MORE than 10,000 children have checked in to Carmarthenshire schools so far.
This includes 6,144 primary school children and 4,226 secondary school pupils, according to council figures for last week.
Some pupils have attended school more than once – with the total number of check-ins for last week exceeding 14,000.
There are approximately 28,000 pupils registered in Carmarthenshire schools and these figures show around 38% of pupils attended school last week.
All pupils are being given the opportunity to check in, catch up and prepare before the summer holidays and the new school year in September.
Schools across the county have reported that both staff and pupils have been happy to return, and that safety measures that had been put in place have been a success.
Children have been split into smaller groups and schools are operating staggered break times, and start and finish times. There are also separate entrances and exits, and one-way systems where possible to help with social distancing.
High touch surfaces are being cleaned regularly throughout the school day, with a full clean taking place every evening. There are hand-sanitisers in every classroom and portable handwashing stations where needed.
Children are being encouraged to safely walk, cycle or scoot to school, or for parents to provide transport, as school transport is operating at a limited capacity.
School meals are not being provided this term and pupils who are in school for a full day are being asked to bring in a packed lunch.
Headteacher of Llangunnor Primary School Aled Davies said: “Being able to greet pupils back this week has been exciting. Seeing them smile and as they saw their friends and staff was wonderful. It has been a strange time for us all and the school building looks rather different than it did three months ago, I would like to thank the staff for their hard work and dedication in preparing the school.
“I think we were all, children, parents and staff, a bit apprehensive on Monday but the new measures and routines have worked successfully and has allowed us to welcome the children back in a safe and organised manner. The atmosphere during the week has been welcoming and comfortable with all the children eager to share their stories and experiences and having a lovely day.
“A very high percentage of our families have decided to send their children back and we have been able to fulfil the Welsh Government’s aspiration that all statutory age pupils have an opportunity to return for three sessions in school before the summer break.”
Headteacher of Ysgol Dyffryn Taf in Whitland Julian Kennedy said: “The return of pupils to Dyffryn Taf has been a great experience. Staff and pupils have been delighted to see each other again.
“Everyone has worked incredibly hard to build a safe, inclusive and positive learning environment, all whilst maintaining a distance learning programme.
“Pupils have been able to check in with form tutors, get reassurance and advice, and make sure they are ready for whatever September might bring.
“Most importantly though, we have given staff the freedom to be creative and to try new things. Our pupils have been learning on screens for three months now – when they are on site, we want them to do something different. So, as well as maintaining their literacy, numeracy and wellbeing, pupils have been out in the fresh air orienteering, playing team-building games or simply building up their skills and fitness on Just Dance!
“Attendance has been really pleasing and everyone, both staff and pupils, have left with a smile on their faces. We very much hope we can devote one or two days at the start of the new academic year to finish the transition programme for Year 6 pupils that we were unable to complete this summer.
“The Governing body, staff, pupils and their families and the local authority have combined excellently to achieve a huge amount in a short space of time. We all want to get back to normal as soon as it is safe to do so, but until then we are delighted with how the ‘new normal’ is going.”
Children that are shielding or are living with someone in this group should not come back this term and should continue learning at home.
Parents who choose not to send their children back will not be fined and will also continue to receive support with home learning.
Term finishes on July 17.
Executive Board Member for Education and Children’s Services Cllr Glynog Davies said: “I am delighted that pupils and staff have had such a great first week back at school. I think it is really important that they have had this opportunity to catch up before the summer holidays.
“I visited Ysgol Brynaman and it was wonderful to see how pleased the children were to be back seeing their friends and teachers for the first time in over three months.
“We have already started to plan for September and as soon as we have further guidance from Welsh Government, we will be able to share these details with parents.”
Vital support for job seekers and employers in West Wales
TO MATCH job seekers with employers and career agencies across West Wales, a virtual jobs fair is taking place on Wednesday 9 September.
The free online event will be hosted by Working Wales, which is delivered by Careers Wales, and is in partnership with Job Centre Plus teams across West Wales and the south west and mid Wales Regional Learning and Skills Partnership.
Now, more than ever, job seekers and employers are relying on online support to find jobs and fill vacancies.
The event will run through Working Wales’ Facebook channels and will be split into two regional events covering West Wales mid and south. 10am-11am is for job seekers and employers in Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Powys and Neath Port Talbot. 2pm-3pm will focus on Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Swansea.
Attendees for the free event will have access to a wide variety of job vacancies from many sectors across West Wales as well as expert careers advice to support with job applications.
Working Wales is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund and was launched by the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates in May 2019.
Within the first year the service has directly assisted over 37,000 people across Wales.
Careers Wales chief executive, Nikki Lawrence said “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the west to deliver a virtual jobs fair. Our careers advice and guidance is a vital part of supporting the economy during this pandemic, and these online events allow us to effectively and safely continue reaching and supporting our customers during these challenging times.”
To register your interest in these events, follow Working Wales on Facebook @WorkingWales. If you are an employer with vacancies to fill please also get in touch.
Available to anyone over the age of 16, Working Wales provides a one-to-one, tailored employability advice and guidance service, supporting people across Wales with job searching, CV writing, interview preparation, training and upskilling as well as with redundancy support.
For more information on Working Wales visit: www.workingwales.gov.wales or call 0800 028 4844.
Virtual graduation for Class of 2020
UWTSD is looking forward to hosting a series of online events to celebrate the academic success of the ‘Class of 2020’.
With formal degree ceremonies due to be held at a later date, UWTSD organised a series of digital celebrations that will take place on Tuesday, July 21, Wednesday, July 22, and Thursday, July 2.
