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Education

Top Y12 students get Yale opportunity

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Summer School Chance: At Yale University

THE SEREN Network has announced a major partnership with Yale University which will see 11 Seren students attend a fortnight-long summer school at Yale’s US or China campus this summer, at no cost.

The partnership is aiming to broaden the academic horizons of Welsh students by giving them a taste of university life in the States. The main cost of the summer school – usually $6000 dollars – will be covered jointly by Seren and Yale.

Year 12 Seren students have until Tuesday, February 13, to apply, and will be selected via a competitive application process.

A similar collaboration between Seren and Jesus College Oxford last summer, which resulted in 73% attendees subsequently applying to Oxford, was so successful that it will now treble in size, offering around 70 pupils the chance to sample life at the prestigious institution in August.

The news comes as an independent report on the success to date of Seren, published yesterday, has found that the programme is delivering clear value for Welsh pupils and raising their aspirations.

The report found that the Seren Network is boosting Welsh pupils’ confidence, and encouraging them to think more ambitiously about their university choices.

It found that Seren had been valuable in helping students make more informed choices and providing with the skills to make competitive applications.

Liam Rahman, a Yale graduate who now works as a representative for Yale in Wales, said: “Since returning to Wales last year, it’s been a real privilege to work with high potential Welsh students through the Seren Network and Yale’s Alumni Schools Committee. Over the past few months, I’ve worked to build the relationship between Yale and The Seren Network, which has culminated in this fantastic partnership and scholarship opportunity. This scholarship will deliver life-changing opportunities to some of Wales’s brightest sixth formers and gives Yale the opportunity to access some of Wales’s very best talent.”

Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, said: “Since launching in 2015, Seren has quickly grown to become a recognised and valuable vehicle through which more than 2000 pupils in Wales are channelling their academic talents and ambitions.

“The report details the Network’s considerable early success, from plugging gaps in support across Wales, to forging new strategic partnerships between Wales and some of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world including most recently Yale.

“Of course, there are areas for improvement which the report outlines, including a number that we’re already working to address. Nonetheless, it’s very encouraging to see a positive overview so early in the process.”

Lowri Morgan is a sixth-form student from Abercynon who has recently received an offer to study at Oxford University. She is part of the RCT/Merthyr Seren hub. She said:

“The support I received through Seren was so helpful, my degree area is Physics and Philosophy which is quite niche – but through Seren I had the opportunity to take part in several workshops with Oxford and Cambridge Universities, which taught me what to expect in the interviews.

“One of them was an exam practice workshop with Oxford and, even though the exams I ended up sitting were slightly different, the essay writing and critical thinking elements were so important. Then, ahead of the interview itself, I was taken to Howell’s School in Cardiff for a prep session, and given practice with other pupils within our subject area.

“After that I had a mock interview with Stephen Parry Jones, my Seren hub co-ordinator, which was so helpful. Without these opportunities through Seren, and the help from my head of sixth-form, I would have been completely in the dark. I wouldn’t have had the confidence that I had going into that interview, and I’m truly grateful for that.”

Dr Matthew Williams, Access and Career Development Fellow, Jesus College, Oxford, said: “Seren is a fantastic network. It has been of enormous benefit to its participants, as well as being invaluable to academics like me who want to meet the brightest and best from across Wales.

“It is with the help of Seren that we in Oxford will be able to host our first ever all-Wales summer school in August 2017. Without the expertise and help of Seren, we would never have made as many meaningful connections with Welsh students.”

Stephen Parry Jones, RCT Seren Hub Co-ordinator and Steering Group Chair, said: “The report is a great boost. Only three years ago, I and my fellow coordinators had blank sheets of paper, and a brief to translate Lord Murphy’s report into some sort of reality. We were initially perhaps rather daunted, but the increased confidence and ambition among Welsh students highlighted in the report are really pleasing.

“I was delighted to be at the Jesus College summer school. As coordinators, we were so impressed by the intellectual ability of students from all over Wales. The Yale offer is another exciting development. Of course, there’s still work to be done, but we’re so glad to see that Seren is already proving its worth.”

Areas for improvement outlined in the report include:

  • Greater collaboration across the hubs to ensure activities benefit as many pupils as possible
  • More data is needed on the overall destinations of participants, though it was recognised that this data is not yet available due to the Network’s early stages
  • Though flexibility is important from hub to hub, there should be a minimum offer across hubs so participants know exactly what to expect over their 2-year programme when they join the Network
  • The report notes that a Seren-style model should be extended to pupils at Key Stages 3 and 4, to impact them earlier in their academic journey

Education

Globalisation with a difference at Lampeter

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Tabula Peutingeriana: A copy of a Roman original world map

AN INTERNATIONAL multidisciplinary conference that aims to explore approaches to the theme of ‘globalisation’ across the ancient world will be held at UWTSD’s Lampeter conference next month.

Entitled “Re-Thinking Globalisation in the Ancient World” up to 30 academic experts from Asia, Europe, South and North America will visit Ceredigion to present papers and take part in discussions at the three-day event. Keynote speakers at the conference include Professor Mark Horton from the University of Bristol and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany and Professor Michael Sommer from Universität Oldenburg.

Conference organiser and Senior Lecturer in Roman History and Archaeology at UWTSD Associate Professor Ralph Häussler said: “We’re very much looking forward to hosting this conference and welcoming so many distinguished experts in the field to Lampeter – it truly is a ‘global’ conference. The purpose of the conference is to provide new insights into cross-cultural interactions and responses in inter-connected and entangled regions of the ancient world.

