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Education

The rise of the ‘sensible student’

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herbalifeA NEW study by global nutrition company Herbalife reveals that over 92% of students are now in search of a healthier lifestyle. As a new wave of under-graduates embarks on university life, it could be time to re-visit old clichés and misconceptions about what life is really like as a modern day student. Has the recession, a fragile economy, rising tuition fees and a competitive job market now created a student culture that’s far removed from the stereotypes which emerged during the ‘Young Ones’ era?

Are the days of Red Bull, Pro Plus and rounds of toast as a support for exams really a thing of the past? In short, are students now more sensible? Research certainly suggests so. In its study of over 11,000 Europeans across 14 markets to examine changing attitudes to nutrition and wellness, Herbalife found that almost 90% of UK students have already made steps to try and lead a healthier lifestyle. The survey revealed a large number of UK students now consider the nutritional content of their food with 74% eating three good meals a day and over 70% classifying themselves as healthy. Exercise is important too, with 75% of UK students exercising 3 times a week or more. With the health industry seeing a boom in sales of nutritional products and interest in healthy eating and fitness at its highest point in years, it seems this shift in attitude is perhaps to be expected.

Couple this with a plethora of savvy cooking blogs, stylish health & fitness ezines and a rising trend for teenage chefs and it seems that students are certainly not short of inspiration when it comes to leading a healthier life away from home. Kathryn Bradley, a 20 year old student from Belfast says she couldn’t believe the impact a healthier, more nutritious diet had on her lifestyle and wellbeing. ‘I used to suffer from incredibly low energy levels, but after eating more healthily and drinking lots of water, I noticed an immediate impact – not only in my energy, but my motivation to do things and my wellbeing in general. This has had a positive effect on my studies and I’ve also been inspired to start my own business too – something I’d never dreamed of doing before.’ According to the survey, 72% of students now consider the nutritional content of their food.

Kathryn says: ‘Through education around food, I managed to make big changes to my diet. Instead of reaching for a packet of crisps or a round of toast, I’ll have a banana, a healthy protein bar or a handful of nuts. I’m constantly buzzing and people are always asking me what I’m doing! These sentiments are echoed by Jake Sanders – a 21 year old student at Brunel University in Uxbridge – who used good nutrition to keep a clear head during exams. ‘Whilst all my mates were reaching for the Red Bull, I’d have Aloe tea, healthy shakes and a proteinrich diet to keep me on the ball. The constant revision and pressure of exams can be immense – eating well definitely helped get me through it all.’

As well as being more health conscious, a growing number of university students are not just concentrating on their degree or their social life but are focused on starting their own business too. From ‘The Underground Book Club’ set up by Andy Brown in his final year at the University of Bath to “First Class Products” set up by Exeter University Geography student Tom Ellis. Some of the most influential companies have risen from university projects to world dominating giants like Facebook, Google or WordPress. Such role models are compelling and it seems that students aren’t waiting to graduate to get started. Luke Hanlon, 20 from Wales started running his own business in his second year of University, quitting his part time Sales Assistant role at M&S once he realised the monetary benefits of going it alone. Fourteen months in and he now makes enough income to cover his rent and student expenses, working his business part time around university and football coaching.

Luke says: “I started out running free Fitclubs in Cardiff and moved into nutrition after seeing such a strong need and demand for healthy weight loss products. My business success is largely down to word of mouth. Referrals are essential and only happen through good, positive feedback. It’s advertising that money can’t buy – network marketing is, in my opinion, the business of the future.” There’s also that small matter of job satisfaction, as Luke says: “There’s no bigger motivator than doing something you love. I’m extremely passionate about my business and love the fact that I can use my education and knowledge to inspire people through sport, health and fitness.”

This emerging trend in the student market has been noticed by Employment Minister Esther McVeywho was recently quoted as saying young people should think about starting their own business, adding that being their own boss can be more satisfying – financially and professionally – than embarking on a career with a large firm. With recent figures revealing over 4.5 million people now self employed, it seems this employment trend is set to continue, with increasing numbers of people pursuing their own interests and passions to carve out positive business opportunities. Gavin Aley, Senior Country Director, Herbalife UK, Ireland & Iceland comments: “It appears a new type of student is emerging; not only were they one of the most health conscious sectors we polled but they also seem to be one of the most entrepreneurial too.” “The spirit of free enterprise does seem to be alive and kicking amongst UK students. We’re noticing a growing interest in Herbalife as a business opportunity from under-graduates who are happy to take advantage of the flexible working hours offered by direct selling as a way of earning while in education.”

