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Education

Minister SKIPS to school

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The Meads Infant and Nursery School: Part of the SKIPS project

REBECCA EVANS AM, Minister for Social Services and Public Health has visited The Meads Infant and Nursery School in Milford Haven to see the impact of the SKIP project – Successful Kinesthetic Instruction for Pre-schoolers.

The SKIP project is a major programme of professional development in West Wales that aims to develop pupils’ motor development in the Foundation Phase. SKIP is run by the Wales Institute of Physical Literacy, part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and The Meads School was one of 100 schools that trialled the innovative scheme.

The programme is part of the Welsh Government funded Physical Literacy Programme for Schools which the Wales Institute for Physical Literacy manages in the region.

It is led by Dr Nalda Wainwright, Director of the Wales Institute of Physical Literacy, who has been instrumental in changing behaviour by working with schools across south west Wales.

“We are facing issues that we have never encountered before in our society,” says Dr Wainwright.

“As a result of the increased levels of inactivity in children it has been predicted that they may die five years earlier than their parents despite improvements in modern medicine.

“The bill to the NHS is estimated to be £30b for the treatment of conditions linked to inactivity, which is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide. Changes in society have created a ‘perfect storm’ for sedentary behaviours. “Modern technology, lack of green space, fear of strangers, a habit of driving, baby gadgets, coffee shop culture and screen time have all eroded time that would have been spent moving.

“Research into the implementation of the Foundation Phase shows that in Wales we have a potential solution to this with a world leading play based early childhood curriculum.

“However, this potential has not been realised as teachers and supporting adults don’t always have the necessary knowledge to ensure children are having appropriate experiences to develop the important movement foundations for good brain development and life-long physical activity.

“Drawing on research which identified the gap in knowledge, a programme of training and support was implemented in target schools.”

Working with Professor Jackie Goodway of The Ohio State University and honorary research fellow at the Wales Institute of Physical Literacy, SKIP trains teachers, teaching assistants and parents about the importance of early movement for child development. The training shows how children learn to move through developmental stages; how to alter tasks and the environment to move children through these stages, and crucially, to achieve the mastery of these skills needed for life long physical activity.

Part of this project also involves running parental engagement sessions with parents taking a bag of equipment home to play with their children and in some cases, even taking over the running of sessions.

“We have been assessing the impact of the project on samples of pupils from schools across the region. The analysis of the data thus far shows we are having a significant impact on pupils’ motor skill development. Importantly, teachers are developing their understanding and confidence so we are building real capacity for sustainable long term change,” continues Dr Wainwright.

“It’s great news that our research on the SKIP programme in Wales has shown that in as little eight weeks there is a significant impact on motor skills. Teachers also report huge improvements in the children’s concentration, focus and engagement in the classroom.”

Sonja Groves, Acting Head of The Meads Infant and Nursery School, Milford Haven has seen the positive impact of the SKIP project on both pupils and parents in the school.

“Since beginning the SKIP project we have been overwhelmed with the improvement in our pupils’ physical well-being. The training that the staff received has enabled them to teach vital skills of physical literacy in a developmental and sequential way. This means that pupils’ motor skills have improved significantly as well as developing positive behaviour and an enthusiasm for physical activity,” says Ms Groves.

“The parental workshops have provided an opportunity for parents and children to work together to build coordination and physical stamina. The weekly workshops have allowed parents, children and staff chance to engage enthusiastically in SKIP activities. The parents thoroughly enjoy the ‘Parental Engagement’ bags that the children bring home weekly. These bags contain a range of equipment and suggestions on how to get their children physically active.

“As a result of the success of the project, staff have been proactive in developing opportunities to integrate SKIP skills across the curriculum. Getting children moving at this young age is vital for their long term health and for the health of the community. It is crucial that the skills of physical development are understood by all teachers to enable this to happen effectively,” she continues. Having seen aspects of the project being delivered during her visit, Rebecca Evans AM, Minister for Social Services and Public Health added: “It was great to see the physical literacy programme at Meads Infant and Nursery School, which aims to give all children the opportunity to develop physical skills, as well as the confidence, motivation and opportunities to take part in sports and physical activity.

