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Welsh schools plan to work from home after Christmas

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Jeremy Miles MS

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.”

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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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Education

Aberystywth University launches AI Hub to explore decade’s most critical technology

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ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY has launched a new hub to study artificial intelligence in response to a technology that presents some of the greatest opportunities this decade to transform society.
The Hub involves academics from across the University collaborating in areas such as robotics and machine learning, astrophysics, medical treatment, drug discovery and future foods through a series of workshops, conferences, and collaborations.
In recent years, the University has been involved in a number of high-profile projects involving the technology. In June 2022, it worked with Dŵr Cymru Welsh Waterhttps://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2022/06/title-252896-en.htm on an artificial intelligence system that helped monitor the reliability of water treatment processes.
The University has also developed an apphttps://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2021/01/title-239859-en.html that helps recovering stroke patients exercise more and looked at how the technology can be applied to exploring the weather in spacehttps://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2021/02/title-240437-en.html.
At a recent symposium hosted by Aberystwyth University academics discussed subjects such as artificial intelligence’s uses within healthcare, the arts and storing and categorising key information.
In the coming years, the University will build on its expertise in applying artificial intelligence to space and data science, engineering, intelligent robotics and healthcare.
A series of sandpit events will be held to bring academics from across all disciplines at the University together to share ideas and start new projects, with a public conference planned for 2023.
Professor Colin McInnes, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Knowledge Exchange and Innovation, said: “Artificial intelligence poses one of the greatest opportunities – and challenges – for the world this decade. These are not simply technological, but will impact upon society, the economy, culture and human rights. I am delighted that Aberystwyth University is taking a lead in examining the impact of AI across all these dimensions and how they will interact with each other.”
Professor Reyer Zwiggelaar, Head of the AI Hub, said: “These technologies will push the boundaries of scientific discovery: from the exploration of Mars’ surface and quantifying the environmental impact of global warming to identifying new health biomarkers, creating future foods and understanding of how living organisms sense, move and interact with their natural environments.
“This is why we established the AI Hub: to collaborate and explore the full potential of the technology. It will help fuel innovation across society and something that will change our lives for the better, across the country and the world. We want to be at the forefront of this exciting field.”

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