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Education

Estyn decision to scrap headline gradings has ‘lifted a burden’ on schools

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Estyn’s decision to remove gradings such as “excellent”, “adequate” or “needs improvement” from inspection reports has lifted a burden on schools, a committee heard.

Owen Evans, Estyn’s chief inspector, told the Senedd’s education committee that feedback from schools since scrapping the headline gradings has been overwhelmingly positive.

Giving evidence on Estyn’s 2022-23 report, Mr. Evans said the new approach has led to a far more professional dialogue with schools about what’s working and what’s not.

“I think that’s been incredibly refreshing,” he said. “There are several layers of pressure that come with an Estyn inspection of a school….

“The removal of summative judgements and the fact that you’re going to be labelled with that one word, has lifted a burden on the sectors that we look at.”

‘Outlier’

However, Mr Evans stressed that removing gradings must be seen as a trial.

He said: “We are a bit of an outlier. We are still the only inspectorate in the British Isles that has removed summative judgements and a lot of eyes are on us about how this is working.”

Mr Evans, who has been in post for two years, added that Estyn is likely to carry out a review to ensure the reforms have led to further improvements.

He said it was important to introduce parental reports given the removal of gradings, suggesting that reports for learners themselves could also be on the horizon.

Asked about Estyn’s funding, which has increased from £11.5m in 2021-22 to £16m currently, Mr Evans told the committee the uplift was due to the pandemic.

‘Backlog’

He told the committee the interruption created a huge backlog and Estyn needed to increase capacity to finish its six-year cycle of inspections by the end of the current academic year.

Mr Evans said 90%-plus of the uplift has gone on additional inspections and inspectors.

Arguing the additional funding should become a part of the inspectorate’s baseline budget, he told MSs that Estyn will start visiting schools twice every six years from September.

He explained that the main inspection has been slightly curtailed, so Estyn can afford to have an interim inspection after three years rather than a “big bang” every six.

“It’s imperative the budget stays at that or slightly higher,” he said. “But we realise there’s a lot of pressure on the system – we have to demonstrate the value of what we’re doing.”

‘Self-evaluation’

Laura Anne Jones, for the Conservatives, raised concerns about an emphasis on self-evaluation, saying: “I don’t think anyone’s going to mark themselves badly.”

Laura Anne Jones MS speaking in the Senedd
South Wales East MS Laura Anne Jones MS is the Conservative shadow education minister

Mr Evans shared the shadow education minister’s concerns as he warned that self-evaluation is not yet strong enough within schools for Estyn to rely on it.

The chief inspector, who was previously S4C’s chief executive and a senior Welsh Government civil servant, warned that the pandemic continues to cast a shadow.

Mr Evans said variability between schools has widened, raising attendance as an example.

“Some are coping and some are not,” he told MSs: “I think the social contract between schools and parents has, to a degree, broken down.”

‘Stubborn’

Claire Morgan, a strategic director at Estyn, said average attendance is 87.5%, meaning pupils are missing 12 days of education in an academic year “which is far too much”.

She called for more to be done to tackle “stubborn” attendance issues, saying successful schools have a strong community focus.

Mr Evans said exclusions are rising while the number of children and young people going into pupil referral units has doubled since the pandemic.  

He said pupil referral units are no longer helping learners return to mainstream education.

He said: “The wave of anecdote I hear – from everyone from headteachers to teachers and caretakers to support staff – is behaviour, particularly out of the classroom, has worsened.”

‘Relentless’

On Wales’ poor performance in the latest Pisa results, Mr Evans said he was disappointed but not shocked as he called for a “relentless” focus on standards.

He said the results reinforce Estyn’s previous annual reports, which have long raised concerns about numeracy, science and literacy.