Providing students with an opportinuty to celebrate their academic and personal achievements, the digital events included video messages from the Vice Chancellor, the Provosts, Universty Fellows as well as staff and fellow students.
“The Class of 2020 digital celebrations allowed us to come together – as family, friends and members of the University community – to mark our students’ academic achievements,” says Professor Medwin Hughes DL, UWTSD Vice Chancellor.
“These have been very difficult times for us all and yet students have succeeded, and these digital events help us to celebrate that academic achievement. Indeed, I would like to thank our students for the way in which they’ve responded to this pandemic and the way in which they’ve worked with the University. These celebrations were an opportunity for us to wish our students well for the future and to celebrate their hard work and success.”
Gwilym Dyfri Jones, Provost of the University’s Carmarthen and Lampeter campuses, said: “These virtual celebrations were an opportunity for the University to congratulate its Class of 2020 and to show that it is thinking of each and every one of the graduates at these unprecedented time,.
“It is also an opportunity for us to share our gratitude with the students for their valued contributions to the life of the university and its various campuses during these last few years,” he adds.
“We are proud of our graduates’ achievements and relished celebrating their successes with them in a virtual environment next week.”
Professor Ian Walsh, Provost of UWTSD’s Swansea and Cardiff campuses is immensely proud of the graduates’ achievements.
“During this difficult final term, the students of UWTSD have demonstrated the true meaning of the phrase ‘the best of us’,” says Professor Walsh. “It is fitting that the University takes a moment to celebrate the striking success of the class of 2020.
“Their hard won achievements demonstrate that this generation of UWTSD graduates possess all the necessary resourcefulness, resilience and determination to overcome the most challenging circumstances. In the process they have made their families, friends and lecturers extremely proud.”
James Mills, Group President of the Students’ Union at UWTSD also acknowledges the unprecedented challenges faced by the Class of 2020 and echoes the pride felt by all at UWTSD: “On behalf of everyone here at your Students’ Union we are incredibly proud of the hard work and success of our students over the past few months under incredibly difficult and challenging circumstances and adapted well to online learning.
“We also look forward to welcoming our students back in the next year for their graduation ceremonies on their respective campuses,” he adds.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, UWTSD – like all other Universities – had to respond swiftly to the lockdown restrictions with teaching moving on-line and celebrations such as graduation, being postponed.
However, UWTSD has already announced that its campuses will be open and ready to start teaching at the beginning of the new academic year, subject to government guidelines. The University is planning a blended delivery pattern for its programmes in Wales which means a combination of online delivery and on-campus teaching, when it is appropriate to do so.
The University is working to a detailed plan which anticipates various scenarios around the coronavirus context and government directives, much in keeping with the Welsh Government’s traffic light system.
It aims to ensure the safe return of students and staff to the campuses whilst also enabling as much face-to-face teaching as possible in order to ensure that students can enjoy an academic and social programme.
BAME advisor appointed to education post
PROFESSOR Charlotte Williams OBE has been appointed by the Welsh Government to lead a new working group to advise on and improve the teaching of themes relating to Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and experiences across all parts of the school curriculum.
Professor Williams accepted an invitation from the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, to chair the new ‘Communities, contributions and cynefin: BAME experiences and the new curriculum’ working group.
In 2007, Professor Williams was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for services to ethnic minorities and equal opportunities in Wales.
Professor Williams said: “I’m delighted and honoured to be leading the working group in advancing this step-change towards integrating Black and minority ethnic history, identity and culture into the everyday learning of every child in Wales. The goal is that the new curriculum will become a shining example of resourcing and enabling broad engagement in learning and teaching with BAME contributions past and present.
“The challenge is to ensure that Black and minority ethnic peoples have a presence across the new Welsh curriculum so that within all of the Areas of Learning and Experience we can hear the sound of their voices, know of their experience, history and contributions, past and present.
“This requires appropriate resourcing because we want all teachers in Wales to be able to rethink their materials and feel confident in the ways of delivering them to reflect this presence. It’s a very exciting prospect. In this way, our curriculum in Wales will ultimately be reflective of our common experience of a vibrant, inclusive, multicultural society.
“We have a rich history in Wales, built on difference and diversity.
“This isn’t about adding an element of Black and minority ethnic history here and there in the new curriculum, but about reimagining learning and teaching across all the elements of the curriculum so that it reflects a Wales that is, and always has been, ethnically diverse, internationalist in its outlook and progressive in its aspirations.”
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Our diversity is one of our strengths as a nation and our many histories have combined to shape Wales today.
“I’m delighted Professor Williams will be leading this important piece of work and I look forward to seeing the group’s recommendations.
“The working group will complete a review of learning resources currently available to support the teaching of themes relating to BAME communities and ‘cynefin’ across all parts of the curriculum. The group will also review associated professional learning opportunities and resources. The group will be closely aligned to the review of Welsh history by Estyn, the education inspectorate.
“The Welsh word ‘cynefin’ loosely translates as ‘habitat’ or ‘place’, but also conveys a sense that all human interactions are strongly influenced and determined by both personal and collective experiences, such as through stories or music.”
The group will present their initial findings in the autumn, and a full report in the spring.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “I’m very pleased Professor Williams has agreed to chair the working group.
“I look forward to receiving the group’s recommendations on learning resources to support the teaching of themes relating to BAME communities.
“Wales is made up of a multitude of stories. We must understand and analyse our own cynefin, and make those connections across our communities, nation and the world. It isn’t just about history as a subject, it’s language, literature, geography, and so much more.”
The group will oversee the development of new learning resources in advance of the phased introduction of the new Curriculum for Wales in 2022.
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