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Education

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic education report makes recommendations for new Welsh curriculum

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The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has accepted all of the recommendations of a report on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities, Contributions and Cynefin in the new school Curriculum.

The Minister has also confirmed £500,000 will be provided to support the implementation of the report’s recommendations, as part of the delivery of the new Curriculum for Wales.

The report, by the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Communities, Contributions and Cynefin in the New Curriculum Working Group, chaired by Professor Charlotte Williams OBE (pictured above), makes 51 recommendations in total.

The recommendations focus on a number of key areas, including improving educational resources, workforce training and professional development, and Initial Teacher Education.

The report also makes recommendations on issues such as sustainability and the importance of a ‘whole school’ approach, involving parents, governors and wider communities.

In the new curriculum, due to be taught to younger learners from 2022, the history of Wales and its diversity will be mandatory within Humanities, one of the curriculum’s six Areas of Learning and Experience. The Humanities What Matters Statement, the ‘big ideas’ and key principles in each Area, refers to a common understanding of the diverse history, cultural heritage and ethnic diversity of Wales and the wider world.

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On the publication of the final report, Professor Williams said: “This work is unprecedented and much needed and the review represents a ground-breaking trajectory in curriculum reform in Wales.

“What happens in schools across Wales, the way in which they engage, take forward and sustain the concerns of this report is critically important to the wellbeing of all children and young people in Wales, to the wellbeing of those from minority backgrounds and to the wellbeing of society as a whole.

“Education alone cannot address the social, cultural and structural factors that sustain racial inequality. However, education can take us a long way forward in producing the ethical and informed citizens of the future.

“I am confident that the proposals in this report will provide the education community with the means to address more systematically and coherently engagement with this priority area.”

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In her response to the final report, the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, said: “I am very grateful to Professor Williams and the Working Group for the report, which is thorough and thought-provoking, offering hard truths and clear recommendations.

“As the report states, our new curriculum can only be enriched by revealing the diversity of perspectives and contributions made by the ethnic minority communities to the development of Wales across its history and in the present.

“If we are to achieve one of the core purposes of our new curriculum, to develop young people who are “ethical and informed citizens of Wales and the world”, we must ensure children’s experiences are expanded though engagement with ethnic minority perspectives, themes and contributions.

“I am delighted to accept all of the report’s recommendations and put financial support in place to ensure these recommendations are fully implemented.”

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Complementing the work of the education report, the Welsh Government will publish its Race Equality Action Plan next week, ‘An Anti-racist Wales’, which outlines the Welsh Government’s commitment to tackling structural and systematic racism and create a Wales that is anti-racist by 2030.

Lead image: Professor Charlotte Williams OBE


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Education

Teaching union to consider strike ballot after rejecting Welsh Government 5% pay increase offer

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Teaching union NASUWT have rejected the Welsh Government’s 5% pay increase offer, and threatened to ballot its members for strike action in the autumn term.

The union said that a survey of its members showed that of the nearly 700 teachers who responded, 70% said they disagreed with or were angry with the proposed award. While 78% believe the pay award should be rejected as inadequate or unacceptable.

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Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said: “The latest pay offer is yet another pay cut for teachers which will cause even greater damage to the morale of the profession.
 
“The NASUWT will be responding to the Welsh Government’s consultation and we once again call on the Welsh Government to get around the table to find a solution.
 
“In the event that there is no improvement on the table, the NASUWT remains committed to balloting its members in the autumn term for industrial action.”
 
Neil Butler, NASUWT National Official Wales, said: “The Welsh Government’s pay offer falls way short of what teachers are demanding, following a decade of real terms pay cuts and the current cost of living crisis. This pay offer takes the teacher pay gap since 2010 to 22.4%.
 
“NASUWT members have again told us that they reject the imposition of a below-inflation pay award.”

Inflation is currently 9.4% and is forecast to reach a high of 13% this year.

Teachers currently get a starting salary of £28,866 raising to £44,450 for more experienced teachers.

Rail workers have held a number of recent strikes after rejecting pay offers, with the latest disruption set to take place this weekend.

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Research

Experts warn rising temperatures and extremely dry conditions contribute to unprecedented wildfire danger in the UK

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The UK is experiencing not only record temperatures, but also unprecedented conditions favouring extreme wildfire danger and behaviour, according to wildfire experts. 

Now the UK Fire Danger Rating System project team which includes vegetation fire experts from universities across the UK (University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, University of Exeter, Swansea University, London School of Economics, Portsmouth University) and Forest Research, is warning of further risks as the summer’s hot and dry weather continues.

