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New Welsh language version of money expert Martin Lewis’ hit Open University ‘Academoney’ course launched

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One of the Open University’s (OU) most popular free courses is going bilingual, giving Welsh language speakers the skills and knowledge they need to master their money, in their choice of Welsh or English.

The course – Academi Arian – has been newly translated from MSE’s Academy of Money, an ambitious financial education project launched in English last year, when the UK’s biggest consumer website, MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE), teamed up with the world-leading distance-learning institution.

Hosted on the OU’s free OpenLearn platform, the academic course was the higher education provider’s most popular new, free course of the past year, with more than 37,000 sign-ups.

The course is made up of six two-hour sessions of study covering all key aspects of personal finance:

1. Making good spending decisions: You’ll examine what behavioural and marketing pressures influence purchasing decisions and look at a simple four-stage decision-making model. Developing your approach to money management underpins this session, and the rest of the course.  

2. Budgeting and taxation: This session examines how to calculate net income. You’ll explore expenditure patterns, how national insurance and income tax works, and how to plan to build a successful budget.

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3. Borrowing money: This session looks at how different types of debt work, the differences between them and the dangers. It examines the concept of ‘bad debt, good debt’ and by the end, educates on how to borrow sensibly.

4. Understanding mortgages: Mortgage products are complex. This session gives a grounding in how they work, interest rates, repayments and possible penalties. It also examines mortgages from a lender’s perspective to explain why your mobile phone contract might just determine how much you can borrow.

5. Saving and investing: This session explains the difference between saving and investing, plus how to understand different types of saving vehicles and the basics of investments such as shares, bonds and commodities, and the associated risks.

6. Planning for retirement: In this last session, you’ll understand how state pensions, occupational and personal pension schemes work and the differences between them – it’s designed both for those imminently retiring and for those who have many years to go.

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As with the English language course, Academi Arian is totally flexible, allowing students to study at their own pace, perhaps even choosing just one topic to brush up on. It is available to anyone wanting to improve their knowledge of personal finance for their own interest and financial capability, or, for those who work in consumer help industries, it can provide some academic grounding to support their work.

In addition to a free downloadable statement of participation, enrolling on the course will give students the opportunity to earn a free OU digital badge if they complete all six sessions. This is a way to demonstrate interest in the subject and a commitment to your career with continuing professional development.

The course was translated as part of the Wellbeing and Mental Health Collection for OpenLearn in Wales; a selection of free, bilingual resources in both Welsh and English, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. The collection was delivered by The Open University in Wales, in partnership with The Open University Students’ Association, Wrexham Glyndŵr University and Adult Learners Wales.

Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, who also funded the roll-out of a curriculum-mapped financial education textbook for schools in Wales, said: “The MSE ‘Academoney’ is already one of the most popular free courses available – proof of just how under-invested we are in financial education. That education is crucial, it’s almost a form of financial self-defence. So I’m delighted and thankful to the Open University that we can now tool people up, for free, in Welsh as well as English.

“After all, companies spend billions on advertising, marketing and teaching their staff to sell, yet we as consumers don’t get any buyer’s training. Academi Arian is about redressing the poor, or more likely, non-existent financial education many adults received at school. And while it is worth it just for your own financial knowledge, for many people, it’s also a great way to show commitment to professional development.

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“The positive feedback we have had from those who have already completed the course is overwhelming, and now I hope to get similar feedback in Welsh, with many people taking a great step towards financial literacy. My only regret is I don’t have the Welsh language skills to come up with an equivalent name to ‘Academoney’ – but we’re open to suggestions.”

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Louise Casella, Director of The Open University in Wales, said: “Academi Arian is another landmark moment for us at the OU in Wales. Having the course available in Welsh will make the content more accessible to users in Wales, and help other organisations train their staff and the people they work with – both in Welsh and English. Supporting people to get on top of their finances is more important now than ever before, and can be a key part of Wales’ economic recovery from the coronavirus. 

“Free learning is an essential part of the OU’s mission. In Wales, we recently launched a bilingual collection of well-being and mental health resources for students on OpenLearn, and last year we worked with the Welsh Government to put together a suite of free courses for furloughed workers to help them reskill. Whether you want to know more about yourself, improve your career prospects or to understand personal finance, it’s never too late to start learning.”

Academi Arian is now live on OpenLearn, and is part of its Wellbeing and Mental Health Collection. The English language course is also included in the English language version of the collection.

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Education

“Stuck in a catch-22”: parents drive their children to school because they are concerned about traffic

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New polling data released for Living Streets’ Walk to School Week (16-20 May 2022) finds that traffic is one of the biggest barriers to children walking to school, with 17 per cent of parents in Wales naming it as a reason their child doesn’t walk.

With over 460,000 pupils in Wales, it would mean tens of thousands of them are being denied the physical and social health benefits of being more active.

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Schools being too far away from home (18%) and cars parked on pavements (17%) were also barriers for Welsh parents.

The latest data suggests just 50 per cent of primary school aged children in Wales walk to school.

