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Education

NUT debates asbestos in schools

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Asbestos: £10m in compensation

ASBESTOS remains a killer in schools and there is simply no evidence to support the Government’s case that it is safer to manage asbestos than to remove it.

That’s according to the National Union of Teachers, who held their conference in Cardiff over the Easter break.

ASBESTOS A SCANDAL

Commenting after the debate on Motion 26, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said: “The continuing presence of asbestos in nearly 90% of our schools is a scandal and is risking the lives of children and staff. In 2014 there were 17 teacher deaths from mesothelioma. Children are even more at risk because of the long latency of asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma.

“The Government and the Health and Safety Executive do not acknowledge that there is a serious problem with asbestos in schools and as a consequence there is no political will to remove it.

“The findings of a survey of NUT members provide no comfort for the Government and HSE’s view that the current policy of managing asbestos in situ is working.

“An NUT survey on asbestos in schools shows that nearly 50% of respondents did not know whether their school contained asbestos and only 2% of respondents said that parents had been given information about the presence of asbestos in the school.

“This is deeply worrying given that the majority of schools (86%) do contain asbestos. Parents, children and teachers should not be kept in the dark about this issue that has serious and life threatening consequences to those exposed to it.

“The NUT will continue to work with its partner unions through the Joint Union Asbestos Committee. We are calling for Government to undertake a national audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos in our schools and to begin a long-term phased removal of asbestos from our schools, with schools in the worst condition prioritised. This ticking time bomb has to be eradicated from our schools.”

TEACHERS AND PUPILS AT RISK

The union has called for asbestos’ removal must take place under strictly controlled conditions and claims it is misleading and scaremongering to suggest that removal might be unsafe.

At least 319 teachers have died from mesothelioma since 1980, and 205 of these deaths have occurred since 2001.

The real numbers are likely to be much higher because these figures do not include anyone over the age of 75.

Teachers are now dying from mesothelioma at an average of 17 per year, up from three per year during 1980-85.

Much of the asbestos in schools was installed during the 1940s -1970s, and is in a deteriorating state. When asbestos is in poor condition, fibres are more likely to be released. Therefore, phased removal, with priority given to the most dangerous materials, is the practical solution and is the only way to ensure that schools are safe.

Some 86% of schools contain asbestos, and, as all children attend school, the numbers facing potential exposure are huge.

£10M PAID IN COMPENSATION

Professor Julian Peto, a leading epidemiologist, has estimated that between 200 and 300 people die each year of mesothelioma because of exposure to asbestos when they were a pupil.

Schools are different to other workplaces as children are more at risk from asbestos exposure. This is because they have longer lives ahead in which to develop asbestos-related disease. The greater risk to children was confirmed by the Department of Health’s Committee on Carcinogenicity in June 2013.

A child exposed at age five is five times more likely to develop mesothelioma than someone exposed at age 30.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted to all local authorities in England and Wales have revealed that, in the last decade, over £10m has been paid in compensation to former pupils and members of staff exposed to asbestos in schools.

86% OF SCHOOLS CONTAIN ASBESTOS

An NUT survey carried out in March 2015 found that 44% of respondents had not even been told whether their school is one of the 86% which do contain asbestos.

Inspections carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) over the last few years found flaws in asbestos management in a number of schools that have led to enforcement action. Since relatively few schools have been inspected, this begs the question, what about the rest?

Asbestos management can be expensive and time-consuming and requires a sustained commitment, even when changes to personnel take place, or when schools convert to academy status. The alternative – removal – means the problem is dealt with once and for all.

In 2016, the DfE surveyed all head teachers about asbestos management in their school. Unfortunately, as the survey was not compulsory, only 25% of schools responded. Of those that did, nearly 30% needed to improve their asbestos management and 19% were not compliant with the Control of Asbestos Regulations. This included 2% of schools which gave serious cause for concern.

In March 2017, it was reported to the Public Accounts Committee that pupils at a school in Sunderland had to be ‘hosed down’ on more than one occasion because asbestos fibres were released from ceiling tiles.

