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Education

Wales leads way with Microsoft for schools

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WALES will be one of the first countries in the world to fund Microsoft classroom software applications for all maintained schools, thanks to new investment from the Welsh Government.

As classrooms continue to digitally evolve, this approach will ensure all schools across Wales have the same level of access to these essential software applications. This will help learners gain the skills they need to thrive in an increasingly digital world, an essential aim of the Welsh Government’s Digital Competence Framework.

Not only will this new £1.2 million investment improve equity of access to digital resources, but it is also a direct measure to support schools in reducing their costs and that of families. It follows recent announcements by the Minister for Education on support for school uniform costs and other kit, as the Government increases its share of funding for new school buildings and increases the number of children who benefit from free school meals.

The Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams, confirmed the software will be available via the Welsh Government’s Hwb digital learning platform, which is currently used by over 85% of schools in Wales.

The licensing deal contains a range of Microsoft products, including the full desktop version of Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus which includes a Welsh language interface and proofing tools, along with additional security features.

Also included is Minecraft Education Edition with Code Builder which provides a range of ways for learners to explore, create and experiment with coding. This supports the Welsh Government’s Cracking the Code plan to expand coding in every part of Wales.

All teachers and learners will be able to download and install the latest versions of all these software applications on up to 5 personal devices at no cost. Online versions of the software applications will continue to be available through Hwb for use anywhere, such as public computers in libraries.

Kirsty Williams said: “I’m proud to say we’re one of the first countries in the world to take this progressive approach to providing schools with this software. Through our curriculum reforms we want all learners to have relevant high-level digital, literacy and numeracy skills, and access to these applications is an important step towards achieving that.

“This will reduce the burden on schools to pay for their own licensing fees and also ensure all our schools have the same level of access to the digital tools they need to progress these skills in our learners. This is vital as we aim to reduce the attainment gap and increase standards in our schools.”

Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, said: “The introduction of Office 365 will be transformational for both teachers and pupils, empowering them to collaborate more effectively, saving time and generating better learning outcomes. Equally, Office 365 provides students with valuable skills to help them obtain employment following school,” said Cindy Rose, CEO, Microsoft UK.
“Additionally, the accessibility tools built into Office 365 will mean all students gain the confidence to contribute to learning discussions. Similarly, with Minecraft Education Edition, students will develop computational thinking skills in an immersive and classroom-friendly format that sparks creativity and innovation. This agreement ensures Wales retains its position as a world leader in digital education delivery.”

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Education

Support staff outnumber teachers

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NEW data published by the Education Workforce Council (EWC) has revealed that there are now more learning support staff than teachers registered to work in maintained schools in Wales.
Of the over 80,000 people eligible to work in schools, further education, work-based learning and youth work settings in Wales, over 37,325 are registered for school support roles compared to 35,545 for school teacher roles. This highlights the changing nature of Welsh classrooms and how our children are educated.
Statistics also show that the education workforce in Wales is mainly female, with over 80% of school staff and over 60% in other settings being women.
The age profile of the school and youth work workforce is balanced, with around three-quarters of staff under the age of 50. In contrast, further education and work-based learning workforce is older, with 45% of registered college lecturers aged 50 and over.
The ability of school teachers (33.3%) to speak Welsh exceeds census figures (19%). However, figures in further education colleges and work-based learning are below the census. This shows the challenges ahead if Wales is to meet its aspiration of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.
EWC Chief Executive, Hayden Llewellyn said:
“This is the first time such extensive intelligence has been available about the whole of the education workforce in Wales. The data raises interesting questions for policymakers and workforce planning as we move towards a new curriculum, a greater focus on the Welsh language and other major reforms”.
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Education

New exhibition reveals changing the landscape

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SATELLITE images that reveal how the global environment has changed over the past 35 years and the impacts on the Welsh landscape are at the heart of a new exhibition at Aberystwyth University’s Old College.

