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Ysgol Rhys Pritchard officially becomes a Welsh medium school

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LLANDOVERY’S Ysgol Rhys Pritchard has officially become a Welsh medium primary school, following approval by Carmarthenshire County Council.

Councillors unanimously backed plans to change the language provision at the school where children now learn through the medium of Welsh up to the end of year six, aged 11.

English is taught as a subject at the school from year three onwards, with the aim of ensuring that all pupils become confidently bilingual by the end of their primary schooling.

The change forms part of the council’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan and is in line with national policies to increase the number of children and young people who become fluent in both Welsh and English.

A formal consultation to gather feedback on the proposed changes was widely supported by pupils, parents, school staff and governors.

Cllr Glynog Davies, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board Member for Education, said: “It’s been a long journey, but one that we have taken carefully. We’ve communicated and consulted thoroughly.

“In September last year the statutory notice was published – the last step for parents, governors and the community in general to respond. The school wants this change – the teachers, governors and children.”

He added: “We are realising our aim of a bilingual Carmarthenshire. Our strategy has been approved by Welsh Government and the target has been set of one million Welsh speakers by 2050. We have got 30 years to double the number of people who can speak Welsh – education must play a key part in this.”

It is an exciting time for the school as pupils and staff prepare to move to relocate to a new building on the former Ysgol Pantycelyn secondary school site.

On course for completion in Spring 2021, the new building will allow increased capacity for pupils with an integrated Cylch Meithrin, community hall and multi-use play areas.

The £4.3million investment has been funded equally between the council and the Welsh Government through the 21st Century Schools Initiative.

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Pals make touching programme about living with Alzheimer’s Disease

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A FORMER care worker with Alzheimer’s Disease tracked down an old school pal who’s a famous TV director to make a touching documentary programme to prove there is life after dementia.

Mother-of-three and grandmother-of-five Eirlys Smith, 59, from Menai Bridge, on Anglesey, lost touch with Tim Lyn, 58, who now lives in Llansteffan, near Carmarthen, nearly 50 years ago but she found him again on Facebook.

The result is a “hugely emotional and often hilarious rollercoaster of a programme”, Eirlys, Dementia a Tim (Eirlys, Dementia and Tim), made by Caernarfon-based television production company Cwmni Da which will be shown on S4C at 9pm on Sunday, January 26.

As part of the programme, they recreated a quirky and uplifting music video to a song by the Australian singer, Tones and I, which topped the charts in 30 different countries last year.

In the original video two friends come to the rescue of an old man sat in a chair at home and ends up with them enjoying a dance party on a golf course.

Eirlys’s version, also starring her family and friends, starts with her rising out of a hospital bed and sees her, clad in leathers, riding off into the sunset as the pillion passenger on the back of a high-powered motorbike.

Before making the documentary, the duo had last seen each other when they were in primary school together in Menai Bridge between 1968 and 1970.

Eirlys was diagnosed with early onset dementia just before Christmas in 2018 and she made contact with Tim in January last year.

He had gone on to become an actor and an award-winning director who has made some of the most popular and acclaimed dramas on S4C, including Tydi Coleg yn Gret? (Isn’t College Great?), Eldra, and Fondue, Rhyw a Deinosors (Fondue, Sex and Dinosaurs).

The message she wrote to Tim via Facebook in January last year was blunt and to the point.

Tongue in cheek, she asked him whether he wanted to follow her journey with dementia until she became “doolally”.

At first, according to Tim, he struggled to remember Eirlys but the request particularly resonated with him because his own father, David Lyn, one of Wales’s most eminent actors and directors who passed away aged 85 in 2012, had also been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

The documentary highlights the challenges Eirlys faces day-to-day and how she is overcoming them.

Making the programme was an emotional experience for Tim because it brought back memories of his father whose career meant the family lived a nomadic life based wherever he was working.

David Lyn was the artistic director of Theatr yr Ymylon in Bangor when Tim was at school with Eirlys and he was instrumental in the development in Welsh language theatre in Wales.

Tim said: “My father was in a similar situation, and we buried him, and it broke up our family totally because he was the one person who kept us all together. I think Eirlys is the rock in her family.

“I was very close to my dad growing up and I went on to work with him so it was very tough when he got diagnosed with early onset dementia because he changed and became very difficult. My family is still suffering because of my father’s illness.

“When Eirlys got in touch on Facebook we hadn’t spoken for around 50 years. She was very anxious before filming, but she became a different person during it.

“I think filming the documentary was an empowering experience for her.”

Eirlys said: “The main message I want people to get from the documentary is that there is life after dementia, and I plan to live it while I still can because there is good in everything.

“It took me time to get over the shock after I had the diagnosis. Then I started to accept it, because I can’t change it. I just have to do the best I can with the cards that I’ve been dealt. I still have difficult days, but I’m not going to just sit in the corner and wait to die

“My mum had dementia, and I’ve also worked with people with dementia so I know what’s coming down the tracks.

“My memory is unreliable on a day-to-day basis, so if I want something upstairs, I can go up and down the stairs 10 or 20 times. If I am going up to get my shoes, I have to keep repeating the word ‘shoes, to myself, or I will have forgotten what I want by the time I get there.

“I also used to work on a supermarket checkout and I would have to remember all the different prices and I didn’t have a problem with it. You had to remember the changes in the prices and I didn’t have a problem.

