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Calls for balanced use of technology



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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New independent sixth form opens in Haverfordwest



A NEW independent sixth form is set to open in Haverfordwest in September 2021. The latest addition to Castle School, which relocated to Haverfordwest in 2020, the new sixth form will offer 20 different A Level subjects and a BTEC in business through bespoke study programmes that include options to study online or in the sixth form. Students will also get the option to complete work and study placements abroad.

The launch of the sixth form comes after a busy year for Castle School, which relocated from Narberth to Haverfordwest in September 2020, taking over and refurbishing Glenover House, a beautiful old ‘gentlemen’s residence’ that had been empty for five years. The move enabled the school to expand and increase its educational provision.

In addition to its main building, the school has a cookery school and performing arts facility in Snowdrop Lane, and a further site on Snowdrop Lane which is being specially converted to create the sixth form centre. The site will also include an indoor sports facility for whole school use.

The sixth form is designed with flexible study in mind: as well as offering a broad range of subjects and the ability to study online from any location, it will provide instant access study support as well as face to face teaching. In addition, students will get the option to study for one of their A Levels at Pembrokeshire College, in order to experience a different learning environment.

Other milestones for Castle School this year include the opening of a second independent school, Westward House, in St Clears and the purchase of a narrow boat, which will be moored on the Avon and Kennet canal. This will give pupils opportunities for short residential trips to Bristol, Bath and beyond.

“With a floating hotel licence, our newest acquisition will enable small groups of pupils to take their studies further afield and benefit from enhanced learning, extracurricular boating skills and a look at the wider world,” said Harriet Harrison, owner of Castle School and Westward House.

“Things have been tricky over the past year, but along with many others we have seen the difficulties of a world of Covid not as an opportunity for excuses but as a time for stepping up, working harder and making things better and stronger wherever possible. Our schools are thriving, and despite being desperate to get back to normal, we have used this time to improve our facilities for all the children in our care who are coming back after these long periods of lockdown and remote schooling. We can’t wait to see everyone.”

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U-turn on compulsory lifesaving lessons in Welsh secondary education



SCHOOLS in Wales will now teach first aid and lifesaving skills as part of the new curriculum.

Wales will join England and Scotland by introducing first aid and lifesaving kills to their national secondary education curriculum.

Kirsty Williams, Education Minister had previously rejected the calls for emergency resuscitation skills to be compulsory in school.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was introduced in the secondary school curriculum in England in September 2020.

Local authorities in Scotland have also committed to introduce lifesaving skills to their secondary education curriculum.

The British Heart Foundation had backed the campaign for CPR to be taught in schools.

In a long fought battle, Suzy Davies, a Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, secured the commitment from the Welsh Education Minister in the course of debating amendments to the new Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, which will make sweeping changes to the way Welsh children are educated.

The new curriculum for Wales is planned to come into force from 2022.

Children, parents, families and medics have long argued that regular teaching of CPR in particular will raise our children to have the skills and confidence to step in and save the life of someone in cardiac arrest if they encounter them outside a hospital setting.

The commitment was included in the Welsh Conservative manifesto for the Assembly election in 2016, and Suzy Davies, the Shadow Education Minister, said:

“After 10 years campaigning for this, I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen.

“From securing cross-party support for this in my early days as an Assembly Member, through several debates and pitches to different Ministers, on to my own proposed legislation which found favour among Senedd Members, it was difficult to understand why Welsh Government was so resistant.

“In this country, our chances of surviving a cardiac arrest outside hospital are as poor as 10%. In countries around the world where teaching CPR and defibrillator use is compulsory, those odds improve dramatically. These skills are quick and easy to learn and easy to remember.

“ Alun Davies MS – himself a cardiac arrest survivor – has rightly argued that we should be able to learn these skills at any time in our lives and that defibrillators should be a commonplace feature of our public landscape. I couldn’t agree more – but how simple it is to ingrain these skills from an early age and raise generation after generation of lifesavers.”

Under the new curriculum, teachers must follow statutory guidance made by Ministers to support various aspects of the new way of teaching. After changes guaranteed by the Education Minister, this guidance will now instruct teachers that they should teach lifesaving skills and first aid: It is no longer optional.

The mandatory teaching of life saving skills and first aid (not just CPR) has been supported by the medical profession, including paramedics and fire service co-responders, as well as charities like St. John’s Cymru, British Heart Foundation, Calon Defibrillators, Cariad and the Red Cross.

It is taught through many youth groups, including Torfaen Sea Cadets who trained Aneurin Metcalfe, the young man who saved someone’s life only this week.

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Styling their way to the top



FOUR hairdressing learners: Holly Mathias, Jenna Kilgallon, Helaina Thomas and Leah Rees, recently earned themselves a place in the next stage of the Concept Hair Magazine Learner of the Year Competition.

The candidates were invited into the College to show their fully presented entries as evidence and then submitted them remotely to the Concept Hair Magazine judges in December.

The categories for the competition were: Festival Hair, Red Carpet, Old School Barbershop, Celebration of Colour and Safari.

The unique styles allowed the learners to show off their creative hair styling skills from plaits to updos, to bold colour creations.

Charlotte Jones, Hairdressing lecturer was over the moon with the learners’ success; “We were all so impressed with the creativity, dedication and enthusiasm of all the students who took part in the competition. Also, the students who supported the entries during the day and the models who gave up their time to be involved. They should all be very proud of what they have achieved. The results were amazing!”

The students worked to COVID regulations ensuring all the correct PPE and procedures were followed.

Finalist, Holly Mathias entered three categories which included; Styling Level 2 – Festival Theme, Hair Up Level 2 – Red Carpet and Avant Garde – Safari.

Holly shared her experience; “Taking part in the Concept Hair competition, has really boosted my confidence and proved that hard work really does pay off. The support from the staff at Pembrokeshire College is outstanding. I would recommend everyone to take part in this competition as not only is it an amazing experience, but it really allows you to think outside the box and be as creative as you can! I would 100% take part in this competition again.”

Holly plans to go into full-time employment when she completes her course and hopes to one day work on cruise ships or even own her own salon.

The next stage involves the candidates submitting photographic entries on the 12th March where six will be shortlisted for the national finals which is set to take place virtually in April.

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