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Education

Welsh Government to offer more support to press on with curriculum reform

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Welsh Education Minister, Jeremy Miles has confirmed he is to provide additional support for schools to enable the momentum behind the introduction of our new Curriculum for Wales to continue and to rollout in primary schools and non-maintained nursery settings from September 2022.

Recognising specific challenges faced by secondary schools, including managing a new system of assessment and supporting qualifications during the pandemic, the Minister announced that secondary schools would have the option to continue with their existing plans to start in 2022 with Year 7 or start in 2023 with Years 7 and 8 together.

Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, also confirmed:

  • The establishment of a National Network – a practioner-led body, open to all schools, that will support implementation of the new curriculum,
  • £7.24m for schools to support their curriculum reform plans, including engagement with the National Network,
  • The removal of the requirement to undertake end of foundation phase and end of key stage assessments, in the 2021-2022 academic year, for year groups that will be transitioning to the new curriculum in September 2022.
  • An update of the ‘Curriculum for Wales: The journey to 2022’ document, recognising the current context and the different points many will be starting from. It will provide a comprehensive one-stop-shop for schools and settings. 
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Jeremy Miles said: “My priority is to put learners’ well-being and progression at the heart of everything we do. Curriculum for Wales provides a once in a generation chance to revolutionise the quality of opportunity for our children and young people and I am determined we do not miss that chance.

“Through my discussions with the sector, it’s clear to me that there remains a strong desire for reform. I am determined that the emphasis on wellbeing and flexibility shown over the last year is built upon and closely aligned with the introduction of our new curriculum. I am therefore confirming today that the Curriculum for Wales will continue to be implemented in primary schools, maintained nursery schools, and non-maintained nursery settings from September 2022. 

“I recognise that secondary schools have faced specific challenges such as managing qualifications, which, in some instances, have affected their readiness for curriculum delivery. I understand these concerns, and have taken the decision to provide some additional flexibility for schools where they judge that they need it. In 2022, schools which are ready to rollout the curriculum to Year 7 may do so, but this will not be mandatory until 2023, with rollout to Years 7 and 8 together.

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“I would encourage secondary schools who are able to implement their new curricula in Year 7 from 2022 to move forward with their plans, supported by their regional consortia. Estyn’s recently published “What We Inspect” framework will enable this flexibility for providers and Estyn will be encouraging progress along the curriculum reform journey for secondary schools.

“The reform of qualifications will play a fundamental role in the success of our curriculum. The exciting ambition behind our curriculum must be matched by our qualifications system. The flexibility for secondary schools in 2022 will provide space for the sector to work closely with Qualifications Wales over the coming year to co-construct a high-quality set of qualifications which are aligned with the philosophies of the new curriculum, and to capitalise on emerging opportunities around assessment methods.”

Beyond 2023, roll out of the Curriculum for Wales will follow on a year by year basis, and the first qualifications designed specifically for Curriculum for Wales will be awarded in the 2026-27 academic year as planned. 


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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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