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Welsh students make World Skills squad

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Medal hope: Alfie Hopkin

FOUR WELSH competitors have been selected to represent the UK in the largest international skills competition, WorldSkills, held in Abu Dhabi in October this year.

Joseph Massey, 23, from Coleg Cambria; Alfie Hopkin, 18, from Llanelli, Elizabeth Forkuoh, 20, from Llanelli and Ethan Davies, 21, from Mynydd Isa have been recognised as the UK’s most highly skilled young people in their industry, and will travel almost 5,000 miles to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) to compete against the best students, apprentices and employees in the world.

Held every two years, WorldSkills International sees more than one thousand young people, aged 18 to 25, come together from seventy-seven countries to compete for medals in fifty-one skill competitions, including CNC Milling, Restaurant Service, Web Design and Aeronautical Engineering.

As part of Team UK, these four Welsh youngsters will showcase their skills by demonstrating their technical abilities in specific tasks, which they study or conduct in their workplace, over the course of six days.

Elizabeth Forkuoh is no stranger to skills competitions having this year being awarded a British Education Award, which recognises her competition success including winning a UK-wide gold award for restaurant services at the Skills Show at Birmingham NEC in 2015. Receiving nationwide recognition for her skills.

As well as working at the Stradey Park Hotel in Llanelli, she is currently studying an NVQ level three diploma in hospitality supervision and leadership at Coleg Sir Gâr’s Pibwrlwyd campus following successful completion of qualifications in professional cookery, professional food and beverage and barista skills.

Elizabeth said: “WorldSkills has enabled me to travel the UK and receive training from some of the best restaurants in the country. For example I’ve trained at the Ritz and Michel Roux Jnr’s two Michelin star restaurant, where they actually offered me a job!

“I’m so excited to be able to compete on an international level, it’s something I’ve dreamed about for years now and I can hardly believe I’ll be going. Being part of the competition is such an amazing experience. From the people I’ve met and the new skills I’ve learnt, to the places I’ve travelled to and worked in, none of it would have been possible without WorldSkills.”

Alfie Hopkin, who is studying a level three extended diploma in IT in Llanelli, began his competition journey in 2015 when he won the Welsh heat of a web design competition run by Skills Competitions Wales, the launch pad into the international skills arena. He then won a bronze award in the national final and was selected for Squad UK with four other competitors. He has gained the only place available in the UK team to compete in web design at Abu Dhabi following a recent team selection event in Manchester. He will begin intense training in the UK and overseas including competing in the Canadian web design final in Winnipeg in May.

All four Welsh contenders were invited to compete in the selection process after excelling at the Skills Competition Wales and WorldSkills UK National Competitions, the finals of which take place at The Skills Show each November.

Backed by the Welsh Government through the European Social Fund, these competitions promote the importance of developing a highly skilled workforce and world-class individuals.

Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James said: “Congratulations to all four competitors on their way to represent the nation. The number of Welsh members in Team UK is a testament not only to their hard work and determination but also the support from their families, and training from Welsh colleges, training providers and employers.

“Wales has been competing in WorldSkills for many years and has nurtured some of the most highly-skilled young people in a range of industries. Taking part in WorldSkills competitions enables the whole of Wales to benefit. Not only do competitors return to the country to inspire others to follow in their footsteps but they also bring their knowledge and experience to the workplace, helping develop skills and setting high industry standards.

“However, the journey neither starts nor ends with WorldSkills international – there is a cycle of programme development behind Welsh involvement in competitions which allows colleges and training providers to benchmark and quality assure themselves against the best in the world, encouraging continuous professional development and raising our teaching standards. We wish Joseph, Alfie, Elizabeth and Ethan good luck in Abu Dhabi and look forward to following their journey.”

As Skills Champion for Wales, college principal Barry Liles is at the helm of Wales’ involvement in skills competitions and is passionate about promoting the nation at international level. Coleg Sir Gâr also leads the Welsh Government funded project, Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales, which supports Welsh competitors training to compete nationally and internationally.

He said: “The competitions aim to inspire young people to be ambitious and exceptional within their area of expertise.

“Driving excellence in skills helps businesses to compete and in turn helps Wales and the UK proudly compete in a global market. I am thrilled with Wales’ performance and very proud of our Coleg Sir Gâr students.”

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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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