Stephen Edwards, Chief Executive, Living Streets said: “We’re stuck in a catch-22 where families see driving to school as the safest way to protect their children from traffic.

“Leaving the car at home will reduce chaos and road danger around the school gates. It’s also a great way for children to learn about road safety in a real life setting and build their confidence in managing risk.

“Walk to School Week is an excellent opportunity for families to give walking to school a go and reap the health and social benefits of moving more.”

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Living Streets works with schools, local authorities and parent groups to help improve the walk to school.

Stephen Edwards continues: “We want to enable as well as encourage more families to walk to school. We’re here to help parents who are worried about safety around their child’s school. Car-free zones, 20mph limits and better crossings can all help make the walk to school safer and we’re here to help people campaign for them in their area.”

For more information on Living Streets’ walk to school campaign, visit livingstreets.org.uk/WalkToSchool

(Lead image: Shutterstock)

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Health

Swansea scientists develop new method to detect viruses in a pinprick

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Scientists at Swansea University, Biovici Ltd and the National Physical Laboratory have developed a method to detect viruses in very small volumes.

The work, published in Advanced NanoBiomed Research, follows a successful Innovate UK project developing graphene for use in biosensors – devices that can detect tiny levels of disease markers.

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For many parts of the world that do not have access to high-tech labs found in hospitals, detecting viruses such as hepatitis C (HCV) – could save millions of preventable deaths worldwide. In addition, biosensors such as this could be used at the point-of-care – opening effective healthcare in difficult-to-reach settings.

What makes the detection of viruses in such small volumes possible is the use of a material called graphene. Graphene is extremely thin – only one atom thick – making it very sensitive to anything that attaches to it.

By carefully controlling its surface, scientists at Swansea University were able to make the surface of graphene sensitive to the HCV virus. These measurements were done with graphene specialists at the National Physical Laboratory.

In the future, it is hoped that multiple biosensors can be developed onto a single chip – this could be used to detect different types of dangerous viruses or disease markers from a single measurement.  

Ffion Walters, Innovation Technologist at Swansea University’s Healthcare Technology Centre said: “Highly sensitive and simplistic sensors have never been more in demand with regards point-of-care applications. 

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“This collaborative project has allowed us to realise proof-of-concept real-time sensors for HCV,  which could be especially beneficial in resource-limited settings or for difficult-to-reach populations.”

Professor Owen Guy, Head of Chemistry at Swansea University, said: “At Swansea University, we have now developed graphene-based biosensors for both Hepatitis B and C. This is a major step forward to a future single point of care test”

Dr Olga Kazakova, NPL Fellow Quantum Materials & Sensors added: “NPL was delighted to be part of this multidisciplinary team. Participation in this project allowed us to further develop our metrological validation facilities and apply them to the characterisation of graphene biosensors and aid in solving an important challenge in the health sector.”

Lead image: Graphene device chip attached to an electrical connector, with two 5 μL HCVcAg samples (one applied on each graphene resistor). (Image: Swansea University)

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Science

Public health professor becomes Fellow of Academy of Medical Sciences

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A Swansea University public health expert has been honoured by the prestigious Academy of Medical Sciences

Professor Ronan Lyons, Clinical Professor of Public Health at Swansea University Medical School and one of the two Directors at Population Data Science, is one of 60 outstanding biomedical and health scientists admitted to the Academy’s influential Fellowship.

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The new Fellows have all been recognised for their remarkable contributions to biomedical and health science and their ability to generate new knowledge and improve the health of people everywhere.

Professor Lyons’s research focuses on the use of health information to support the targeting and evaluation of health and non-health service interventions to improve prevention, care and rehabilitation.

During the pandemic, his team have used insights from the rich health data in SAIL Databank to support policy decisions to protect the public, including providing intelligence to the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group and subsequently feeding into the UK’s SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies).

Professor Lyons said: “I am delighted and honoured to be selected as a Fellow by the Academy of Medical Sciences.

“This undoubtedly reflects the widespread appreciation of the contribution research conducted using the SAIL Databank make to individuals and society. 

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“It is also recognition of the fantastic team science approach in Population Data Science at Swansea University and our dedication to the advancement of health research through our many collaborations across the UK and around the world.”

The Academy of Medical Sciences is the independent body in the UK representing the diversity of medical science. Selected from 366 candidates from across the UK, the 60 scientists chosen marks the highest number of new Fellows ever elected.

Academy President Professor Dame Anne Johnson said: “It gives me great pleasure to welcome these 60 experts to the Fellowship to help to address the major health challenges facing society.

“The diversity of biomedical and health expertise within our Fellowship is a formidable asset that in the past year has informed our work on critical issues such as tackling the Covid19 pandemic, understanding the health impacts of climate change, addressing health inequalities, and making the case for funding science. The new Fellows of 2022 will be critical to helping us deliver our ambitious 10-year strategy that we will launch later this year.”

The new Fellows will be formally admitted to the Academy next month.

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(Lead image: Swansea University)

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