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Gower College Swansea awarded by experts for championing cyber security

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Schools and Colleges in Wales leading the way championing cyber education for pupils have been officially recognised with awards by the UK’s leading experts.

Three institutions are the latest in Wales to be awarded by the CyberFirst Schools initiative, led by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ, for showcasing how they offer first-rate cyber security teaching in and out of the classroom.

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Chepstow School, Gower College Swansea and The College Merthyr Tydfil all received Silver awards in the latest round for top work including running an all-girls coding club, incorporating cyber skills into the digital curriculum and working with universities to hold sessions on cyber security.

They were joined by five other successful CyberFirst Schools and Colleges announced today (Wednesday) across the UK.

Since the initiative was launched in 2020, 49 CyberFirst Schools and Colleges have been recognised, helping to develop cyber skills ecosystems around the country and addressing the industry’s cyber skills gap.

Leanne Davies, Skills and Innovation Lead at Gower College Swansea, said: “Gower College Swansea are delighted to have been recognised by NCSC CyberFirst Schools for our hard work and dedication to quality computing and security education, helping to meet the growing industry demand in the local area.

“We are very much looking forward to working with the NCSC and Industry partners to continue to grow the opportunities for our learners throughout computing and cyber security.” 

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Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, said: “Well done to all the schools and colleges in Wales that have been awarded CyberFirst Schools status for the high standard of cyber security education they provide.

“Offering young people opportunities to gain hands-on experience of cyber security is essential for inspiring the next generation of talent and keeping the UK secure online in the years to come.

“We welcome these institutions to our growing community of schools, colleges, local industry and academic members who are playing a key role in helping cyber skills ecosystems thrive around the country.”

Applications from secondary schools and further education colleges were welcomed in this latest round from select areas around the UK.

The initiative’s Gold award recognises schools that show they deliver the highest standard of cyber security education; Silver awards indicate the schools are meeting most of the judging criteria and offering good standards and Bronze is for those working towards excellence.

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Being a CyberFirst School comes with a number of benefits including NCSC recognition and opportunities to collaborate with more than 130 CyberFirst partner organisations from a range of sectors on cyber related activities.

Examples of first-rate cyber security activities offered by the schools includes:

  • Chepstow College running an all-girls coding club once a week to encourage more girls to explore cyber security;
  • The College Merthyr Tydfil taking learners to universities to undertake sessions on cyber security and other digital industries to promote academic pathways into cyber and computing
  • Gower College Swansea creating a new Digital Skills and Innovation role within the college, with increased focus on cyber security.

(Lead image: Gower College Swansea)

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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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