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Gower College Swansea is top of class at UK-wide AAC Apprenticeship Awards

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Gower College Swansea has been recognised for its outstanding apprenticeship provision at the prestigious UK AAC Apprenticeship Awards 2022.

Winning both the Care Services Apprenticeship Provider of the Year Award and the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Apprenticeship Champion Award, the College has been recognised for its excellence, scooping two of the 24 awards that were available at the ceremony, chosen from 370 entries.

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Gower College Swansea had the most wins of any provider in the UK and was the only Welsh provider to receive an award on the evening.

These are the seventh national apprenticeship award-wins for the College over the past three years, following the College’s triumph at the TES FE Awards 2021, where they were named as having the UK Apprenticeship Programme of the Year.

Gower College Swansea has invested heavily in its service for additional learning needs (ALN) apprentices, with the number of learners rising from 1.6% in 2015 to 7.3% today. The ALN department has also expanded to now include dedicated Neurodiversity and Cognitive ALN specialists, among many other services that sets it apart from other apprenticeship providers.

Commenting on the College’s ALN provision is Head of Work Based Learning, Rachel Searle: “Our team demonstrates an exceptional commitment to apprentices with additional learning needs. We provide tailored diagnostic assessment and support to optimise the success of individuals with disabilities and we adjust our teaching techniques to suit their individual needs. Our additional support makes it a more inclusive and relaxed learning experience, from our 1-1 support, to the specialist equipment we offer such as C pens, laptops with specialist software, Dictaphones and overlays.

“As one of Wales’ largest providers of apprenticeships, inclusivity is critical to our operation, and we are proud to have been recognised for this. We hope to inspire even more individuals with additional learning needs to become apprentices, and we are there to support them every step of the way.”

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The Health and Social Care provision at the College has also experienced huge success since establishing over 20 years ago. With teaching staff that have a wealth of first-hand sector experience, apprentices can relax in the knowledge that apprenticeships are delivered by a team that understands the complex and challenging nature of the health and social care sector.

Paul Kift, Rachel Searle and Mark Jones from Gower College Swansea (Image: Gower College Swansea)

Commenting on the Care Services Apprenticeship Provider of the Year award win is Director of Skills and Business Development, Paul Kift: “I am hugely proud that our Health and Social Care team has been recognised for their dedication to our fantastic apprentices and employers. Our provision has always enjoyed an excellent reputation locally, but I am delighted that they now have that recognition on the UK stage.

“The health and social care sector has been under a huge amount of pressure over the past few years. When Covid first hit the UK, our team worked tirelessly to support the NHS to deliver clinical induction training and manual handling training to NHS workers. While others in the team volunteered to work at hospitals, supporting the vaccination programme for our local communities.

“Our hands-on approach to teaching, and our proactive collaborations with organisations of all sizes, helped 100% of our Health and Social Care apprentices remain in employment after completing their training with us – which really wasn’t easy for our staff, learners or employers in the midst of the pandemic.”

Principal of Gower College, Mark Jones, said: “We are immensely proud to have received both awards and to once again be recognised as one of the top UK apprenticeship providers. It is testimony to the high quality of our work in this area, as well as our focus on meeting national priorities.

Our close relationships with businesses across Wales and England means that we can offer recruitment and training solutions to businesses of all sizes; from small private companies and large multi-national organisations, to the public sector.

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“With the recent refurbishment of Sketty Hall Business School, we are also looking forward to expanding our offer even further and welcoming even more learners through our doors.”

(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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