“We are committed to creating opportunities for children to develop healthy behaviours and I encourage all schools to develop innovate approaches to make physical activity part of the school day.”

The Wales Institute of Physical Literacy at UWTSD has a range of projects such as SKIP that will help Wales become a more physical literate nation. SKIP is aimed at early years and young children but Physical Literacy is developed throughout life. It is much more than learning skills and playing sport.

It’s about being confident, motivated and about understanding why activity is important and how to be active – whether that’s playing sport in a club, walking in the hills, doing yoga, cycling, swimming or taking a dance class.

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Education

Wales gets cosmic ray detector network

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Truly innovative research: Welsh students' major opportunity

A NETWORK of instruments used to detect showers of high-energy particles raining down on Earth, are in the process of being set-up in Wales for the very first time.

The major international project will give schoolchildren the chance to explore some of the most important questions in astrophysics.

The particles, known as cosmic rays, travel from deep space at nearly the speed of light and are thought to originate from the regions around black holes and exploding stars. They’ve been hitting the earth and other planets since the solar system formed.

By detecting cosmic rays, scientists all over the world hope to learn more about some of astronomy’s biggest questions, such as the origin of the Universe, the death of stars, and how galaxies and black holes form. On Earth, observations of cosmic rays have also been used to ‘look inside’ volcanoes, and recently helped discover a large hidden chamber in the Great Pyramid at Giza.

A detector is currently under construction in Swansea University, with plans for another at the proposed Oriel Science exhibition centre in Swansea’s city centre. The network’s first detector has already been installed on the roof of Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy near the city centre.

Professor Chris Allton, from Swansea University’s Oriel Science and Department of Physics, said: “We are excited to link with Cardiff and provide a detector array across south Wales for school students to access. It will really help inspire these students to become the next generation of scientists in Wales.”

The team are now exploring the possibility of installing another detector at a school in Wales, as the network will also be used as an educational resource for schoolchildren across the country.

The £93K ‘QuarkNet Cymru’ project is being funded by the Welsh Government’s National Science Academy and links Wales to two major international projects – the “High School Project on Astrophysics Research with Cosmics” (HiSPARC) in Europe, and US-based “QuarkNet” programme.

HiSPARC and QuarkNet enable secondary schools and academic institutions to join forces and form a network to measure cosmic rays. They offer students the opportunity to participate in real research, with the purpose of finding out more about these mysterious cosmic particles.

When a cosmic ray encounters the Earth’s atmosphere, it creates a cascade of secondary particles called muons which spread out as they travel to the ground. By using detectors sensitive to muons, the schoolchildren will be able to work with the data to find out information about the original cosmic ray, such as its energy and where it came from in the sky.

From January 2018, schools will be able to loan particle physics equipment from Swansea and Cardiff Universities, with the addition of workshops and presentations to engage the schoolchildren in real-life cosmic ray research.

Dr Paul Roche, from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for school students from across Wales to get involved with some exciting astrophysics, using data taken from our own instruments that are now part of this international research programme.”

Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport commented: “The QuarkNet Cymru project is an excellent example of how, working with global leaders in the field, Welsh Government investment is helping facilitate truly innovative research into some of the most important questions in astrophysics. More locally, it’s particularly pleasing to see such investment enabling QuarkNet Cymru and its network to deliver engaging Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics activities to pupils across Wales.”

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Education

Aber academics shortlisted for research awards

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(L-R): Professor Colin McInnes, shortlisted for the Special Achievement Award; Dr Elin Royles who has been shortlisted for the Research Impact Award with Dr Huw Lewis and Dr Catrin Wyn Edwards; Dr Catrin Wyn Edwards, shortlisted for Early Career Researcher of the Year; Dr Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, shortlisted for the Research Innovation Award

RESEARCHERS at Aberystwyth University were shortlisted for awards at the 2017 Welsh Social Research Awards​,​ which took place in Cardiff on Thursday evening (Dec 7).