Methodological issues relating to the theme of ‘globalisation’ will be analysed in different contexts, notably the application of this concept in different regions and different periods of the ancient world. In the 21st century ‘Globalisation’ is a buzzword for our interconnected and fast-moving modern times. But globalisation is not new. Already 2,000 – 3,000 years ago, we can identify comparable developments, like an ever increasing inter-dependency between distant regions of the ancient world. Nowadays, the concept of ‘globalisation’ and of a cosmopolitan society has come under increasing scrutiny for contemporary society. Therefore the study of globalisation with regards to the ancient world will enable us to place this modern debate within a wider historical framework. Everybody is welcome to come along and take part in what promises to be a fascinating discussion.”

The Conference will start at 8:30am on the 8th May and come to a close at midday on the 10th May 2018. More information can be found here: https://bit.ly/2qF2NTB.

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Education

Creative coding challenge for schools

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Animating challenge: Schools invited to combine poetry and computing

ABERYSTWYTH U​NIVERSITY’S Computer Science Department is calling on primary school pupils across Wales to take part in a unique coding competition combining poetry, Welsh mythology and creative computing.

The challenge to children aged 7-11 years old includes animating a poem by Eurig Salisbury, a lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh & Celtic Studes as well as an award-winning writer and former Children’s Welsh Poet Laureate.

Alternatively, contestants can also choose to animate a Welsh myth or legend – from the Mabinogion, for example.

There will be prizes for the winning teams as well as a visit to the winning entry’s school by a team of computer scientists from Aberystwyth University who will hold a day of educational coding activities.

The aim of the competition is to encourage children to give coding a go and to learn new skills for the workplace of the future.

Organiser Dr Hannah Dee, Senior Lecturer at Aberystwyth University’s Computer Science Department, said: “Coding is a digital skill which will only increase in importance. People often think that coding is just spreadsheets or numbers. This contest aims to show that it’s much than that – you can code pictures, animations, and even poetry. Creative coding is something everyone can have a go at, particularly using Scratch, a kids’ programming language.

“We have four top prizes this year with winners awarded either a Pi-top Laptop or Kano Computer Kit or and we are grateful to both companies for their sponsorship and support.”

Fellow organiser and lecturer Martin Nelmes said: “As a Department, we visit schools the length and breadth of Wales with our coding activities and find that creative coding like this really fires students’ imagination. We held our first coding competition last year and the entries were inspirational. I can’t wait to see what pupils come up with this year.”

First prize in last year’s competition went to Johnstown School in Carmarthenshire, with second place going to Ysgol Gynradd Pentrefoelas in Betws y Coed in Gwynedd, and third to Brynnau School, Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taff.

Eurig Salisbury, a lecturer in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies, said: “It was a privilege to be part of this coding competition last year and to see young children take up the challenge of creative computing to illustrate one of my poems. It’s a fun activity but it’s also educational with coding becoming an increasingly fundamental skill to those growing up in the early part of the 21st century.”

Further details about the competition and how to enter can be found on the website of the Department of Computer Science

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Education

Pupil Deprivation Grant boosted

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Allocation levels guaranteed for two more years: Kirsty Williams

SCHOOLS across Wales are to share in over £90m in 2018-19 to help their most disadvantaged learners, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced.

The Cabinet Secretary has written to schools across Wales to confirm how much they will directly receive in 2018-19.

In addition to over £90m committed this year, £187m has been guaranteed for the remainder of the Assembly term, so that schools have the stability to plan ahead.

The Pupil Development Grant (PDG) helps schools tackle the effects of poverty and disadvantage on attainment and is targeted at learners who are eligible for Free School Meals or are Looked After Children.

Schools use the PDG in a number of different ways, including nurture groups for children who may be socially and emotionally vulnerable, out-of-hours school learning, on-site multi-agency support and better tracking of pupils as they progress through school.

This year, the PDG for the youngest learners (pupils aged 3-4 years old) has increased from £600 to £700 per pupil. This builds on last year’s doubling of financial support from £300 to £600 per learner in the early years.

Primary and secondary schools will continue to receive a rate of £1,150 per learner, and this rate also continues to apply to learners in education other than at school (EOTAS).

From this year, schools will also have greater flexibility to support learners who have been eligible for Free School Meals in the previous two years.

Advisers and coordinators from education consortia are also on-hand to provide extra support and guidance for schools on using the funding.

Kirsty Williams said: “Reducing the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers is at the heart of our national mission to raise standards. This is one of the most effective ways in which we can break the cycle of deprivation and poverty.

“Time and again, teachers have told me how much of a difference PDG funding has made in raising aspirations, building confidence, improving behaviour and attendance and in involving families with their children’s education.

“Teachers have also called for greater certainty around future PDG funding and that’s why I’m pleased to be able to guarantee allocation levels for the next two financial years and reaffirm our commitment to the grant for the lifetime of this Assembly.

“We have always said that the PDG is there to support all pupils who are eligible for Free School Meals, not just those that are struggling academically. That’s why I want schools to ensure they are supporting more able pupils as well.

“I would also encourage all schools to make full use of the PDG advisers and coordinators from the education consortia – they’re there to help when it comes to making the best use of the funding and ensuring that we raise attainment across the board.”

An independent evaluation of the PDG last year found that many schools consider the funding to be ‘invaluable’, with further evidence from Estyn and the Welsh Government’s raising attainment advocate, Sir Alasdair MacDonald, showing the majority of schools are making well thought out decisions on how to spend the funding.

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