NO LONG-TERM STRATEGY

The findings of the Government’s review of its asbestos in schools policy, published on March 12, 2015, were a step in the right direction with a new focus on training for staff and accountability of duty holders.

What was lacking, however, is a long-term strategy for the gradual eradication of asbestos from schools.

£300,000 was spent removing asbestos from royal households in 2014-15, and a further £150m has been earmarked for royal refurbishment works, which includes asbestos removal.

Likewise, restoration works to the Houses of Parliament are scheduled to cost between £3.5b and £5.7b, a sum which includes asbestos removal.

The NUT has asked: if asbestos removal is good enough for royal households and politicians – why should pupils and teachers receive anything less than this?

The NUT has recommended that all teachers should be aware if their school contains asbestos, and specifically where it is located, to avoid unintentionally disturbing it.

If there is no asbestos survey available, teachers should ensure that this information is provided to them by the dutyholder/headteacher.

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Education

Students’ money worries surveyed

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Freshers' fun: But at what price?

THE MOUNTING cost of student debt and accommodation means that UK students expect significantly more for their money than those in other countries.

42% of UK students say their university offers value for money – compared to 47% globally – according to a new global report by Sodexo.

This roughly tallies with the Higher Education Policy Institute student satisfaction survey, citing that five years ago 53% of students across the UK thought university was ‘good’ or ’very good’ value, a figure that has now slumped to 35%, its lowest level compared to five years ago.

The report provides a unique insight into the lives and lifestyles of students across the world, polling over 4,000 students in six markets (the US, China, India, Spain and Italy, as well as the UK).

More than half of UK students will have debts of between £30,000 and £59,999 by the time they graduate, compared to £11,345 in 2006 and £19,562 in 2010. In China, almost 70% of students will have no debt on graduation; in the US, 35%will be debt free compared to only 15% in the UK.

With the increasing cost of living and rising university fees, debt at graduation is naturally a concern for around a third of UK students, compared with a quarter globally. Equally, 34% of UK students are worried about their day to day finances to the extent that 31% skip meals and 1 in 4 (25%) admit to having not turned the heating on to save money. UK students are also the world’s likeliest to save money by walking instead of paying for transport (58%).

Compared to other markets, UK students are most likely to pay for their accommodation through a loan (40%) – over triple the global average (13%) – and 69% pay between £300 and £699 per month, an increase of 19% compared to 2016.

Though UK student debt levels are high by global standards, worries may be kept in check because the loan system means repayments only begin once an earnings threshold is reached.

The rising cost of being a student has meant that over a third (36%) of current students and those who graduated in 2016/2017 felt that they were unable to enjoy themselves at Freshers’ Week – compared to just 16% of those who graduated in 2015 or earlier.

Almost one in four (36%) current university students and those who graduated during the last year felt pressured to spend more money than they could afford during Freshers’ Week, compared to only 22% of those who graduated in 2015 or earlier.

Two fifths (44%) of current students and recent graduates named money as one of their biggest concerns before starting university, ranking higher than their concerns about grades (40%) or getting on with their new flat mates and enjoying their course (38%).

With pressure to enjoy themselves, students are spending more money than ever before. One in four (44%) students admitted to spending a large proportion of their student loan during Freshers’ Week compared to only 15% of those who graduated in 2015 or earlier.

Over a fifth (21%) of current students and recent graduates (2016/17) confessed to having spent over £500 during the week-long event, compared to 11% of those who graduated in 2015 or earlier.

Paul Anstey, CEO Schools and Universities for Sodexo UK & Ireland, added: “Against the backdrop of uncertainty in the UK higher education sector – as universities adapt to the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework scoring system, the uncertainties of Brexit, a more competitive global higher education marketplace and a fall in UCAS applications for the first time in five years – Sodexo’s first International University Lifestyle Survey provides a unique insight into the current lives and lifestyles of students across the world.”

