have preparations in place to move to remote learning if needed.
Schools will be given two days at the start of the spring term to create plans for all children to return to school.
Colleges have also been given the option to use the two “planning days” at the start of term, and have been advised they can move to some online learning from January.
The use of face coverings in schools will continue, as well as an increase in taking Lateral Flow Tests. Secondary school pupils and staff are expected to test at least three times a week.
Schools have also been given permission to stagger starting and finishing times in the new term to help combat the spread of the Omicron variant.
Mr Miles has said: “Our collective priority continues to be to minimise the disruption to education, and ensure where possible learners continue to receive in-person learning, as well as protecting staff, learners and communities,
“I know that the autumn term has been particularly challenging for school staff, learners and their families, and the level of disruption due to staff capacity has resulted in some schools having to make the difficult decision to move certain classes or year groups to remote learning for short periods.
“In recognition of the challenges that schools and colleges have faced, and the current levels of uncertainty regarding the impact of Omicron, I have today written to all schools and colleges to provide as much clarity now as I can to enable them to plan and prepare for the return in January.
“I am providing all schools with two planning days at the start of the spring term. This will allow time for schools to assess staffing capacity and put the necessary measures in place to support the return of all learners.
“Schools will be asked to make use of the planning days to ensure they have robust plans in place to move to remote learning if required – this could be for individual classes or year groups or possibly for the whole school.
“Schools will be asked also to use this opportunity to revisit contingency plans, ensuring exam years are prioritised for on-site provision should there be a need to restrict in person learning at any time and consider what arrangements might need to be in place for vulnerable learners and the children of critical workers during any periods of disruption.
“This is a fast evolving situation and we continue to monitor the latest data and evidence.
“I would like to reiterate my thanks to all in the education community for all they have done during these most challenging of times.”
Commenting Laura Anne Jones MS, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Education Minister, said:
“The youngest in our society have sacrificed so much during the pandemic to protect others at a huge cost to their own life chances.
“Therefore, it is essential we do everything we can to ensure schools are kept open at their normal capacity.
“Education is not expendable, especially for vulnerable children where their time away from home is their only respite from abuse.
“There are legitimate concerns over workforce availability if a significant wave hits the country, and that’s why the priority and energy of government must be directed at rolling out the booster jab programme as quickly as possible.”
Half a million boost to Aberystwyth University’s new nursing education facilities
A £500,000 grant from the Welsh Government will fund new facilities at Aberystwyth University for its nursing courses which will start in September this year.
The announcement comes six months after the University’s plans to offer nursing qualifications for the first time were given the go-ahead by Health Education and Improvement Wales.
The money will be used to invest in facilities at the University’s new Healthcare Education Centre, located opposite Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth.
The plans include capital works and the purchase of equipment to create a suite of high quality clinical practice rooms, as part of a £1.7 million University investment at the site.
The new centre will include 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.
Work on the facilities is due to be completed in March this year, in time for the first nursing students to begin their studies in September.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS said:
“The people who work in the NHS are its lifeblood. Investing in training and the future workforce is a priority for us. I’m delighted our funding is helping to support a new phase for Aberystwyth University in providing nursing training.
“The new facility provides students with invaluable training in a rural setting and builds on the work of CARER (Community and Rural Education Route) programme, giving them experience of working closely with clinicians and patients in community settings.
“Over the past five years training places for nurses have increased by 72% in Wales and we are pleased that we have retained the NHS bursary for student nurses to support people into a career in nursing.
“I look forward to visiting the new centre when it opens in the spring and meeting those starting out on the journey to be becoming a nurse”.
Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure added:
“During the pandemic, the work of our nurses, and that of other NHS and care workers, has been nothing short of extraordinary. It is a great honour that we will be educating nurses here in Aberystwyth for the first time this September.
“We are very grateful to the Welsh Government for this important investment to support the development. The funding will help ensure that the new students have access to the best resources and a high quality education when they start in September.
“The Healthcare Education Centre will benefit the local recruitment and retention of nurses in mid-Wales, and offer wider benefits to the area. It also has the potential to inspire new models of healthcare delivery. Supporting community needs, in close co-operation with our partners, is central to our civic mission; and establishing nursing education here is an important part of that. Our plans will also make an important contribution to enhancing mental health and Welsh-medium provision locally and beyond.
“A big thanks goes to everyone who has been a part of developing our plans to provide nursing education here – including the Welsh Government, the local health boards and Ceredigion County Council – without whom these exciting developments would not be possible.”
The proposals to establish nursing education were developed by Aberystwyth University in co-operation with a number of partners including the Hywel Dda, Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys local health boards as well as service users and carers.
The new degree courses will also offer students the opportunity to study up to half of their course through the medium of Welsh.
26 January this year is the closing date to apply to study as part of the first cohort of nursing students at Aberystwyth University.
More information is available by going to www.aber.ac.uk/en/hec
Funding for research on unarmed civilian protection in conflict areas
AN INTERNATIONAL research network led by Aberystwyth University is offering funding for research projects focusing on unarmed civilian protection in areas affected by conflict.
The Creating Safer Space network works with communities in conflict-affected regions to enhance and strengthen civilians’ capacities to protect themselves and others. It also aims to create safer spaces in which communities can build infrastructures for sustainable peace and development.
Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Professor in International Politics at Aberystwyth University explains: “According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are now a record high of 82.5 million people forcibly displaced by violent conflict, and most deaths in conflicts are of civilians. The protection of civilians from physical harm in contexts of war and other political violence is therefore a pressing humanitarian issue of our time.
“Our Creating Safer Space research network focuses on the protection of civilians by civilians without the use or threat of force. Supporting and enhancing nonviolent protection provided by unarmed civilians has the potential to break cycles of violence and thus contribute to longer-term peacebuilding.
“As a research network, we are excited to be in the position to be able to invite applications for funding for research projects which will enhance our understanding of unarmed civilian protection and self-protection as effective civilian-to-civilian protection strategies; and how these practices can be strengthened to create safer space for more people living in conflict.”
The Creating Safer Space network intends to fund 15-20 research projects, ranging from £20,000 to £100,000 and varying in duration from 6 to 16 months. Projects must be led by organisations in the UK or in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs).
Further information about the grants, and how to apply is available at:
The deadline for applications is 15 April 2022.
The Creating Safer Space network works with communities in conflict-affected regions in Colombia, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Sudan and elsewhere in the Global South. It also brings together a number of stakeholders including national and international unarmed civilian protection organisations, academics, artists, journalists and filmmakers, and the wider international policy community.
Creating Safer Space is led by Aberystwyth University in collaboration with the University of Antioquia (Colombia), Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), City University of New York (USA), Durham University, Leeds Beckett University and Strathmore University (Kenya).
Review to be held on the post-16 education provision in Ceredigion
A REVIEW will be held in the near future to gather information and facts about the post-16 education provision in Ceredigion.
The review will coincide with the reforms made through the establishment of the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTER), which is responsible for overseeing the post-16 sector in Wales, along with the recommendations made by Estyn Thematic Review on post-16 partnerships.
The last review on post-16 provision in Ceredigion took place in 2007-2008, therefore it was agreed during a Cabinet meeting held virtually on 11 January 2022 that it would be timely to undertake a further review.
Councillor Catrin Miles, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Support and Intervention, said: “It is timely to conduct a review of post-16 provision to gather facts and views on what works and what can be developed.”
It was noted that there were 701 pupils in years 12 and 13 in all Ceredigion schools in January 2020. It was also added that less than 5 pupils were following 51 of the 199 A Level courses provided in Ceredigion schools during the academic year 2021-2022.
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