The ‘Living Wales’ exhibition has been developed by Professor Richard Lucas and the Earth Observation and Ecosystem Dynamics Research Group at the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences in collaboration with the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) and Welsh Government.

Using a combination of cutting edge satellite observation, computer analysis and input from the public on the ground, Professor Lucas’ team has captured incredible details and information on the states and dynamics of the Welsh landscape.

In a series of fascinating interactive displays at Old College, the exhibition places these changes in the context of those observed globally.

Professor Lucas said: “Living Wales is a dynamic exhibition that is providing new perspectives of the impact of mankind on the global environment over the past 35 years but also how these have contributed to the changes we are now seeing and hearing about every day, including climatic variability and biodiversity loss.”

“This exhibition is very timely, given the recent Climate Strike and the United Nations’ Climate Summit in the United States, with both addressing the issue of climate change and the need to take greater action.”

“We want to give the public an understanding of our changing environment but also convey how we can all make a contribution to making a better place for ourselves and future generations, in Wales but also globally”, he added.

The exhibition was opened by Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor at Aberystwyth and runs until Friday 20 December 2019.

Professor Treasure said: “I am delighted to be opening the new Living Wales exhibition at the Old College and I encourage everyone to see for themselves how our world is changing. Our planet faces many challenges associated with climate change and loss of biodiversity and it gives me great pleasure to see Aberystwyth University taking a proactive role in addressing many of these challenges. As a University, we pride ourselves on the excellence of our teaching and research, and Living Wales is just one example of how Aberystwyth is leading the world in terms of quality, innovation and outreach.”

Professor Lucas is one of two Sêr Cymru Chairs at Aberystwyth University and a leading member of an international team that is using satellite technology to monitor changes to the natural environment around the world.
He established the concepts behind Living Wales, a Welsh Government and European Regional Development Fund funded research project.

The aim is to capture the state and dynamics of Wales’ landscape in near real-time, historically and into the future.
Living Wales builds on extensive and long-established research in Australia and other countries that have focused on quantifying the state and changes over several decades to vegetation at local to continental scales using satellite data.

A permanent sister Living Wales exhibition opened to the public at CAT at the end of July 2019.
The exhibition has been supported by the Sêr Cymru programme funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Welsh Government and the Joy Welch Foundation (Aberystwyth University) as well as CAT.

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Education

Seren and Sbarc kick off new series of books with a story to coincide with Rugby World Cup

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WELSH Government and WRU announced a partnership to encourage more school children to use Welsh.

They have been inspiring school children to use Welsh in and out of the classroom for a while, but Siarter Iaith mascots Seren a Sbarc have now moved on to the next level with their very own book. Released as part of a partnership, the book will be issued to all primary schools in Wales to encourage children to read more Welsh and to cheer Wales on in Welsh.

The book, Seren a Sbarc yn Achub (Cwpan) y Bydysawd (Seren a Sbarc Save the Universe (Cup)), written by Elidir Jones and illustrated by Huw Aaron, tells the tale of the heroic characters fighting off monsters and villains using the skills they have learnt through rugby and speaking Welsh.

The book gives children and parents fun way of learning and using Welsh through rugby, as the nation eagerly watches Wales on their World Cup journey.

All primary schools in Wales will receive copies of the book to help inspire the next generation of Welsh speakers as part of the Siarter Iaith.

Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan, said: “As rugby fever grips the country, children right across Wales will be reading about the heroic antics of Seren and Sbarc as they fight off monsters with their fantastic Welsh and sport skills! This exciting project with the WRU is a great way of inspiring the next generation of Welsh speakers, and future rugby players. Rugby is a sport that brings the nation together and the Welsh language is a big part of that.”

To launch the book, Seren and Sbarc joined pupils of Ysgol Bro Allta in Ystrad Mynach for a busy day of rugby practice and sending good luck messages to the Wales team. Dragons players Aaron Jarvis and James Benjamin also joined the Year 5 and 6 pupils as they carried out tasks from the WRU Digital Classroom resource, launched to inspire pupils to achieve in all areas through rugby.

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