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Education

WG to cut classroom bureaucracy

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£1.28​M​ of new investment to help reduce unnecessary workload for teachers has been announced by the Education Secretary Kirsty Williams.
The funding will support the creation of new school business managers in eleven local authority areas.

The two year pilot will see groups of primary schools having a school business manager to provide dedicated support for head teachers and teachers so they can better focus on raising standards and the needs of pupils.

School business managers can help organise and run a range of non-teaching activity in a school, from finance, administration and procurement, freeing up head teachers and staff to focus on leadership and teaching.

The project is part of a range of Welsh Government actions to help address teachers’ concerns over their workload, including a new guide launched today on how teachers can reduce unnecessary activity, with advice on planning lessons, marking and assessing and collecting data.

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said: “I am delighted to announce funding of almost £1.3​m​ to fund new school business managers to take on some of the non-teaching responsibilities. This will free up heads and teachers to focus on what matters most – their pupils.

“We are working closely with the profession to help teachers be the best they can be for the benefit of pupils. I want to get the basics right and let teachers get on with teaching so we can continue to raise standards.

“Reducing unnecessary workload and enabling teachers to spend more time supporting pupils’ learning is so important. The resources developed with unions and others and published by Estyn today will help ensure that workload issues are considered and we will continue to take action in this area.”

The Welsh Government is supporting these new pilot projects by providing funding of £642,000 over a two year period which will be match-funded by local authorities for a total £1,284,000.

Local Authorities receiving funding include:

  • Vale of Glamorgan
  • Cardiff
  • Carmarthenshire
  • Powys
  • Swansea
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf
  • Torfaen
  • Conwy
  • Anglesey
  • Monmouthshire
  • Caerphilly

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said: “The NASUWT has been at the forefront of campaigning on teacher workload across the UK for many years and has been in continuous dispute with Welsh Government on the issue since 2011.

“This guidance is a first step along the road to providing teachers with the professional agency to exercise control over their workload. This is something that has been sadly lacking in the past.

“Of course, the effectiveness of the guidance will require school leaders, local authority school improvement officers, consortia challenge advisors, school inspectors, government officials and other relevant personnel within the education system in Wales to demonstrate due regard for the responsibility they have in managing and reducing the workload of teachers in compliance with the statements on the poster and the concertina cards.”

Rex Phillips, NASUWT National Official Wales, said: “With over 40,000 concertina cards and 3,000 posters going into schools after today’s launch, there should now be no misunderstanding on what teachers ‘should’ and ‘should not’ do and what the Welsh Inspectorate, Estyn, requires for school inspections.

“The NASUWT expects the posters to be displayed prominently in every staffroom in every school and welcomes the decision to distribute the concertina card to every teacher.

“This initiative will provide teachers and, where necessary the NASUWT, with the ability to take to task those who would continue to place unnecessary workload burdens on teachers in terms of daily or weekly lesson plans, marking and feedback to pupils and data collection – three of the biggest drivers of excessive workload.”

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Education

Former UWTSD student wins Tony Award

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Tony Awards: Nigel Hook studied in Carmarthen in the '70s​

A​ FORMER student of UWTSD’s Carmarthen Campus has won the 2017 Tony Award for the Best Scenic Design of a Play for The Play That Goes Wrong. Pontypool born, Nigel Hook, studied in Carmarthen between 1974 and 1977 and this week returned to west Wales for the Annual Alumni Reunion dinner.

Nigel won the prestigious Tony award for his work on the collapsing set pieces key to an Olivier Award-winning comically disastrous farce, which saw its first Broadway performance in April of this year.

Co-written by Mischief Theatre company members Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, The Play That Goes Wrong is a riotous comedy about the theatre in which The ‘Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society’ do their best to put on a 1920’s murder mystery – but as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong… does.

Nigel Hook has designed for The Play That Goes Wrong in the West End, on Broadway and in multiple productions around the world. His work has also been seen in THARK at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre, the Wemland Opera in Sweden and in Dial M For Murder at the Vienna English Theatre.

