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Education

Savvy Pembrokeshire students on research placement

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On Placement: Sarah Cooper and Amy Staff

TWO savvy STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students from Pembrokeshire College replaced four weeks of their summer holidays for a research placement via the Nuffield Foundation – a charitable trust working to improve social well-being by funding research and innovation in education and social policy. 

College A-level students Sarah Cooper and Amy Staff were two of only 75 students to be selected for a summer placement out of more than 300 applications. Nuffi eld Research Placements (previously Nuffi eld Science Bursaries) provide over 1,000 students each year with the opportunity to work alongside professional scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.

Placements are available across the UK, in universities, commercial companies, voluntary organisations and research institutions. Sarah and Amy didn’t take long to understand that this type of work experience would catapult their chances of getting into the university of their choice. Both students had exposure to high profi le research projects, including The Barcode Wales Project, which aims to catalogue all 1,143 species of native fl owering plants based on their unique gene sequence.

Sarah and Amy praised the foundation for their high quality placements saying they were; “amazing”, “so worthwhile” and “a great stepping stone to university.” Sarah has her sights fi rmly set on studying a Masters programme in Ballistics at Kent University so she was more than pleased to have won a place at Aberystwyth University to work on a project researching the transference of particles on fi bres led by forensic scientist Dr Deborah Croft.

“Only 75 students were placed this year so I feel honoured that I had such a valuable placement” said Sarah. Sarah also achieved 82% for her project work, the summer school’s highest grade and is now set to receive The Crest Award for young scientists. It wasn’t all hard work for the students however; both were involved in recreational activities – cinema trips, meals out and day trips including The Royal Welsh Show. Amy Staff’s placement was working on the Barcode Wales project at The National Botanical Gardens of Wales.

The project led by Dr Natasha De Vere gave Amy a real insight into wildlife conservation, a subject that she hopes to study at the University of West England (UWE) next year. “I was delighted to be given an opportunity to work on the DNA barcoding project and contributed to it by preparing Herbarium specimens, I also attended a seed collecting course led by Dr Stephanie Miles from Kew Gardens and a bee-keeping course.” Both Amy and Sarah received £80 per week and additional travelling expenses were paid by the foundation. Both students received a possibly life-changing experience, which will ultimately pay off when they commence their university studies next year. Who said swapping four weeks of sun for a lab coat wouldn’t be worthwhile!

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Education

Learners ‘Dream Team’ logo is a hit

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Learners studying on the Cornerstone programme at Pembrokeshire College recently entered a competition set by Pembrokeshire People First (PPF) to design a logo for their Dream Team.

Made up of PPF’s four learning disability champions, The Dream Team make sure that the voices of people with learning disabilities are heard and they needed a logo that shows what they do.

College lecturer, Heidi Baker saw the competition and thought this would be a great project for her Cornerstone learners – a group of 14 students with learning disabilities who love to get creative.

To start the process the learners undertook some research into what makes a good logo and found that effective logos are: easy to recognise, colourful, simple, vibrant and don’t contain too many different colours or words.

The learners then invited members of The Dream Team into the College to ask them questions about what they do and what kind of logo they needed. This allowed the learners to build everything they needed into the design, including the fact that the logo had to be bilingual.

The learners submitted several designs and provided the judges with information on how they had developed their ideas. The judges were overwhelmed by the learners’ ideas and the efforts they had put into creating a logo including providing mock-ups of their designs on t-shirts and bags.

Following a couple of tweaks, The Dream Team will soon proudly be wearing the logo designed by Cornerstone learners.

Lecturer Heidi Baker commented: “It is great to have students with learning disabilities designing for The Dream Team. We’re proud to have created a truly collaborative logo – all the students had a hand in creating it – and we hope The Dream Team enjoy using it. We might be up for designing more logos in the future if anyone else out there is interested in commissioning us!”

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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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