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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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Education

Examination crisis: teacher’s predicted grades to be given to students

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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.

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Education

Swansea University appoints new governing body Chair

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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.

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Education

Experts attack Welsh Government’s proposed smacking ban plan

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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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