During the Alumni Annual Dinner at the University’s Carmarthen Campus, Nigel Hook talked about his experience at the 71st annual Tony Awards ceremony.

He said:​ ​“After the opening of The Play That Goes Wrong on Broadway I was also nominated for The Outer Critics Circle Best Set Design, The Drama Desk Outstanding Set Design Award and the Antoinette Perry Award for Best Design of a Play. Earlier this year I had been in New York for a couple of months working on the Production and had returned home for a break prior to the opening. Award season announcements were made and I discovered how lucky I was to have been nominated and I must admit that I was thrilled and amazed to be nominated for my debut Broadway show.

​”​I returned for the opening night on Broadway and was blown away by the American audience reaction to the show. The cast are superbly committed to the production and literally fly through the show where they get immediate standing ovations and when looking about the audience, you tend to wonder if an ambulance outside might be a good idea!​”​

​”​The Tony Award Ceremony was held at the Radio City Music Hall – a wonderful building to be in at the best of times but when it’s populated with Stars of Stage, Film and Television as well as celebrated living writers and directors it really is an unbelievable experience. As we were seated far back on the left of the auditorium something made me think this is too far back for me to have won anything! Also, considering the nominees in my group were heroes of mine when I was a student I was convinced that I hadn’t won the award – so to be honest I relaxed and got comfortable!

​”​What usually happens is that the Creative Awards are presented during the Advertising breaks and we hadn’t started yet – so again I relaxed further. Well, suddenly they were galloping through the Creative Awards and I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to applaud some of my heroes – people like Michael Yeargan, David Gallo, Douglas Schmidt as well as Santo Loquasto. When they finally announced the Best Scenic Design in a Play I honestly didn’t understand that they had called my name. My partner Paul shouted at me to go and gave me a push to get out of my seat – I almost fell on my back into the aisle!

​”​Then I just had to start running as you only have 90 seconds from the announcement of your name to accepting the award and leaving the stage. It was a long way in a big theatre and nobody giving you the exact directions – I just headed towards the bright bit! Getting to the stage I had forgotten where my speech was which we all have to prepare just in case! I produced a number of envelopes and bits of paper but to no avail. The speech was actually in my back pocket and people thought I was making a joke about the Oscars wrong envelope incident! It really was a wonderful evening. I will always feel guilty about the fact that my job is hugely enjoyable, although not always easy, and slightly embarrassed by the fact that people want to give me awards for it.”

Nigel Hook was brought up in Cwmbran and attended Maendy Primary School and Croesyceiliog Grammar School before moving to Carmarthen to study at Trinity College, Carmarthen. On his childhood and his time at the University Nigel said:​ “I have many wonderful memories of my childhood in Cwmbran. I remember during my time at Maendy Primary School we had a visit from a company doing a production of Pinocchio which really got me interested – I can still sketch the setting for it at the drop of a hat. I had originally come to Trinity to become an Art and Drama teacher and to learn Welsh. The college opened me up to the joy of learning and the learning of others. I will thankfully never reach a point of knowing everything but I will enjoy trying to and passing it on to others in whatever form I can. I don’t think I’ll ever not be a teacher or a student, it is a huge part of me, the way I work and live. I have fond memories of my time at the University in the 70s and I’m very grateful to all the staff that supported me during my time here. It has certainly helped me throughout my career and it’s always wonderful to come back here to see old friends. It was so interesting tonight to hear more about the exciting projects and developments at the University. There’s no doubt the University is moving forward and achieving great things for the region.”

Programme Director for BA Theatr​e ​Design and Production at the University’s Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts, Stacey-Jo Atkinson added:​ ​“What superb alumni the University has. We’re extremely proud of Nigel and it’s a brilliant link for the BA Theatre Design & Production course to have and we look forward to welcoming Nigel back to the university in the new year. The current students are always enamoured of graduates who come and deliver talks, which in turn really inspires them in their future careers.”

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