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Calls for balanced use of technology

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Is this the future?: Technology concerns

Is this the future?: Technology concerns

A LEADING child psychologist has warned of the dangers of an over use of technology by the UK’s children. Linda Blair, speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, has suggested parents refrain from allowing children to use electronic devices before they set off for school as she believes it could harm their concentration levels in school. she has also called on schools to limit the amount of homework that required computer use.
She said: “It makes me mad because a lot of schools are doing screen homework. It’s so stupid – I wish they wouldn’t do that.”
However, a Pembrokeshire County Council spokesperson has hit back, stating: “It is part of our role as educators to provide pupils with the experience of using a wide range of technologies to support learning in order to equip them with the skills required in the modern working environment. Ideally, there should be a balanced approach to the use of technology in the home just as there is in school.”
Ms Blair did however accept that limiting screen use ‘was not a popular move’, but believes it can ‘transform things’ for young people. She went on to suggest a partial move away from the use of technology, saying: “I encourage people to try it for a couple of days,” and continued by suggesting families ‘establish one point in the day where the family focuses on each other. Saying: “That used to be called dinner. All screens are off and you actually talk to each other. They will moan but 10 years from now they will remember it and thank you. You have to set limits. Kids have got to know how to manage their screens and be in control.”
The author of the book, ‘The Key to Calm’, also encouraged parents to set an example by limiting their ‘screen time’ and in her book states that ‘computers and other screens emit a blue light that has been shown to reduce levels of melatonin – a chemical produced by the body that aids restful sleep’.
Two leading teaching unions also wanted to have their say on the issue.
Owen Hathway, NUT Wales Policy Officer, said: “It will be interesting to review the research into this issue. It is of course important that children do come to school enthused and ready to work. We know that pupils who are up late watching TV or playing with computers or games stations can lack energy and concentration in class. It could well be that there is a similar impact for early morning use. At the same time we are in a digital age and smartphones and tablets are part, not just of modern life, but of the learning experience. I think what is important is that any use of these technologies around school are geared towards supplementing education. Using these devices for educational purposes can be highly effective and should be encouraged in that regard, but naturally only where it benefits rather than hinders the child’s ability to play an active role in the classroom.”
Dr Philip DIxon, Director of ATL Cymru, also went on to say: “The advent of computers and the internet has obviously provided us with great tools unknown to previous generations. Our children are growing up in a technological age and will need to be digitally literate to survive and prosper in the twenty first century. However, as with all advances we need to tread carefully. Some research suggests that too much computer work can be bad for us all let alone young children. So we need a healthy mix of learning and enjoyment from a variety of sources.”
Plaid Cymru Shadow Education and Skills Minister Mid and West AM Simon Thomas said: “Plaid Cymru’s election campaign in 2007 had a policy of free laptop computers for pupils. In the One Wales government we delivered on that pledge to those pupils most in need. This policy provided a level playing field for those who did not have access to a computer at home. Smart devices are part of the world of work and our everyday lives. As a parent and an elected representative I think we should embrace technology and not try and ban children from using them. There of course has to be a balanced approach between the use of technology and traditional methods of learning. There is evidence that smart screens can stimulate in an inappropriate way but this is best handled by the class teacher. Pupils often outstrip teachers in their skilful use of modern computing but we also need to teach coding to create, as well as use, programmes. We need young people equipped with the skills that can make the Welsh workforce a global competitor and just as importantly the skills to access knowledge throughout their lives.”
In the US research has also highlighted problems with pupils and mobile phone use, an increasing issue here in Wales. Academics at the Ohio University, Illinois State University and Nebraska University found out that students sending and receiving messages while studying actually scored lower test grades. 145 undergraduates took part in the research.
In the report it stated: “It is a common occurrence to observe students who are physically present, yet mentally preoccupied by non-course-related material on their mobile devices. As mobile devices have deeply saturated the college student population, this problem will likely continue to pose a significant obstacle.”
Some lecturers and universities are in favour of incorporating this technology into lessons, others want to see an outright ban on their use. The research went on to state: “Perhaps one of the biggest challenges instructors face in the 21st Century college classroom is the struggle of retaining student interest and engagement while students remain connected to the outside world through their mobile devices.”
A study published last month by the London School of Economics utilised schools in four English cities and concluded that test scores increased by more than 6% in those schools which banned the use of mobile phones. Researchers also concluded that it was the low-achieving pupils who were most likely to be distracted by these devices.