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Analysis carried at Swansea University shows that the fire weather index – a numerical indicator of the likelihood of extreme fire behaviour (calculated from long-term and short-term relevant weather measurements, including temperature, relative humidity, rainfall and wind) – has reached a record level this summer.

Dr Tadas Nikonovas said: “The fire weather index on July 19 was the highest the UK has seen since at least 1979 when the available record began. The visualization below shows the last 20 years of maximum fire weather index values for England and illustrates how extreme the conditions were on the day.”

Professor Stefan Doerr, who leads the Centre for Wildfire Research at Swansea University, said: “Our analysis also shows that while we saw heathland fires before and after the record temperatures in July, the catastrophic fires in England on July 19 were concentrated on grasslands and arable land close to densely populated areas. Indeed, there were very few fires in more remote areas, which are typically dominated by heathland fuels, on the day of the record temperatures.” 

Dr Thomas Smith, from London School of Economics, added: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that few people were ‘out enjoying the countryside’ on the day of the extreme heat, because it was simply too hot, reducing the likelihood of ignitions in heathland area, while we know that the grassland and arable fires that led to the unprecedented loss of houses on July 19 may have been ignited close to homes and gardens where people were sheltering from the hot weather.”

Vegetation ‘fuel moisture’ data collected by the team at the University of Birmingham throughout July, show that in some cases, the moisture readings in some grassy fuels were extremely low (0-1%). Professor Nick Kettridge pointed out that in some cases it was so low that it was impossible to measure with the commonly used measurement approach. “This level of dryness also explains the extreme nature of the fire behaviour, with large flames and fast-moving fires, even in places without high wind conditions,” he said.

These unprecedented fire weather and extreme fuel moisture conditions are expected to occur more frequently in the coming decades driven by human-caused climate change.

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According to Professor Claire Belcher, of the University of Exeter, there is much that can be done to reduce the likelihood and potential impacts of fires. She said: “Major retailers stopping the sale of disposable barbeques in some regions is one welcome contribution to reducing accidental ignitions, but with the dry hot weather currently continuing in parts of the UK, the overall fire risk remains very high.”

University of Manchester’s Dr Gareth Clay, who leads the UK Fire Danger Rating System project funded by the UK’s Research and Innovation Council, added: “The Met Office provide a Fire Severity Index (FSI), an assessment of how severe a fire could become if one were to start, but this does not provide an assessment of the risk of wildfires occurring. To fill this critical gap our project team are researching the key components that allows building an effective, tailored fire danger rating system that can establish the likelihood and impact of wildfires in the country.”

(Lead image: Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service)

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Bridgend

New sensory garden helps Bridgend adults with dementia

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After two years of planning, fundraising and hard work, volunteers and staff at Bridgend Resource Centre have unveiled a new sensory garden to support local adults with dementia.

Based at the resource centre in Waterton, the garden was planned and landscaped by students from Bridgend College who worked closely on the design alongside advisors from Age UK, Age Connects and the Alzheimer’s Society.

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With brightly-coloured resign pathways winding through a mix of raised flower and herb beds, the garden has been specially planted with specific types of flowers and shrubs designed to help stimulate the senses.

Visitors to the garden can enjoy quiet, tranquil areas for reflection as well as a range of water features, shade sails and living walls covered in flowers and vegetation. Particular care has been taken to ensure that the garden remains accessible, and includes wheelchair-friendly bespoke furniture.

Bridgend Councillor Jane Gebbie, Cabinet Member for Social Services and Early Help said: “This fantastic new facility is helping adults with dementia as well as people with learning or physical disabilities, and is the result of more than two years’ worth of effort and hard work. Research shows that being outside and able to move about can reduce tension and anxiety for people with dementia, and this custom-built space is specifically designed to enable people to stroll freely and safely.

“To create the garden, staff and volunteers raised more than £16,000 through a variety of different ways, and donations were gratefully received from the families of users of the centre, G4S, Rockwool, Bridgend Rotary Club, Tesco and Asda. Local residents also helped by donating unwanted clothing, shoes and linen to a special recycling bank located opposite the nearby Lidl store at the Bridgend Retail Park.

“In addition to the work undertaken by Pencoed College, Age Concern, Age Connect and the Alzheimer’s Society, further support was received from the Carer’s Trust and B-Leaf, and the garden is the result of all of these efforts and more. It is already proving to be of great benefit, and I would like to congratulate and thank everyone who had a hand in helping to make it a reality.”

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(Lead image: Bridgend Council)

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