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Education

Review of higher education published

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Kirsty Williams: Endorses underlying principles

Kirsty Williams: Endorses underlying principles

IT IS THE BIGGEST shake up to financing higher education in Wales since the First Assembly term and yet, despite two years of research and the likely conclusions being flagged well in advance, the Welsh Government – which delayed changes to Welsh student finance until after May’s election – now claims that the changes recommended by the Diamond Review of higher education funding and finance might not be put in place until 2018, at the earliest. 

In the meantime, the fees that universities can charge to students have been frozen, creating an effective cut in higher education funding at the same time as the whole funding system for students is overhauled.

THE REVIEW 

The radical overhaul of the system in Wales has been put forward after an independent review led by Professor Sir Ian Diamond and a panel of experts.

It suggests a fundamental shift to a system that provides financial support for the daily living costs of students – both full and part time – through a mix of grants and loans. It would mean students receiving the equivalent of the National Living Wage during term time while they study.

The average Welsh student could receive £7,000 a year in grant support while they study, with a pro-rata version available to part-time students.

The maximum level of support available would be £9,113 a year for those studying full time.

Professor Diamond’s proposals aim to ensure all those who want to go to university are able to do so, while making the system more sustainable in the long term.

The panel recommends new, innovative ways of funding part-time students and a support package for post-graduate studies that helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds. They also propose new ideas for supporting research and knowledge transfer; and a Welsh programme for research students.

But the delay in implementing the review’s recommendations means that potential Welsh postgraduate students wishing to pursue a course at Welsh universities will remain at a massive disadvantage to English students wishing to do the same. English students have been able to access funding for postgraduate study at Welsh universities since the start of the current academic year. Welsh postgraduate students are left high and dry with what looks like a significant watering down of the funding that English students can access.

The Review’s recommendations include: 

  • A new improved maintenance grant support system for undergraduate, post-graduate and part time students The highest level of grant support will go to those most in need
  • A £1,000 annual non-means-tested universal maintenance grant to be made available to all students alongside the additional means-tested grant to cover living costs. Part-time students to receive a modified version of this support on a pro-rata basis
  • The top rate of maintenance grant and/or loan support, for a student living away from home outside London, should be equivalent to the National Living Wage – based on 37.5 hours per week over a 30 week period, currently £8,100. A maximum total grant of 25% more (£10,125) to be available for a student living away from home in London and 15% less (£6,885) for students living at home
  • Maintenance support to be paid to students on a monthly basis to enable more efficient financial planning and budgeting

‘FUNDING SHOULD BE A PARTNERSHIP’ 

The Welsh Government claims that the recommended improvements to the overall student support package can only be achieved by releasing funds currently used to provide tuition fee grants to full-time undergraduates.

The tuition fee grant for full-time undergraduate students should be replaced with a student loan, up to a maximum fee level agreed with the Welsh Government. Repayments would only begin once graduates earn a salary above £21,000.

Professor Diamond said: “The funding of higher education should be a partnership between wider society and the individual. In contrast to England, where maintenance support for students will be based on loans, we propose a significant universal element of maintenance support for full-time students, meaning students from Wales will face a significantly lower average level of debt on leaving university than those from England.

“My proposals will support widening access and retention of students from all backgrounds, including those from poorer backgrounds, squeezed middle-income families and those either estranged from their parents or whose parents choose not to contribute to their higher education.”

WILLIAMS HAILS ‘PROGRESSIVE PLAN’ 

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said: “This report presents a progressive and sustainable plan for Higher Education in Wales.

“My Cabinet colleagues and I endorse the underlying principles in the report and we will now look into the detail of how we can implement these recommendations.

“We want to make sure that those who wish to go on to university are able to. The fear of not being able to meet the cost of living on a daily basis puts many off, not the prospect of paying back loans after they are in work. This system addresses that issue head on, but will also mean making tough decisions to make sure the system is sustainable in the long-term.

“The generous package of support proposed by the panel would mean Welsh students would benefit from the only UK system that is consistent, progressive and fair across all levels and modes of study.

“I am deeply committed to making sure access to higher education should be determined by academic ability and not social background.”

REVIEW WELCOMED 

Universities Wales welcomed the Review’s publication.

“Offering means-tested maintenance grants for Welsh students will give many more talented people the opportunity to transform their life-chances through going to university. There is a body of evidence that shows students need financial support whilst studying and so we are pleased to see the recommendation to provide this support.

“We hope that, as a result of the cross party support for the Review , we can build a consensus regarding the value of universities and their students to Wales and we look forward to working with Welsh Government to deliver their aim of early implementation of the recommendations.”

LIBDEMS ‘LISTENED TO’ 

Cadan ap Tomos, the Welsh Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Young People, said: “As someone who studied under the current system, it wasn’t help with tuition fees I needed – they didn’t need paying until after I’d graduated and was earning a decent salary. It was with living costs that I needed the most support – despite receiving more than most having come from a poorer family, I still had to work alongside my studies just to make ends meet.