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Education

Carmarthenshire Council looks to improve air quality around schools

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL’S Pollution Team says it is continuing to work with local schools to raise awareness of air quality across Carmarthenshire.

Following the successful launch of air quality projects around four Carmarthenshire schools in September 2023, the Council’s Pollution team has continued to work with local schools, raising awareness and educating pupils on the importance of air quality. This includes the installation of air quality monitors and information sessions with pupils.

The sessions raised awareness of the negative impact that poor air quality can have on health as well as illustrating how small behaviours can bring about a positive change. These key messages have also been incorporated into the curriculum by the schools involved.

Air quality monitors were installed outside Ysgol Llandeilo, Ysgol Teilo Sant in Llandeilo, Ysgol Ffwrnes in Llanelli and Ysgol Parc Waun Dew in Carmarthen to provide real time data on pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particles. The monitors also help to determine any improvements to air quality over a period of time.

Jonathan Morgan, Head of Housing and Public Protection said: “Although our monitoring data shows that Carmarthenshire meets all current UK air quality objectives for Nitrogen Dioxide, it is important that we strive to improve air quality wherever possible.”

“This project has helped to raise awareness of the importance of air quality with our younger residents, who have been excellent at also raising these important issues at home.”

“We would also encourage anyone picking up children from our schools to think of how small changes can make a difference to air quality including turning off engines while waiting, parking further away or walking to school.”

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Community

Portfield School redevelopment expected to get the go-ahead

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AN APPLICATION for the redevelopment of Haverfordwest’s Portfield School is expected to get the go-ahead from Pembrokeshire planners next week.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee meeting of June 25 is recommended to approve a council application for the redevelopment of Portfield School, including demolition of the existing Portfield Lower School, a masterplan for the campus, the development of the new primary school building, refurbishment works to the existing sixth form block and associated works.

The proposal will increase student numbers from an approximately 170 to 215, with staff numbers increasing from 108 to approximately 145.

A report for planners says the application site is located on the current Portfield School, an Additional Learning School (ALN) for pupils aged 3-19, site, and part of the former school grounds of Haverfordwest High VC School.

“An overall masterplan for the site has been prepared. The principal elements of the redevelopment comprise the replacement of the existing lower school with a lower school building directly connected to the existing 6th Form block by way of a covered link.

“The 6th Form block and Holly House will both be refurbished but planning permission is not required for these elements of the scheme, bar the provision of a new entrance canopy to the 6th Form Block.”

It adds: “The proposed development will lead to the loss of all-weather playing pitches and the Tennis Dome, albeit this is in the context of the council’s decision that this provision be discontinued and that the land should be re-purposed as part of the Portfield School redevelopment.

“The scheme will make provision of a new MUGA [Multi-Use Games Area] and play areas to serve the development. The overall masterplan indicates that the internal site layout will be reconfigured, with the internal access road to Waldo Williams Primary School relocated west, allowing for emergency vehicles and deliveries access to the adjacent site.

“In addition, the existing bus parking space will be utilised for standard parking, with a new access lane off this area leading to the rear of the secondary school, allowing refuse vehicles to access the bins and to accommodate a new drop off point for the Sixth Form Block.”

The scheme is recommended for approval with a long string of conditions.