“My short term memory is awful but I remember more from a long time ago, including my school days.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m a failure. I get lost in my own neighbourhood, the place I grew up.

“I have to try to get out or I would just be a recluse, on my own in the house, and that’s not healthy for anyone. I’m scared of not knowing where I am.

“I wanted to do the documentary with Tim to see if I could rekindle happy memories from when we were kids. I also want to film something that shows that Alzheimer’s isn’t the end of the world, and that my life hasn’t come to an end. I don’t need to sit in a corner with a blanket over my knees.

“Filming the video was fantastic, an amazing feeling. I never thought I would be on the back of a motorbike ever again. I absolutely loved it.”

Producer Sion Aaron, from Cwmni Da, said: “We are massively indebted to Eirlys and Tim for making what is a hugely emotional rollercoaster of a programme that’s peppered with pathos and hilarity in equal measure.

“It has given us a much better understanding of what it means to live with dementia which is very important because it’s estimated that one in three of us will develop the condition.”

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Heart charity search for Welsh heart heroes

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Do you know a special person in your community who deserves a British Heart Foundation (BHF) Cymru award in 2020?

The charity’s Heart Hero Awards 2020 are open and people can now nominate their heart hero. The awards recognise the different ways people are helping beat heartbreak from heart and circulatory diseases. This could be through fundraising, volunteering or helping patients and their families.

This year there are three categories: Healthcare Hero, Young Heart Hero and the Inspiration Award. Nominations can be made at
https://www.bhf.org.uk/what-we-do/in-your-area/heart-hero-awards/nomination-form

The Healthcare Hero award will recognise a doctor, nurse, or person working in a healthcare setting who has made a special effort to make a difference to the life of a heart patient or their family.

The Young Heart Hero award will go to an exceptional person under the age of 18 years who has done something amazing for the BHF and is a source of inspiration to others.

The Inspiration award will recognise a person who inspires others through their determination and dedication. Whether that is through their fundraising efforts, taking part in a physical challenge, organising an event, or volunteering activities.

Nominations are open until Saturday 29 February. The winners will be announced at a very special gala awards dinner which will take place in London in September 2020.

Previous winners in Wales include 11 year old Llew John from Efailwen in Carmarthenshire; Healthcare Hero Liana Shirley, a Physiologist from Anglesey and Inspiration Award winner Jovita Jones from Abergavenny.

Adam Fletcher, Head of BHF Cymru said: ““Heart and circulatory diseases affect the lives of thousands of people across Wales, often in devastating ways. Yet, there are so many ordinary people who, when confronted with that challenge, are doing extraordinary things.

“The BHF’s Heart Hero Awards recognise and celebrate the efforts of those who are working selflessly to make life better for other people.

“It would be fantastic to reward some of our supporters in Wales, so if you know someone who is making a difference then please put them forward for an award so that their contribution can be recognised.”

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Carmarthenshire leads the way in supporting families to stay together

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CARMARTHENSHIRE’S approach to supporting families and preventing children from going in to the care system has been recognised at a national level.

First Minister Mark Drakeford and Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan have visited Carmarthenshire County Council to meet the team who are driving a positive change to family social care.

Carmarthenshire has the lowest number of children in care throughout Wales, and figures are reducing steadily year-on-year with more and more families being supported to stay together.

The council’s strategic aim to reduce the number of looked after children is aligned to the Welsh Government’s, and is achieving this via a whole range of services which are together making a positive difference to hundreds of local people.

In conversation with social work managers, Mr Drakeford said Carmarthenshire stood out because the team is prepared to think and do things differently, and he wanted to find out how other areas of Wales can replicate their success.

One of the simplest, yet most effective, changes made in recent years is to align teams working across children’s services and education and bringing staff with specialist skills together to provide a whole team around a family in need, opposed to attaching a single social worker to an individual case.

The First Minister was told how this has allowed sharing of skills, perspectives and ideas to provide a bespoke package of support for each family, as well as creativity in finding different ways of linking in with families and keeping them together.

Teams say they focus on building relationships with families to fully understand their needs, and what intervention will work best for them – often inviting families to work with them to commission tailor-made specialist support ensuring their needs are met in a way that best works for them.

Prevention and early years intervention is also a key feature – in the last six months the service has supported 18,000 families with a range of community-based services to build resilience and prevent the need for families to have contact with the statutory social care system.

Mr Drakeford said he was keen to share his learning from Carmarthenshire with other authorities in Wales to reduce the number of children being taken in to the care system and keeping more families together.

“Carmarthenshire Council is doing some great work to keep families together and avoid children going into care,” he said. “As First Minister, I want to build on the work happening here, understand why it is having an impact and to share the good practice throughout Wales so we can help to keep more families together.”

Jake Morgan, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Director for Communities, said: “We share and support the Welsh Government’s strategic intent. For us, it’s not about targets, but about keeping families together, and reducing the number of children requiring care without ever compromising safe practice.”

Leader of the council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said he was proud that Carmarthenshire is at the forefront of developing such a diverse range of services that support families with a variety of needs and supports them to care for their children at home and within their own communities.

“Keeping families together with the right kind of support is something I feel very strongly about,” he said. “I’m proud of the work of our teams, and their willingness to work differently and try new approaches to support families in need and prevent them from needing our services. It was great to hear the enthusiasm of the team today and their pride in making a difference to so many children’s lives.”

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