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Education expert slams Welsh schools system

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ANDREAS SCHLEICHER, Director of Education and Skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has heavily criticised Welsh education. He stated that the standards it sets for its pupils are: ‘Much weaker than in high – performing education systems’, and that there has been, ‘a fair display of complacency in Wales’.

He cited the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests, which he says found Welsh students performing below every other constituent country in the UK. The last set of results gave Wales an average 468 points in Maths, 30 points below Scotland and 27 behind England.

Mr Schleicher said: “There has been a fair display of complacency. In many countries, we wouldn’t have the tolerance for low performance that we’ve seen in Wales. There’s a lot of under-performing students and schools which you cannot just explain by Wales being a poorer part of the United Kingdom. There’s no reason you would expect Wales next to Greece, but this is what the Pisa results show.”

However, Mr Schleicher, said he expects Wales to improve its performance when the next tranche of PISA tests is sat in November, stating: “I’m very hopeful. Wales has put a lot in place since those [last] results came out, Wales is now looking outwards – not just to England and other countries of the United Kingdom, but to the world’s most advanced education systems. I have a lot of hope that these changes will be successful in the long run.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: “The [2013] results were stark and the message was very clear – standards right across the board had to be lifted. It is very pleasing that Andreas Schleicher has recognised the work we have undertaken since these results were published and the ambitious, outward-facing schools reform programme we have put in place over the last few years. We still have more work to do, but by working with the OECD and continuing to learn lessons from across the globe, we can work towards our aim of putting Wales among the very best schools systems anywhere in the world.”

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Education

Canned Food UK & Tata Steel launch package design challenge

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Canned Food UK (CFUK) and Tata Steel in Europe launch the Packaging Design Challenge this week on April 24 2020.   

The challenge encourages children aged 15 and under to design and create their own pack which demonstrates packaging’s important role in protecting our food and drink.   

To take part entrants first create their ‘product’, a sponge in a freezer bag with 200ml of water and secondly, a pack for their product using materials otherwise destined for the recycling bin which have been cleaned such as cereal boxes, milk cartons or loo roll holders.  

Entrants are invited to send photos or a video to CFUK by tagging Instagram posts with @cannedfooduk or #packagingdesignchallenge or emailing competitions@cannedfood.co.uk.  

Entries should show how their packs are decorated, which parts are recyclable and if their pack survives the drop test – dropping their pack from head height to see if the product leaks.   

A winner will be selected by a panel of experts for a chance to win £100 in Amazon vouchers and the closing date is midnight on Monday 22 May 2020.  

The challenge launches with a live session on Canned Food UK’s Facebook page at 11am on Friday 24 April with Nicola Jones, Tata Steel’s Packaging Recycling Education manager, who normally visits schools nationwide delivering interactive workshops that showcase the benefits of packaging. 

“Lots of families would have been returning from the Easter break this week and I would have been in classrooms talking about how steel is made and why we use packaging. I wanted to continue to share these resources and the Packaging Design Challenge was the perfect opportunity,” comments Nicola.  

“It’s a straightforward activity that children can do with minimal adult supervision, that’s away from a computer screen, and at the same time, learn about how packaging protects our food and drink, reduces waste and how it’s recycled.” 

“I think the challenge will showcase the effectiveness of packaging, just like the can which has great shelf appeal, durability and of course, is infinitely recyclable,” adds Robert Fell, director at CFUK and competition judge. “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s entries, especially if they survive the drop test.” 

For further information on the challenge visit cannedfood.co.uk/packagingdesignchallenge or see entries as they come in on the CFUK’s FacebookTwitter and Instagram channels.  

-ends- 

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Strictly Cymru brings dancing a-plenty to 2020

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Disabled people from all over Wales have waltzed into 2020 for Strictly Cymru – the country’s renowned inclusive dance competition.

Run by charity Leonard Cheshire, in partnership with the national governing body Paradance UK, the competition has seen dancers in both inclusive and wheelchair-specific categories compete in six heats across South Wales, in preparation for the grand final on 6 June. Strictly Cymru is now in its third year.

Winning in the inclusive categories at the Carmarthen heat on 17 January were Coleg Sir Gar students Kieron, Toby, Thomas, and Max, as well as Richard, who came independently from Coleshill Day Centre in Llanelli and wowed the judges with his Michael Jackson inspired fast feet and moonwalk. A few days later, Rebecca, Chloe, and Anesha from Heronsbridge School lifted the trophy at the Bridgend heat on 21 January.

Gower College students Daniel and Carys wowed the judges with their synchronised dancing at the Cardiff heat, while Coleg Gwent student Matthew secured a place on the final in the inclusive heat held in Newport last week.

Meanwhile, in the wheelchair dance category, dancers Chad and Ben took gold in Carmarthen and Bridgend respectively. The Carmarthen heat rang with the sound of Chad’s catchphrase of “Absolutely fantastic!”

Then, the fifth heat in Cardiff saw the youngest person to take part in Strictly to date, five-year-old Inga, win in the wheelchair category, before Robin John won the final wheelchair heat in Newport after being inspired by his partner Dianne, who was highly commended in last year’s competition grand final.

Dance instructors from Paradance UK also took the participants, who came from schools the community and Leonard Cheshire services in the area, through their paces ahead of each dance-off to give everyone the best chance at reaching the final.

Chad said: “It has been a really great two days and I’ve enjoyed getting to know new people and learn tango. I’m looking forward to the final.”

Robin John, winning at Newport, said: “It’s absolutely wonderful, I’ve tried before and lost, but it feels on a whole different planet to win a heat! I’m looking forward to the final and don’t mind which genre of dance I get, I can adapt to most things.”

Ruth Jones, MP for Newport West, was a judge at the heat there. Ruth said: “I wasn’t sure what to expect beforehand, but it was amazing. As you walked into the room the enthusiasm hit you like a wave. It was so hard to choose a winner because they were all brilliant in their own way, everybody did the maximum they could possibly do.”

Alan Dear, Head of Theatre and Arts at Newport Live, helped support the Newport heat and said: “It is the most joyful thing I have done in years.”

The heats were open to people of all ages and abilities and the overall winners of the competition will be crowned in the Ffwrnes theatre in Llanelli on 6 June 2020.  There they will receive the coveted Strictly glitter ball trophy.

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Education

Lee Waters in School Council Summit

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LOCAL Member of the Senedd, Lee Waters has held the third Llanelli School Council Summit in the Welsh Parliament for secondary school pupils from across the constituency.

Over 70 pupils from schools right across the area visited the Senedd to learn how the Welsh Parliament works and take part in debates in the old Assembly debating chamber.

Pupils chose to debate lowering the voting age and banning diesel cars. They also had the opportunity to question the Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething about their concerns and on his experiences as a Minister in the Welsh Government.

Lee Waters MS said

“Every year since becoming elected I’ve invited the school councils from the secondary schools across Llanelli to the Senedd for a School Council Summit. I’m really pleased that the event has grown and grown.”

“The pupils enthusiasm and grasp of the issues was really impressive, and it was great to hear their thoughts on some really important issues.”

“I was delighted to give pupils a chance to discuss their ideas with the Health Minister Vaughan Gething, debate issues that are important to them, and get practical careers advice learn from past pupils at their schools who now work in Welsh public life.”

“I want to show that pupils from Llanelli can succeed at whatever they choose in life, and get them involved in Welsh democracy.”

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