THE UNIVERSITY OF WALES TRINITY SAINT DAVID (UWTSD) is playing an integral part in an inspirational new campaign that will be launched during National Care Leavers’ Week later this month.
The aim of the Be The #1 campaign is to encourage Foster Carers, key workers and teachers to help the young people in their care to raise their educational attainment and aspirations.
National Care Leavers’ Week is about highlighting the needs of Care Leavers and encouraging the agencies responsible for looking after them to work in a coordinated and effective way.
The dedicated carers week also offers an opportunity to focus on the numerous issues facing an invisible minority who have to deal with a particular set of challenges as they enter adult life. It’s also a chance to raise awareness amongst the public and to underline the support that’s desperately needed for these young people.
Trystan Rees from UWTSD has been working collaboratively with the South West Wales Reaching Wider Partnership to develop the Be The #1 campaign – a series of short films, focusing on four individual students and graduates on their unique academic journey from Year 13 to entering employment following their graduation from university.
With the Be The #1 campaign launched to coincide with National Care Leavers’ Week, one film will be released each day from October 20 until October 30.
Staff from UWTSD and the South West Wales Partnership will also be delivering a programme of Be The #1 training sessions to Foster Care networks from across South West Wales from November 2016.
“UWTSD is committed to providing a very high standard of care and support for its students,” said Trystan Rees.
“If you are a student entering Higher Education from care, you can be assured that the university will offer the necessary support and information. This support is available whilst you are deciding what or where to study, continuing throughout the university application process, and is ongoing once you have started your course. Help and information is also available if you are someone advising a student from care,” continues Trystan.
Young people from a care background can declare on their UCAS application form that they have been in care, or their Social Services team can let the university know that the student is a Care Leaver. This enables the university to make sure that support is in place from an early stage.
“UWTSD provides a friendly, safe and welcoming place in which to study. After the student has been offered a place at the university, they will have the opportunity to come to a support meeting which will be arranged to help them with the transition to university life,” continues Trystan Rees.
“The meeting can include the student, their Looked after Children team member, the university’s named person for Care Leavers, and, if required, the Accommodation Officer and a representative from the academic school that they will be joining. During this meeting, it will be possible to establish how much financial support is available to the student, and the type of accommodation they would prefer and, where appropriate, to make provision for any additional support they may need such as for a disability or specific learning difficulty like dyslexia,” he added.
Katie King has been through the care system and is currently studying at UWTSD’s Carmarthen campus.
“I’m Theatre Design and Production student at the university and am currently in my third year. I’ve had a social worker for longer than I can remember and was in and out of foster care a lot – I think in one year I managed seven or eight placements,” says Katie.
“I would say the biggest hurdles in getting into higher education is getting people to listen to you and understand you and see that you’re serious. Whilst in higher education, I’ve received great support from different departments, particularly from student services and from a lady called Delyth Lewis.
“Delyth is the finance officer but also deals with Care Leavers at this university. She has been extremely helpful in providing support – it’s probably down to her that I’m still here. She pushed me to continue because she knew that it’s what I wanted to do – she’s always giving me options of how I can do that and basically gone beyond what her job requires her to do.
“University has definitely changed me as a person for the better. I’m a lot more confident. I’m now working as a student ambassador for the university – I do a lot with Reaching Wider and with the marketing team, showing people around and telling them about the university and how good it is, how much it’s helped me,” added Katie.
Alex Sommerville, who’s also been through the care system, recently graduated from UWTSD and found her university experience invaluable.
“I did the Youth and Community Work degree and that has directly led on to the work that I do now – working with young people around substance misuse in Swansea,” said Alex.
“I’d always had the impression that to go to university you need to have A Levels, like going through sixth form, so I did actually sign up and do an A Level of English literature. It’s when I was talking to my friend about having to do another two A Levels that she told me about an access course I could do. It’s at the university, but it’s at A Level standard and I found the whole experience really useful, especially because it was then that I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia.
“I accessed support at the university through student services and it was really, really good. I got contacted not long after I started because I’d ticked the box on the application form that said I was a Care Leaver. I then had a chat with a lovely lady who said that she would be my contact for the whole time I was at university.
“I do think everyone has the potential. I think it should be open to everyone and I did have the impression that if you’ve been in care, university is something that you’re really ever going to achieve, which is totally wrong. Don’t get me wrong, a degree isn’t for everyone but I think that everyone should have the option,” said Alex.
For further information on the support offered to Care Leavers, please visit www.uwtsd.ac.uk/care/.
Examination crisis: teacher’s predicted grades to be given to students
THE Welsh Government has announced today (Mon, Aug 17) that AS, A level, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate and Welsh Baccalaureate grades in Wales will now be awarded on the basis of Centre Assessment Grades.
This occurred after the outrage of students, causing protests outside the Senedd after hearing that a total of 42% of A-level grades predicted by their teachers had been lowered when the Welsh results were published last week. This was due to the decision to process these grades through an algorithm.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she took the decision to maintain confidence in the system.
Speaking on the decision, Kirsty Williams said: “Working with Qualifications Wales and WJEC we have sought an approach which provides fairness and balances out differences in the standards applied to judgments in schools.
“Given decisions elsewhere, the balance of fairness now lies with awarding Centre Assessment grades to students, despite the strengths of the system in Wales.
“I am taking this decision now ahead of results being released this week, so that there is time for the necessary work to take place.
“For grades issued last week, I have decided that all awards in Wales, will also be made on the basis of teacher assessment.
“For those young people, for whom our system produced higher grades than those predicted by teachers, the higher grades will stand.
