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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

Teens have positive attitude to vaccinations

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Vaccinations: Welsh teens and parents understand importance

OVER 90 per cent of Welsh teens and parents surveyed trust vaccines and believe that they work.
A new report examines the findings from the Attitudes to Adolescent Vaccination 2019 survey undertaken by BMG Research on behalf of Public Health Wales. The purpose of this survey was to gain a better understanding of the awareness that teenagers aged 13 to 15 and their parents have about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, as well as exploring attitudes to adolescent immunisation.
Over 300 interviews were conducted—split between parents and teenagers. The results confirmed the important role of health professionals in providing immunisation advice. Over 90 per cent of both parents and young people trust immunisation advice provided by health professionals and the NHS. Social media was the least trusted source of immunisation information.
Some of the report’s key findings were:
· 95 per cent of parents and 90 per cent of teenagers believe vaccines work.
· 93 per cent of teenagers state it is important to get vaccinated.
· 91 per cent of parents and 90 per cent of teenagers trust vaccines.
· 90 per cent of parents and 87 per cent of teenagers believe that vaccines are safe.
· 77 per cent of parents and 69 per cent of teenagers believe that all vaccinations represent a lower risk than the associated disease.
In addition, 97 per cent of parents and 91 per cent of teenagers say they never disagreed on receiving any vaccine, and only 7 per cent of parents and teenagers recall coming across anything that would make them concerned about having a vaccination. Over eight in 10 teenagers who were offered a vaccine were happy with the process and felt they had enough information to understand why the vaccination was offered.
Anne McGowan, Nurse Consultant in the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme in Public Health Wales, said: “The report is very positive news, finding high levels of confidence around vaccination. It shows that the vast majority of Welsh parents and teenagers really understand the importance of vaccines in stopping the spread of preventable diseases.”
Some of the report’s recommendations include continuing to communicate the benefits of the vaccines and informing teenagers about the processes involved. For teenagers, schools were found to be a key information channel with over 50 percent of teenagers recalling being taught something about vaccinations in school.
Teenager girls were more likely to recall coming across information about vaccinations, and it was recommended that more work may be needed to better engage with teenage boys. The report data also supports the continued use of high quality and accessible print materials.
Ultimately the representative survey provides a greater understanding of the awareness that teenagers and their parents have about vaccines and shows that that the vast majority of parents and teenagers have confidence in the important role of vaccination in preventing serious diseases.

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Education

Primary age children in ‘literary poverty’

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Reading together: Developing a vital skill which enriches children

NEW research reveals that more than a quarter of a million UK primary school children are experiencing literary poverty.
Literary poverty is defined by BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, as a child who is read to or with for pleasure, for less than 15 minutes a week outside of school.
The study shows that 345,000 (14%) school children aged seven to nine are currently falling into this category, with a further 17% on the border, being read to or with for less than half an hour a week.
Worryingly, six per cent of children aged 7-9 falls into the worse category of literary poverty, with their parents or guardians never reading to or with them at all.
Just a third (37%) of young children in the UK are reading with or being read to by a parent or carer for over an hour a week in total. BookTrust encourages families to read together for just 10 minutes a day as this helps develop their language, curiosity, imagination and listening skills, as well as benefitting their academic development, including writing skills.
It appears that the traditional bedtime story is also suffering. One in seven parents admits that they never read to their child before bed, with a further 11% say they only do so once a week on average.
The research shows that the importance of regular reading is not lost on parents, with nine in ten believing that reading for pleasure is important for their child. However, children aged 7 – 11 today are on average reading for pleasure for 28 minutes less a week than their parents did at the same age. In fact, half of the children aged 7 – 11 in the UK (50%) read for less than an hour a week.
In response to the worrying findings, former Waterstones Children’s Laureate Anne Fine has launched BookTrust’s annual fundraising Pyjamarama campaign to call on families to rediscover the joy of reading:
“With far fewer screen distractions, my friends and I spent half our lives deep in books. Now, half our primary school children spend less than an hour a week reading for pleasure. But reading’s a vital skill. It’s the bedrock of education in all subjects and enriches our children from both an emotional and a cultural perspective. For the parent, sharing a story with a small child is a sanity-saving, calming comfort, and reading to an older child soon becomes addictive. I’d encourage everyone to put aside the screens a little more to engage children with reading. It truly does work wonders.”
Pyjamarama invites Primary Schools and Nurseries to sign up and allow children to wear their pyjamas all day on Friday, June 5, and celebrate the bedtime story in return for a £1 donation. All funds raised will go towards helping help BookTrust ensure that every child experiences the life-changing benefits of access to books and reading.
Gemma Malley, Director at BookTrust comments, “We are seeing a real cliff-edge in terms of children reading for enjoyment and whilst parents want their children to read more, there’s a real danger that families are sleepwalking into literary poverty. We know that reading for enjoyment is closely linked to academic development as well as building confidence and resilience, and children who are read to are much more likely to read for enjoyment. We hope that through Pyjamarama we can encourage families across the country to reconnect with reading and to snuggle up with a fantastic book together.”

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Education

PhD conference hears from Welsh researchers

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Eiry Williams: Researching worm control in ewes and lambs

WELSH agricultural researchers, Non Williams and Eiry Williams, showcased their work to academics and industry representatives at the Agricultural and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) 2020 Livestock PhD Conference in Nottingham last week.
Both researchers have been part of a scheme which brings the industry and universities together to undertake work which benefits key sectors of the economy. The two PhD’s are funded through the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (KESS 2) scheme supported by European Social Funds through the Welsh Government and in these cases, Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) is working in partnership with Bangor University and Aberystwyth University on projects which will directly benefit livestock farming.
In the final year of her research at Bangor University, Non presented her work during the first day of the conference. Titled ‘Optimised management of upland pasture for economic and environmental benefits’, Non has been looking at how upland cattle systems can increase production efficiencies, the farms financial return and helping to identify opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which will help meet the agricultural sector’s emission reduction target.
“Field trials were set up at Bangor University’s farm which is a typical upland system with the aim to determine the effect of improved and unimproved upland grazed pasture on cattle performance, improved grazed pasture on cattle urine and dung composition and consequently, greenhouse gas emissions from soil following excretion” explained Non.
On the second day of the conference, Eiry Williams presented her poster on sustainable control of gastrointestinal nematodes in sheep. Eiry’s PhD is titled ‘Design and development of a targeted selective treatment (TST) strategy for nematodes during the periparturient period in ewes’.
Eiry explains that “the aim of the project is to help better advise farmers on the most suitable worm control management of adult ewes and their lambs. This work is an important factor in preventing further development of anthelmintic resistance.” Eiry is currently in her second year at Aberystwyth University.
The aim of Eiry’s PhD is to design molecular and computational modelling techniques to develop a novel targeted selective treatment strategy for controlling nematode infections in ewes during the peri-parturient period.
Non has also been presenting results of her experiments on home turf at Coleg Meirion-Dywfor, Glynllifon and Coleg Sir Gar, Gelli Aur at two events organised by HCC as part of the Red Meat Development Programme which is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

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