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Education

Commitment to reducing single-use plastics in schools  

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has committed to working with its suppliers to reduce the amount of single use plastic used in schools.

Councillors debated the issue at Full Council, following a motion by Cllr Bill Thomas which called for action to identify ways of moving away from plastic milk bottles in schools.

He said he was aware of children in local schools that want to see change, citing particular examples in Ysgol y Felin and Five Roads School, where eco committee members are demanding action.

He said: “In April last year, Carmarthenshire County Council unanimously passed a motion that included a call for the council to reduce single-use plastics in Council buildings and offices. That motion also called on the council to encourage schools to stop using single-use plastics and to start to use sustainable materials.

“Pupils in schools across our county have taken up this challenge. At the June governors meeting at Ysgol Y Felin, we were told that the school’s Eco Committee had requested non-plastic containers for their milk. When the school contacted the council they were told that the milk contract couldn’t be changed and that they had received no other interest in providing glass bottles.

“To support a campaign to reduce the use of single-use plastic in their school, Five Roads School has created a poster showing pupils drowning in plastic.”

Cllr Thomas was supported by Cllr Glynog Davies, Executive Board Member for Education.

“This underlines our opinion as a council,” he said. “Steps are already in place to reduce single use plastics in our buildings. We are aware of the damage plastic is doing to our environment. I would like to praise the excellent work that’s done in our Eco School Councils, and we are proud that our children are taking such interest in this.”

He added: “The solution is a complicated one, but we as a council can continue to encourage and support our schools as much as possible whilst we evaluate the alternative options, and full financial and environmental benefits. We have to do what we can to protect the environment.”

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Education

Back to school song competition

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CALLING all budding Ed Sheeran’s and Ariana Grande’s – it’s time to put your songwriting skills to the test!

Council leader and composer Cllr Emlyn Dole has written a song especially to welcome children back to school following the coronavirus pandemic.

Mynd ‘nôl i’r Ysgol is about the excitement of going back to school to catch up with teachers and friends, and all the fun the children will have when they are there.

The song has been recorded by popular Welsh singer Gwenda Owen from Pontyberem, who is also Cllr Dole’s wife.

Cllr Dole is asking Carmarthenshire primary school pupils for their help to finish it by writing another verse.

The winning pupils will have the opportunity to sing and record the song in a studio with Gwenda at the start of the new school year in September.

Cllr Dole said: “It has been a difficult time for everyone over the last few months, but particularly for our children who have been home from school and missing their friends and teachers.

“We wanted to celebrate their return to school, and I wrote this song to welcome them back and everything they have to look forward to.

“It wasn’t our intention to turn it into a competition at first, but then we had the idea to challenge our primary schools to write another verse.

“I am really excited to see what the children come up with and I would like to wish everyone the best of luck, but most importantly to please just have fun.”

Information on how to enter the competition has been sent to all primary schools in Carmarthenshire. The deadline for entries is Friday, July 17 and the winner will be announced at the start of the autumn term.

Video link: https://vimeo.com/434292752

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Education

Adoption worker’s back to school story

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RACHEL Cook has always wanted to write a children’s story.

But she has never been able to find the time to sit down and do it.

And then the coronavirus pandemic happened – which gave her some free time and also the inspiration too.

Rachel, who works for Carmarthenshire County Council as an adoption support worker, used her time during lockdown to write and illustrate Sammy Sloth Goes Back to School.

The story will hopefully help children who are feeling anxious about going back to school after being home for so long.

Rachel, aged 36, who has always worked with vulnerable children and children with additional learning needs, said: “I have always enjoyed being creative and have dreamed of writing short children’s stories and illustrating them for a long time.

“I never imagined that the first story I would write would be about a pandemic, but in times of so much change and uncertainty I found myself thinking of the many children I’ve supported over the years through transitions and how challenging this would be for so many.

“Children often find change particularly challenging, and with the changes approaching us as we begin to return to school, with it may come a mix of emotions and feelings. Stories are a natural way for children to learn about their feelings, to help them learn that their experiences of feeling worried or nervous about returning to school are faced by many.

“This story focuses on the familiar, particularly around relationships, as sometimes feelings of anxiety come from the unknown, and while we may not know everything about what school will look like in the coming months, by thinking of some of the things that will be staying the same, we can help our children feel more secure.”

The council’s translation team has translated the story into Welsh, and the council has arranged to print copies to put into the county’s primary schools.

Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “This is a wonderful story which I am sure will help a lot of children feeling uncertain about returning to school.

“I would like to both congratulate and thank Rachel; I am delighted that the book will be going into our primary schools for pupils to enjoy.”

The story is also available on the council website carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education for parents to download and read with their children.

Video link: https://vimeo.com/432814176

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Education

Funding package of £3 million to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners

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SCHOOLCHILDREN in Carmarthenshire will benefit from a funding package of £3 million to support ‘digitally excluded’ learners in Wales during the coronavirus pandemic.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement as part of Welsh Government’s ‘Stay Safe. Stay Learning’ programme.

A digitally excluded learner is someone who does not have access to a suitable internet-connected device to take part in online learning activities from home.

The funding will be used to provide digitally excluded learners with repurposed school devices and 4G MiFi connectivity. Replacement devices will also be funded for schools out of the wider Hwb infrastructure programme.

In Carmarthenshire, schools have already started contacting parents and carers to identify digitally excluded learners, and the council’s IT department are identifying devices which can be repurposed with up-to-date software.

To date, more than 500 families who require further assistance with access to learning have been identified, with some further work to be carried out over the next week.

Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “We welcome this extra funding from Welsh Government to provide families with the support they need so that their children can continue to learn. No child should be left behind because they do not have access to a computer or broadband.

“This is a huge logistical effort and colleagues from across the council are working together to deliver this support for families as quickly as possible.

“I would like to thank the schools for working hard with us on this, we have already made a good start; and I would also like to thank parents for their patience, support and understanding whilst we put this into place.”

The council’s Education and Children’s Services department have put together a Distance Learning Plan which sets out the way forward for learning in Carmarthenshire during the coronavirus outbreak.

The main aim is to mitigate the impact of school closures on our children and young people as far as possible so that they can quickly catch up when schools reopen; and access to learning and connectivity is one of the key priorities.

Carmarthenshire’s Distance Learning Plan can be found on the ‘Information and support for Parents’ page on the council website, visit newsroom.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/coronavirus

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