Hosted by the Social Research Association and sponsored by Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance Mark Drakeford AM, the awards recognise and celebrate outstanding research by social science researchers in Wales.

The finalists feature academics from the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University, with nominations in each of the four categories; Special Achievement Award, Early Career Researcher of the Year, Research Impact Award and the Research Innovation Award.

Special Achievement Award: Professor Colin McInnes, UNESCO Professor of HIV/AIDS Education and Health Security in Africa

A leading expert on global health and international relations at Aberystwyth University, Professor McInnes was appointed Vice-Chair of the United Kingdom National Commission (UKNC) for UNESCO in January 2017.

Early Career Researcher of the Year: Dr Catrin Wyn Edwards

Dr Edwards has been researching the linguistic integration of migrants into sub-states, specifically Catalonia and Wales, and Quebec and New Brunswick in Canada.

Research Impact Award: Dr Huw Lewis, Dr Elin Royles and Dr Catrin Wyn Edwards

Working within the WISERD Centre for Welsh Politics and Society at Aberystwyth, Dr Huw Lewis, Dr Elin Royles and Dr Catrin Wyn Edwards have been shortlisted for their work on informing and influencing the policy discussion that fed into the preparation of the Welsh Government’s new national language strategy, Cymraeg 2050: A Million Welsh Speakers, published in July 2017.

Research I​n​novation Award: Dr Berit Bliesemann de Guevara

Working with researchers at Cardiff University, Dr Bliesemann de Guevara has been nominated for the project​ ‘Using a drawing workshop to explore the infertility experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic women in Wales’.

Professor Chris Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research at Aberystwyth said: “Aberystwyth University possesses a long and distinguished record of world leading social sciences research that is widely recognised for its excellence, originality, significance and rigour. I am delighted to see the work of colleagues recognised in this way.”

According to the latest review of UK research quality, REF 2014, 95% of the research activity submitted by Aberystwyth University was of an internationally recognised standard or higher, with world leading research identified in all 17 of the Units of Assessment submitted.

The Department of International Politics was rated top in Wales, with over 75% of its research considered world leading or internationally excellent (REF2014).

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Education

New standards for FE staff launched

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Eluned Morgan: 'Vocational learning every bit as important as academic education'

NEW professional standards for staff in the further education and work-based learning sectors were launched at the ColegauCymru Conference on Post 16 Education last Thursday (Nov 30).

The standards will set high expectations for all practitioners and be more explicit about the role of high-quality collaborative professional learning to support improvements. They reflect the importance of ongoing professional learning for staff and the role vocational learning plays in creating the skilled, innovative and adaptable workforce Wales needs.

Speaking at the conference, Eluned Morgan, Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, said: “Vocational learning is every bit as important as academic education and if we want the best for our vocational learners their teachers, tutors and assessors have to be supported in their role. These new standards set out a clear, aspirational framework for the sector to work to.

“The critical principle of vocational education is that those working in both FE and WBL tend to operate as dual professionals, as experts both in a ‘vocation’ and as ‘teachers’. This has been made a central strand throughout the standards.

“I am confident that these standards will further engage and motivate practitioners and their employers in their pursuit for excellence and improved outcomes for all.”

Kelly Edwards Head of Work Based Learning Quality at the National Training Federation Wales said: “The Work-based Learning sector was delighted to be involved in the development of the new standards. The standards will support professional learning for WBL practitioners, with a key focus on developing the dual professional. We welcome the standards as an important step to enhance professional recognition for the WBL sector in Wales.”

Iestyn Davies, Chief Executive of ColegauCymru, Wales’ post compulsory education charity, added: “The development of professional standards is a move which is welcomed by ColegauCymru. Further Education provides the practical skills and knowledge that communities rely upon, we fully endorse and will promote these standards as a way of ensuring that the public and the profession alike are clear on what is required to continue to deliver world class skills in the rapidly changing world of work.”

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