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Education

Swansea schools preparing to welcome back more pupils

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Swansea Council is working with schools to prepare for a safe return of more pupils to class.

The return of the city’s youngest pupils has gone well with all children in the Foundation Phase (3 to 7-year-olds) now back in school.

The Welsh Government has said it expects all primary pupils to return on March 15 along with some comprehensive school students.

Swansea Council’s Director of Education, Helen Morgan-Rees, has written to parents and carers outlining plans that have been agreed with headteachers.

Each school will contact families directly to let them know the arrangements that apply to them.

Mrs Morgan Rees said: “It is clear that we are now in a better position where schools in Swansea are concerned. We can use a flexible approach to welcome more pupils back and aim towards a full return to schools after the Easter holidays.

“Welsh Government has encouraged a cautious and flexible return. Our aim is to bring back priority year groups first as well as give an opportunity for years 7-9 to have a check-in for wellbeing in readiness to return after Easter. We hope to see all year groups return by mid-April.”

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The plan for a return to school in Swansea is:

  • All primary school pupils will return on Monday March 15.
  • Years 11 and 13 in comprehensive school return on March 15.
  • Years 10 and 12 in comprehensive school return on March 18.
  • Years 7, 8 and 9 in comprehensive school will be offered an opportunity to attend for one day between March 15 and March 26.
  • All secondary pupils will return to school after Easter on Tuesday April 13.

Primary schools will be serving school lunches but comprehensive pupils will need to take a packed lunch with them until after the Easter break.

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Free school meal payments or food parcels will be provided to all eligible families during the Easter holidays and for all school holidays for the next year.

The Welsh Government have announced the offer of regular asymptomatic lateral flow tests for all learners in years 10-13 and further education. The home testing kits will allow students to test themselves twice a week. Learners will be able to collect their test kits from their school and will test themselves at home.

Mrs Morgan Rees added: “These tests will be part of a range of measures in place to help manage the transmission of the virus. The responsibility for managing the taking and reporting of the tests is with parents or carers and young people. If you chose to undertake the tests then it is really important that any positive results are reported and self-isolation requirements are met. I also hope they will provide some added reassurance that any positive cases will be identified early.”

More information on the specific detail of the processes are currently being finalised by Welsh Government and will be shared by schools as soon as possible.

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Pupils in secondary schools will be required to wear a mask in school if they are unable to keep the required distance from others.

Masks must be three-layered and pupils will be provided with three good quality masks that can be washed up to 50 times.

School transport will be in place from March 15 but if a child is not taking their usual place their parents are asked to let the school know.

Mrs Morgan-Rees added: “It is vital that our children and parents continue to adhere to all social distancing rules under our tier of restrictions to enable further relaxing of rules.

“This means that learners should not mix outside of school just because they are doing so inside of school, as strict rules will be followed within the school grounds. 

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Washing of hands and social distancing is still our best way to prevent the spread of Covid.”


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Science

Welsh insulation company partners with Swansea University to explore capturing carbon emissions

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Brigend-based insulation company ROCKWOOL Ltd. has announced it is partnering with the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University to research the capture of carbon dioxide.

Researchers are aiming to develop new carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies that can assist Wales and the UK achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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Researchers at ESRI have been working on a process called Pressure Swing Adsorption to separate carbon dioxide from a mixture of gases. To date, this has been shown to work under laboratory conditions and so the next step is to investigate how it works in a real life industrial process.

Over the next 12 months, researchers will be experimenting with different adsorbent materials and operating conditions to determine the most effective method for removing carbon dioxide. Isolating carbon dioxide from a mixed gas stream is an important step in developing opportunities for use or long term storage.

Darryl Matthews, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL Ltd, said: “Alongside ROCKWOOL Ltd.’s membership of the South Wales Industrial Cluster, I am delighted we’re partnering with Swansea University to pilot new technology designed to capture CO2 emissions and are excited about its potential in supporting the drive to Net Zero.”

The demonstration unit is being developed as part of the £11.5m Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project which has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and is aimed at the deployment of industrial scale demonstrations of new technology.

