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Education

Former minister lectures on Facebook and democracy

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Leighton Andrews: Raising questions about regulation

THE EVER increasing influence of social media on democracy will be the focus for a public lecture at Aberystwyth University on Thursday, March 22.

Facebook, The Media and Democracy will be delivered by Former Welsh Government Minister Professor Leighton Andrews of the Cardiff Business School.

Hosted by​ ​The Global Communications Research Centre and the Aberystwyth Law School, the lecture takes place at 4:10pm in the Main Hall of the Department of International Politics.

Facebook now has over two billion users across the globe and owns other key communication applications including Instagram and WhatsApp, giving it unprecedented market power.

It is a major player in shaping whole societies through its role in media dissemination, civic organization and as an electoral platform.

Professor Gary Rawnsley, Director of the Global Communications Research Centre and Professor of Public Diplomacy​,​ said: “We are looking forward to co-hosting the lecture with Aberystwyth Law School on such a hot topic. Facebook is constantly changing the face of politics, engagement and democracy at an unprecedented speed and arguments for and against regulation are evolving on a daily basis.

“The role of social media is changing the future of society and democracy, but following the recent controversy regarding ‘Fake News’ in the USA and UK, its dominance is under challenge from regulators and law-makers. The lecture will raise regulatory questions around big data and the internet platforms.”

Professor Leighton Andrews will be introduced by Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University.

Professor Andrews is now Professor of Practice in Public Service Leadership and Innovation at Cardiff Business School.

He served as Minister for Education and Skills and Minister for Public Services in Carwyn Jones’s Welsh Labour Governments between 2009 and 2016, and Deputy Minister in Rhodri Morgan’s One Wales Government from 2007 until 2009, and was the Assembly Member for the Rhondda from 2003 until 2016.

Prior to his election to the National Assembly in 2003, Professor Andrews had a successful career in the private, public and voluntary sectors, and was the BBC’s Head of Public Affairs in London from 1993-1996, during its Charter Renewal campaign.

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Education

£18m to support children and young people with additional learning needs

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NEW funding to support children and young people with Additional Learning Needs has been announced by Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language.

£18m will be made available to provide extra support for children and young people with ALN who’ve been affected by the pandemic and to help educational settings as learners move to the new ALN system from this month.

£10m of the funding will be used to support learners with ALN affected by the pandemic and to improve their wellbeing. During the pandemic, many disabled children and young people, including learners with ALN, continue to experience a negative impact on their mental health and difficulties accessing education.

The funding will add to existing support for ALN learners, such as intensive learning support and speech and language therapy. The funding can also be used to provide extra resources to target the impacts of the pandemic, such as mental health support and tailored support to help with attendance.

£8m will be allocated to schools, nurseries, local authorities and Pupil Referral Units to move learners from the old Special Educational Needs (SEN) system to the new ALN system, as the roll-out of the Additional Learning Needs Act continues.

The new ALN system, being rolled out over three years, will ensure children and young people with ALN are identified quickly and their needs are met. The Act makes provision for new individual development plans, designed to put the views of learners at the heart of the decision-making process, alongside those of their parents or carers.

Minister for Education and Welsh Language Jeremy Miles said:

“We are determined to deliver a fully inclusive education system in Wales – a system where additional needs are identified early and addressed quickly, and where all children and young people are supported to thrive in their education.

“Schools and nurseries are already doing a fantastic job of supporting their learners, but we know they need more resources to do this. That’s why I’m announcing this additional investment to support learners to overcome the effects of the pandemic and prevent the entrenchment of inequalities on their education, employment opportunities, their health and wellbeing.”

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Education

Over £100m of new funding will help make schools and colleges Covid-secure

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Schools and colleges to receive additional funding

SCHOOLS and colleges will receive £103 million in Welsh Government funding, as learners return for the January term.

£50m will be provided via local authorities through the Sustainable Communities for Learning programme. The funding will help schools carry out capital repair and improvement work, with a focus on health and safety measures, such as improving ventilation. The funding will also be used to support decarbonisation.

£45m of revenue funding will also help support school budgets, assisting schools as they continue to deal with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and to prepare for the requirements of the new curriculum.

An additional £8m will be provided to further education colleges, to ensure learning can continue safely and ensure the most disadvantaged learners are not further impacted by the pandemic.

Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, said:

“I know schools and colleges have faced a very difficult time and everyone across the workforce has worked incredibly hard to meet the challenges of the pandemic. This funding will further support our schools and colleges to keep settings as Covid-secure as possible.

“While we want to support the sector in recovering from the pandemic, we also have to make sure we continue to plan for the future, and help all education settings across Wales fulfil our collective goals of making Wales a net-zero nation.

“The funding announced today will help us to ensure sustainability across the sector – be that the environmental sustainability achieved through decarbonisation, or sustainability in provision.”

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Education

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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