Mr Evans suggested a focus on the new curriculum has taken away from subject specialism.

Asked about the impact of poverty on attainment, he said the pupil development grant can make a difference but he suggested the funding is being used to plug budget gaps.

The chief inspector also raised concerns about “great deficiencies” in recruiting teachers in terms of the Welsh language and secondary school subjects such as maths.

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Education

Castle School closure certain now rescue plan has failed

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PARENTS have been informed that the highly regarded Castle School, a beacon of independent education since its establishment in 2009 in Cresselly, is on the verge of closing down, with no rescue plan in sight.

The institution, which began with a mere 22 secondary-aged pupils, saw significant growth over the years, relocating to Narberth in 2015 and later to Haverfordwest. The school, known for its broad curriculum catering to pupils from the age of three to 18, prides itself on an ‘exceptionally high academic performance’, boasting an average of 95 per cent A*-C grades at GCSE.

Despite its academic success, the school announced earlier this month that it would be shutting its doors to the majority of its pupils come July, though it will remain operational for current GCSE and A Level students until their examinations are completed the following year.

Harriet Harrison, the headteacher and proprietor, expressed that the decision to close was made with a ‘heavy heart’ and after considerable deliberation. The news has left many parents in a scramble to secure alternative educational arrangements for their children.

A glimmer of hope appeared when Dr Mark Boulcott, a local dentist and retired army officer with a daughter at the school, presented a rescue plan. “I am doing what I can as quickly as I can. I am doing my very best to stop the closure of a great school,” Dr Boulcott stated, signalling his commitment to prevent the closure.

The school was envisioned to transition into a charitable organisation, with Dr Boulcott collaborating with Mrs Harrison until the end of this academic year before assuming full leadership in July. Unfortunately, this plan has been rendered unviable, with Dr Boulcott disclosing that from a business standpoint, the school’s recovery from the Covid crisis was insurmountable under the current conditions, making the prospect of taking over ‘untenable’.

In an earnest letter to the parents, which was obtained by The Pembrokeshire Herald, Dr Boulcott lamented that the challenges of establishing the school elsewhere were too great, necessitating a considerable investment and an estimated two years to navigate bureaucratic hurdles.

“It is with regret that without immediate extensive capital investment, something we do not have, school purchase resurrection or reorganisation is impossible,” Dr Boulcott concluded in his correspondence with the parents, effectively extinguishing the last embers of hope for the school’s survival.

As the community grapples with the impending loss of Castle School, the situation underscores the continuing pressures faced by independent educational institutions in the post-pandemic landscape.

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Education

Childcare students beat to the rhythm in inspirational drumming workshop

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PEMBROKESHIRE COLLEGE’S Childcare students recently had the enriching opportunity to participate in a captivating drumming workshop led by Lox, where they not only delved into the vibrant rhythms of African drums but also gained insights into Lox’s philanthropic endeavours through his charity, Love Your Neighbour.

The workshop offered an immersive experience into Lox’s upbringing in Kenya, where drums were not just instruments but integral components of culture and community. Through engaging discussions, Lox shared his journey and shed light on the impactful work his charity undertakes, particularly in supporting social and educational projects in Kilfi, Kenya.

Lauren Owen, a Childcare lecturer at Pembrokeshire College, expressed her enthusiasm about the session, stating, “During our session with Lox, we were able to learn about the importance of music in our lives and the significance of offering musical opportunities to children. We discussed the role of music in self-expression, celebration, and community cohesion.”

Students echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the value of incorporating music into children’s developmental activities. One student remarked, “The session gave us so much to think about – valuing music as a key developmental tool for children, as well as considering the wider impact music can have on us all. A big thank you to Lox.”

The workshop not only provided an avenue for cultural exchange but also equipped students with practical insights into incorporating music into their childcare practices. They learned key musical rhythms and explored ways to integrate music for children’s holistic development, fostering creativity, expression, and social interaction.

Moreover, discussions on the barriers to education faced by young people in Kenya offered a broader perspective on global challenges and the role of education in fostering positive change.

To find out more about the Childcare courses offered at the College, please visit: www.pembrokeshire.ac.uk

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