The carbon capture demonstration unit at Swansea University (Image: Swansea University)

Darryl continued: “Taking these important steps to understand how we can develop CCUS technology further is another important piece of the decarbonisation puzzle for us as a business. The ROCKWOOL Group has long been committed to operating sustainably and in December 2020, ROCKWOOL announced commitments to accelerate the decarbonisation of our business, with specific long-term targets verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.”

Professor Andrew Barron the Principal Investigator of the RICE project summarized the achievement, “with 2050 arriving fast, the time for research is over, it is imperative to get new technology onto industrial sites in order to demonstrate viability. Partners such as ROCKWOOL are vital in achieving this goal.”

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In 2020 the ROCKWOOL Group announced ambitious, science based global decarbonisation targets that have been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The targets, which supplement existing sustainability goals, amount to an ambitious one third reduction of ROCKWOOL’s lifecycle (Scope 1, 2 and 3) greenhouse gas emissions by 2034 while at the same time continuing the reduce the carbon intensity of production.

These commitments build on ROCKWOOL’s existing status as a net carbon negative company, in that over the lifetime of its use, the building insulation ROCKWOOL sold in 2021 will save 100 times the carbon emitted in its production.

Welsh Government Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “These are the partnerships that will drive a stronger, greener Welsh economy. Putting world class expertise into practice is critical to our journey to net zero and this work means Bridgend will play a leading role in these exciting developments. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the project through the European Regional Development Fund.”

(Lead image: ROCKWOOL)

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Education

Plans for Neath Port Talbot’s first Welsh medium primary ‘starter school’ to be discussed by new council cabinet

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Plans for Neath Port Talbot’s first ever Welsh medium primary “starter school” at Neath Abbey are to be discussed by the Council’s new Rainbow Coalition Cabinet, who will meet for the first time this week.

The new school is part of the council’s strategy to increase Welsh medium education across the county borough.

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At the meeting on Wednesday (29 June) the Cabinet will be asked to approve moving to the next stage in the council’s plans to establish the new Welsh Medium Starter School in premises previously occupied by Abbey Primary School at St John’s Terrace, Neath Abbey.

If fully approved, the first pupils could move in next year.

The starter school model is used when establishing a new school, gradually allowing the facilities and staff to be used efficiently while the school grows to its full potential.

A consultation exercise regarding the school has already taken place with most people broadly in favour but with some concerns aired over traffic and the age of the school building.

Under the plans, £200,000 would be set aside for refurbishments and improvements including the provision of learning walls and digital equipment ensuring the school can deliver the new curriculum.

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Traffic would be monitored around the site and the school will not be fully occupied on opening but will grow year on year. Full occupancy is not expected until 2029.

Neath Port Talbot’s new rainbow coalition cabinet (Image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

This will be the first cabinet meeting of Neath Port Talbot’s new Plaid-Independent led Council, after the Independent, Plaid Cymru and Dyffryn Independent groups made an agreement to share power.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats and Green Party members will support the coalition via a confidence and supply agreement.

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Museums

University’s Egypt Centre in running for top museum award

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Swansea University’s Egypt Centre has been shortlisted for the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award, it was announced today.

Charity Kids in Museums has run a prestigious annual award for 16 years, recognising the most family friendly heritage sites in the UK. It is the only museum award to be judged by families.

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From late March to early June, families across the UK voted for their favourite heritage attraction on the Kids in Museums website. A panel of experts then whittled down hundreds of nominations to a shortlist of 16 heritage attractions.

The Egypt Centre is vying against four other museums in the Best Small Museum category.

Curator Dr Ken Griffin said: “We are thrilled to have been nominated. Since the museum opened its doors to the public in 1998, we have had a strong focus on families and young people. This includes family activities such as mummifying our dummy mummy, handling of real Egyptian antiquities, and playing the ancient board game Senet.

“To be in the running for this award recognises all the hard work undertaken by staff and our wonderful volunteers!”

The Egypt Centre is Wales’ only museum dedicated to Egyptian antiquities and houses around 6,000 objects in its collection. With a small team of staff and more than 100 enthusiastic volunteers, including Young Volunteers who run the Museum every Saturday, it boasts a popular schools programme and a variety of events, including workshops, talks and family activities.

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Over the summer holidays, the museum will be visited by undercover family judges who will assess the shortlisted museums against the Kids in Museums Manifesto. Their experiences will decide a winner for each award category and an overall winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2022.

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in October.

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