“I’m proud that Welsh Lib Dems listened to students like me when coming up with our plan for student finance – and I’m proud that it’s Welsh Lib Dem Kirsty Williams who’ll be fighting within Government to secure these much-needed reforms for all students – rich or poor, full or parttime, undergrad or postgrad.

“It’s clear to everyone that the unsustainable system created by Labour and Plaid just can’t continue. The fact that both a cross-party panel and students across Wales are recommending our solution be put into action shows that it’s the Welsh Lib Dems who are fighting students’ corner.”

Mark Williams MP, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, added: “The Welsh Liberal Democrats have consistently made the case that the high cost of living is the number one barrier to people accessing university. I am pleased that the Diamond Review has today supported that view.

“I am in no doubt that these proposals put forward would offer Welsh students the most generous offer of support compared to anywhere in the UK. I welcome the fact that Kirsty Williams has today endorsed the principles of the review.”

REVIEW ADDRESSES NUS CONCERNS 

The recommendations of the Diamond Review address many of the concerns that NUS Wales has held for Welsh students and marks a move towards a funding system that addresses the particular need to widen access for Wales’ poorest students.

Fflur Elin, NUS Wales President, said: “We have long been concerned that many students struggle to meet the basic cost of living. It is a particular strain for those from backgrounds where there is little or no financial support from families.

“Of course, NUS Wales does not want to see students leaving university saddled with enormous student loans. However, the reality for Welsh students is that they have to take out overdrafts, credit cards and a small but significant amount of students pay day loans in order to pay for food, rent and bills. The immediacy of the repayment on these types of finance lead to stress and in some cases students giving up their courses.

“Wales is unlike the rest of the UK in many respects; it has some of the poorest communities in Northern Europe. For some, university isn’t an aspiration as meeting the cost of living without working full time seems impossible. We are sure that doing more to support people to get into university by helping with their immediate costs is a positive step forward.

“NUS Wales in addition would like to see better financial education. Research has told us that students, particularly

those from a low participation background, do not know what they are entitled to. With recommendations for a more generous maintenance package, more should be done to inform those who would otherwise see education as unaffordable.”

LOCAL AMS RESPOND 

Eluned Morgan and Joyce Watson have welcomed the Welsh Government’s plans for what they have described as ‘the most generous package of student support anywhere in the UK’.

Eluned Morgan AM said: “I am immensely proud that the package of support available to students in Carmarthenshire and Wales is the best available anywhere in the UK.

“This is yet another example of this Welsh Labour Government delivering on its promises. Supporting young people to further their education and helping those from the most disadvantaged communities in Wales benefit from a university degree.”

Joyce Watson AM explained, “Under the plans, support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be prioritised – the highest level of grant will be available to those most in need. Those with experience of care will automatically receive the maximum level of maintenance grant support.

“People studying part time will receive a similar level of financial support as full time students and post-graduate students will also be eligible for ongoing support under the new scheme. Students from Carmarthenshire will benefit from the only UK system that is consistent, progressive and fair across all levels and modes of study.”

OPPOSITION GIVE QUALIFIED WELCOME 

Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Education, Darren Millar AM, said: “I welcome the publication of the Diamond Review. We support the recommendations to move away from tuition fee support and towards a system of means-tested maintenance grants for students; this is something we advocated prior to the Assembly elections earlier this year.

“The Welsh Conservatives have always believed that support should be targeted at those who need it most to ensure that everyone can aspire to a university education, no matter what their background.

“It is essential that grants continue to be available to those who are already being supported under the current arrangements and that the transition to any new arrangements is fair and properly managed.”

Plaid Cymru’s Llyr Gruffydd said: “The Diamond Review has been much anticipated by universities, students and political parties. The Labour government’s current system is unsustainable and needs to be replaced. It was disingenuous of Labour to enter into the previous election on the promise that the policy would continue when it was clear that this could not happen.

“Plaid Cymru would expect that any new higher education funding system includes some way of retaining skills and attracting people back to Wales to work after they have graduated. This is a crucial aspect that is currently missing and , without it , the whole system of student support risks failing to serve the needs of the Welsh economy.

“And I would also expect that any savings made in the new system would be redirected back into our HE institutions, so that we can close the funding gap between Welsh universities and their English counterparts.”

APPROVAL FOR ‘BALANCED PACKAGE’ 

Dr David Blaney, Chief Executive of The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, said: “We welcome the Review. It clearly reflects a thorough, robust and evidence-based review process conducted by Professor Sir Ian Diamond and his all-party group. Sir Ian’s recommendations offer a balanced package which would see the distribution of available resources more evenly across the range of policy priorities, but with continuation of the principle that student support should be portable. They also respond to the concern which has been raised clearly and consistently by the National Union of Students in Wales that meeting the cost of living is a major challenge for students with the current arrangements.

