WELSH CONSERVATIVES have raised serious concerns over enrolment in further education and called on Labour Ministers to ‘stop the decline before it’s too late’. However, a spokesperson for the Welsh government hit back by stating that the Tories had a mess to clear up which they had created.
Local Assembly Member and Shadow Minister for Education Angela Burns said: “Recent numbers from StatsWales show that the number of Further Education (FE) enrolments during 2013-14 fell compared to 2012-13 by 4.1pc. But even more worryingly, the number of people from deprived backgrounds that enrolled during the same period decreased by 2.6pc.
“People living in poverty need education and skills to help attain a better standard of living and contribute to our economy. Indeed, Welsh Government say that one of the overarching policy goals in education is to break the link between deprivation and attainment. Given the swingeing cuts to Further Education introduced this year by the Labour Government I am deeply concerned that there will be a further drop in these numbers in future academic years.
“Our Further Education Institutions have been remarkably adept at weathering the storms that have blown through Education in recent years but the drop in admissions and the cuts in funding are going to put our Colleges under immense pressure.”
Mrs Burns added: “Labour must stop the decline before it’s too late. Such a significant fall in FE enrolment raises extremely serious questions, particularly within deprived areas. Labour claim they’re committed to closing the attainment gap – yet these figures confirm they’re failing spectacularly. It’s in deprived areas where the most significant support is required to encourage further education, advance skills and boost jobs growth. Since they (Labour) took over the reins of our education system in 1999, standards have declined dramatically.
“We need a swift strategy that deals with the problem and guarantees that Labour’s huge FE cuts are not hitting the frontline and causing fatal damage to our FE institutions.”
Hitting back, a spokesperson for the Education Minister Huw Lewis said of the comments: “The Tories need to spend more time fixing the mess they have created in English Further Education before they start criticising Welsh colleges. Just this week the National Audit Office published a report on the financial health of Further Education in England which makes for pretty worrying reading. Under the Tories watch half of all colleges in England are experiencing financial difficulty and the whole system is at risk of meltdown.
“Despite the £1.4bn the UK Government has cut from the Welsh budget since 2010, we have protected FE provision for 16-18 year olds here in Wales and gone beyond our statutory duty to protect provision for 19 year olds as well. We have also maintained funding for Traineeships and are continuing to fund Apprenticeships for 16-24 year olds as well as all-age Higher Level Apprenticeships. We’ve also protected the deprivation grant we give to colleges and school sixth forms to support the education of learners from deprived backgrounds.
“FE institutions in Wales have anticipated that UK funding reductions were likely to have an effect on their budgets and adapted accordingly. There are some very good examples where colleges have generated privately funded income through engagement with local businesses. Being responsive to employers’ needs and building on good practice is now more important than ever.”
Canned Food UK & Tata Steel launch package design challenge
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”
Strictly Cymru brings dancing a-plenty to 2020
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.
Lee Waters in School Council Summit
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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