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Education

Designing a sustainable future with Dragon LNG

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KAREN WOOD, External Relations and Social Performance Manager at Dragon LNG and Dragon Energy, contacted Pembrokeshire College’s Principal, Dr Barry Walters, with an exciting work experience opportunity for graphic design learners: to create strong and informative internal graphics to visualise Dragon LNG’s journey to Net Zero by 2029.

Dragon LNG, located in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire is a regasification terminal handling up to 96 cargoes of LNG annually, capable of supplying 10% of the UK’s natural gas needs. Dragon has provided safe, reliable, and flexible services to the market since 2009 and actively contributes to community engagement via their Community Liaison Committee, Public Information Zone, and award-winning Youth Development and Training projects with partners such as Darwin, Pembrokeshire College, Milford Haven School Cluster and Pembrokeshire County Council, among other community support programmes.

Course tutor Louise nominated two talented Extended Diploma Graphic Design and Illustration learners, Thomas and Imogen. The motivated learners attended their first meeting at Dragon LNG in November 2023 and continued to engage in multiple progress meetings at Pembrokeshire College and on the Dragon LNG Waterston site. These meetings have been instrumental in shaping the project, providing the learners with real-world experience and industry insights.

As the project progressed,Imogen and Thomas were tasked with interpreting and visually representing Dragon’s 5 North Stars:

1. A safe, reliable, and flexible LNG terminal and future energies hub.

2. Enabled teams, skilled to work on a digital asset.

3. Competitive high value customer contract with new business model.

4. Decarbonisation in the Haven Energy Transition.

5. Decarbonisation and growth of Dragon Energy Ltd.

Simon Ames, Managing Director of Dragon LNG and Dragon Energy commented: “The development of the graphics for the 5 North Stars is a critical component in realising the Dragon’s vision.

“These visuals not only articulate the key steps needed to achieve our ambition of net zero and renewable energy goals whilst ensuring energy security, but also play a pivotal role in inspiring and engaging stakeholders, ensuring that everyone is aligned and motivated towards our ambitious journey. Tom and Imogen’s outstanding work in creating these representations will aid in communicating our terminal’s strategic direction effectively and compellingly.”

Thomas and Imogen effectively managed their time throughout this commission alongside completing college projects, including the course’s final graded unit and applying for university places next year.

The creative learners reflected on their experience with Imogen commenting: “I was incredibly honoured when I got asked to work on such a big project, and I am extremely grateful that I got the opportunity to work in a professional environment, as not many people get a chance like this. Overall, I’ve really enjoyed taking on this project, and the experience has helped me put my future career into perspective, and what working with clients will be like! Thank you again for this amazing opportunity.”

Thomas added: “Although we were both working on it throughout almost all of our college year, I am so happy that I got to do this project. Having such an important and large-scale client is something very new, but I was happy to take the challenge, and learnt a lot about the industry and how illustrators work professionally at the same time. I’d like to thank them profusely!”

Louise, Pembrokeshire College Course Tutor for the Level 3 Extended Diploma Graphic Design and Illustration, said: “It was so interesting for us all to learn more about Dragon LNG and their future plans. Tom and Imogen responded enthusiastically to their challenge and gained some valuable experience liaising with an important client and working on a different kind of illustration. I’m very proud and pleased for them.”

The final progress meeting took place on the 20th of May at the Dragon LNG Waterston site, where Thomas and Imogen led a presentation reflecting on the experience and unveiled the finished graphics with several members of the management team. In return, Dragon LNG surprised Imogen and Thomas with an iPad and stylus to show the team’s appreciation for their efforts over the past six months.

Pembrokeshire College Curriculum Area Manager for Creative Arts & Industries, Cath stated:

“We are all so very proud of the professionalism and creative energy, flair, and traditional drawing skills and digital design finesse that both Imogen and Tom demonstrated throughout this project, from initial conception to final outcomes, and how well they worked collaboratively in communicating with this important client.”

To find out more about the art courses available to study at Pembrokeshire College please visit: https://www.pembrokeshire.ac.uk/courses/?product_tag_1=arts

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