“It is now for the Welsh Government to respond to the recommendations of the review. HEFCW is on hand to provide expert analysis of the options that need to be considered and to support the implementation process.”

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Education

New specialist pre-school to open in county of Pembrokeshire

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL says it is pleased to announce an exciting new partnership with Portfield Special School to develop an Early Years Pre-school at Pennar for children with additional learning and complex medical needs between the ages of two and five.

The provision, which will be registered as Portfield Pre-School Pennar, will open in September, and will provide play and childcare opportunities for early years children.

The Council is currently working with parents of children who previously attended SNAP playgroup to communicate these changes. 

Portfield School will manage the playgroup ensuring specialist ALN (additional learning needs) expertise and access to additional professional support is retained. 

“We are very pleased to be able to say that several of the staff from the SNAP specialist playgroup have agreed to work with us in this partnership, so current users of SNAP will see plenty of familiar faces,” said Cllr Guy Woodham, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning.

Damian Hewitt, Headteacher of Portfield, said: “We are delighted to be part of this initiative which will provide a smooth transition into statutory education for our most vulnerable learners whilst providing early intervention and support to assist those where mainstream school may be a more suitable and inclusive option. 

“It is our intention to work with Pembrokeshire County Council to grow the service with Portfield acting as a central support hub as we work with other settings across the County.”

He went on to say: “Portfield is a county-wide resource and our vision is to work with the Council and Early Years settings to develop this model further with other satellite sites opening in the future.”  

Cllr Woodham said the partnership intends to increase the reach and accessibility of specialist support across the county. 

“Having the Early Years relationship with Portfield will give parents the reassurance that their children’s needs will be fully supported either in a specialist environment or with outreach support in their own locality,” he said.

“The opening of the pre-school in Pennar will provide the continuity of setting and staff which is so important for the learners.”

Caption

Pictured is Headteacher of Portfield Damian Hewitt with pupils

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Education

Become a wild world hero with summer reading challenge

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CHILDREN are being encouraged to become a Wild World Hero at their local library this summer.

From Saturday 10th July, children aged 4 to 11, can register to take part in the Reading Agency’s popular annual ‘Summer Reading Challenge’. 

Teaming up with WWF, this year’s theme is Wild World Heroes.  The aim is to inspire children to learn all about the natural environment and discover ways to help save the planet. 

The Challenge reaches over 700,000 children across the UK each year. 

The Reading Agency is aiming to increase its impact even further this year by reaching 1million children with its new English and Welsh language websites providing fun reading activities for all children.

Children can join the fun for free either online or by visiting a library in person.

The Challenge is to read six books over the summer holidays and the children will receive incentives along the way to encourage them to complete the challenge. 

Tanya Steele, CEO, WWF, said: “Young people are the future – and they are some of the most passionate and enthusiastic advocates for our natural world. I’m continuously inspired by our young supporters at WWF and their efforts to speak up for nature, often in wonderful and creative ways.

“We are delighted to be partners of the Summer Reading Challenge in this milestone year for environmental action.

We hope it will encourage more children across the UK to get reading, and to take positive action for the planet – our one shared home.”

Laura Evans, Library Development Officer for Pembrokeshire Libraries, said: “After such a difficult year I am so pleased to be able to offer an opportunity for the children of Pembrokeshire to have some fun over the summer.

“Although we can’t offer activities in our libraries due to ongoing restrictions, we will be giving out activity packs for the children taking part to take home.  Also look out for ideas for things to do during the holidays on the libraries Facebook page”.

Information about this year’s Summer Reading Challenge is available from:

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Education

Haverfordwest High announces their Senior Prefect Team for 2021-22

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Senior Prefect Team with Head Teacher Mrs Harries and the Education Director Mr Richard Downes

HAVERFORDWEST HIGH have this week announced their Senior Prefect Team for the 2021 – 2022 school year.

In order to gain their positions, the students went through a number of interviews, video campaigns and voting processes.

A spokesperson from the school said: “At HHVCS it gives us great pleasure to announce our Senior Prefect Team of 2021-2022 consists of the following remarkable students:

“Head Prefects are Anna Long and Isla Davies

“Deputy Head Prefects are: Caitlyn Aaran, Ioan Jones-Hughes and Will Lewis

“Senior Prefects: Beti Price, Jasmin Tjoonk and Jerin Joy 

“They were joined on Wednesday by Head Teacher Mrs Harries and the Education Director Mr Richard-Downes.

“They are an outstanding team of pupils who have already been hard at work on their first day on the job.

“The pupils went through 4 interviews, a marketing campaign video and a pupil and staff vote to achieve their positions. A huge accolade indeed.”

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