“Maintaining standards is not new for 2020, it is a feature of awarding qualifications every year in Wales, and across the UK.
“However, it is clear that maintaining confidence in our qualifications whilst being fair to students requires this difficult decision.
“These have been exceptional circumstances, and in due course I will be making a further statement on an independent review of events following the cancellation of this year’s exams.
“Other Awarding Bodies across the UK are involved in determining the approach to vocational qualifications. This continues to be the case but it is important that I give assurance to GCSE, AS and A level student at the earliest opportunity.”
This was a decision welcomed by Suzy Davies, Shadow Education Minister.
Commenting on the Decision, Suzy Davies said: “This has been an exceptional time, and this news will come as a very welcome relief for the thousands of A-Level students who last week were looking at grades lower than they were predicted to receive. It will also be a relief to pupils expecting results this week as well as an acknowledgement of quite how much effort teachers put into this.
“It is reassuring that the Minister has listened to the Welsh Conservatives and other parties in the Welsh Parliament, but especially pleasing that she heard the voices of young people up and down the country.
“These students – at A, AS, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate, and Welsh Baccalaureate level – will now have the confidence to plan their future education or career aspirations, and reach their potential.”
The Education Minister also promised an independent review of the events “following the cancellation of this year’s exams”.
Students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep them.
Swansea University appoints new governing body Chair
Swansea University is pleased to announce that Bleddyn Phillips has been appointed as its new Chair of Council.
Mr Phillips, who joined the University’s governing body in May 2017, has been appointed Chair for a four-year term replacing Sir Roger Jones, whose term of office came to an end in September 2019.
Mr Phillips said: “It is a great honour to be appointed Swansea University’s Chair of Council. As a Welsh-speaker, with strong roots in Llanelli and Gower, and with both parents having studied at Swansea, I have long felt an affinity with the University and have been delighted to serve on the Council.
“I want to acknowledge the contribution made to the University by Sir Roger Jones over almost 14 years and I very much look forward to working with, and serving, the University as it celebrates its centenary in 2020 and beyond.”
Professor Paul Boyle, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said “It will be a privilege to work with Bleddyn as we develop our new strategic plan and look forward to beginning our second century in 2020.”
Mr Phillips is a lawyer by profession, a former commercial director at oil companies BP and Total, and later Global Head of the Oil and Gas practice at the international law firm, Clifford Chance LLP. He is Director of Llanelli Scarlets RFC and was a trustee of the Wales Millennium Centre from 2012-2018.
The Council is the University’s governing body, which approves the mission and strategic vision of the University, long-term academic and business plans, key performance indicators and overall standards. The Council assures that the University discharges its duties in accordance with the Welsh Quality Assessment Framework.
Experts attack Welsh Government’s proposed smacking ban plan
PROMINENT academics have criticised the Welsh Government’s bill to criminalise parental smacking during a public debate at Swansea University.
Tonight, experts from the fields of sociology and criminology and parenting studies poured scorn on the plan during an Academy of Ideas debate on state intervention in the family.
A panel of three academics discussed the merits or otherwise of the smacking legislation, which is due to be debated by AMs for a third time in January next year.
Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University and outspoken critic of the Scottish smacking Bill, said: “No longer treated like citizens, as adults who have an opinion and a basic level of autonomy to raise our children, we have culture change imposed from on high – we are made ‘aware’ by the new authoritarians holding the stick above us.
“The smacking act is a disgrace. It is a form of brutality that undermines parents, weakens the meaning of freedom, and will go on to destroy many loving families who dare to think and act differently to the modern elitists.”
Dr Waiton added: “The brutality of the smacking act will mean that a light smack on the hand or bottom of a child will be a criminal offence. Hard smacking is already illegal, but to the middle-class anti-smacking zealots that was not enough. Children, they argue, need equal protection from assault. The very language they use is alien to the millions of parents who occasionally smack rather than assault their children.
“Parents know that smacking a child is a form of discipline often done out of love and concern rather than something that is abusive and criminal.”
Criticising the way politicians at the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly have engaged with parents on the smacking legislation, he said: “The new elite think a lot about consultation and inclusion. The reality is a process run by a small section of society, politicians and professionals, who exist in their own bubble and are distant and disconnected from ordinary people.”
Ellie Lee, Professor of Parenting Research at the University of Kent also spoke out on the Welsh Government’s plans.
“Within the context of an authoritative child rearing relationship, aversive discipline including smacking is well accepted by the young child, effective in managing short-term misbehaviour and has no documented harmful long-term effects.”
She added: “It should be the concern of professionals who work with parents to respectfully offer them alternative disciplinary strategies rather than to condemn parents for using methods consonant with their own, but not the counsellors beliefs and values.”
The Professor accused the Welsh Government of using the “full force of the criminal law to attack people who disagree on the comparative merits of using smacking rather than something like timeout”, saying it is a “bureaucratic imposition on parents”.
Only one academic – Dr Gideon Calder, Associate Professor in Sociology and Social Policy at Swansea University – spoke in favour of Government interventions like the smacking ban.
Dr Calder argued that intervention is justifiable in some instances and said something like the smacking ban is not necessarily authoritarian. He said: “the point of the legislation is to safeguard children from potentially harmful interactions.”
Commenting on the debate, Jamie Gillies, spokesman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, said:
“The criticism levelled at the Government’s smacking plans tonight by experts in the fields of sociology, criminology and parenting studies should be a wakeup call to Ministers.
“Experts are not convinced that the plan to outlaw parental smacking is viable, needful or helpful in terms of improving child protection.
“I hope AMs hear the concerns of these academics as well as their constituents and scrap the smacking ban bill when it’s voted on in January.”
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