THURSDAY November 5 will see the NSMW team serving school meals to the Members of the National Assembly for Wales. We will be situated in the Neuadd in the Senedd, which houses the public reception and information area, and was conceived as an orientation and event area when the home of the Assembly was designed and built earlier this century. It will be a terrific opportunity to show the quality of a modern school meal to both the AM’s and members of the general public. Cardiff Council Education Catering are producing an exciting menu of mains and desserts from both their regular primary and secondary menus that will reflect both the ethnicity of the city as well as some traditional Welsh favourites.
In addition they will select a number of their chefs and support staff to produce the food in the Senedd on the day and we will be uploading the final choice of dishes shortly so keep checking the site. Assembly Member for Arfon in Gwynedd, Mr Alun Ffred Jones has sponsored the event (it is a requirement that any event in the Assembly building has to have a Member sponsor it) and said: “I am delighted to be involved with National School Meals Week and happy to sponsor the LACA event at the Senedd. Teaching children from a young age about the benefits of healthy eating and living, while making the learning fun and enjoyable is what makes this initiative so important.
“Research has shown that children, who have had a healthy, nutritious lunch, concentrate better, have improved behaviour and increased educational attainment. Holding high profile events helps to put this message across via the various media channels and informs parents, resulting in improved uptake.” The LACA Wales committee are delighted that such a high profile event is taking place at the heart of Welsh Government and that school meals are being shown in such a positive light. Chair Toni Edwards commented: “The Welsh LACA (Lead Association for Catering in Education) Region is absolutely thrilled that the Assembly Member for Arfon in Gwynedd Mr Alun Ffred Jones is sponsoring us to attend the Senedd for National School Meals week.
School meals are an important part of the school day and this high profile event will help highlight the exceptional work that goes on across Wales. “Welsh school meals pack in all the essential vitamins and minerals needed for a child’s healthy development and this event will enable us to showcase our success and hopefully encourage more parents to take up the offer of meals for their children. The whole Region is looking forward to the event, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how successful Wales has become in supplying excellent meals for our young customers.” It will be an outstanding way to celebrate all that is great about our industry in such an iconic location and will be the high point of what should be another successful National School Meals Week.
Reducing class sizes programme makes progress
A PROGRESS report shows how a £36m Welsh Government grant to reduce infant class sizes is ‘making a real difference’ to schools across Wales.
The report also sounds a warning note on the risk of losing gains made when the grant ends in 2021.
The report reveals progress in reducing infant class sizes in targeted schools since the grant was launched in April 2017.
Reducing infant class sizes was a key part of the Progressive Agreement reached between Kirsty Williams and the First Minister.
In line with international evidence, the policy targets schools that would most benefit from smaller classes, such as those with high levels of deprivation, additional learning needs, and/or where teaching and learning need to improve.
Evidence suggests that reducing class sizes is not necessarily the best use of educational resources either for all schools or all pupils. The OECD, the body which administers the controversial PISA tests given much weight by the UK’s governments, says that reducing class sizes should not detract from making systemic improvements in education’s delivery for pupils. The OECD says that cutting class sizes will not deliver improvements in education’s outcomes on its own.
Some key findings of the report are as follows:
• The grant is funding 110 additional teachers, 42 additional learning assistants and 52 additional classrooms and improved facilities in 115 schools across Wales;
• the percentage of all infant classes and learners in classes over 30 has reduced since the introduction of the grant, with a reduction in class sizes across all targeted schools;
• the number of schools which were in the red or amber category of the school categorisation system has decreased during the grant period.
• Since its introduction 388 infant classes have benefited from the policy, resulting in there being 770 more learners in classes below 20, and 2,592 fewer learners in classes of 29 learners or more.
To coincide with the publication of the report Education Minister Kirsty Williams visited Penyrheol Primary in Swansea – a school that has benefitted from two additional teachers, two new learning assistants and £162,812 of capital funding for additional classrooms through the project.
The school now has an average infant class size of 23.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “I want teachers to have the time to teach and children to have the space to learn and this is why I am committed to delivering smaller class sizes in our schools.
“Reducing class sizes is a key strand of our national mission to raise standards and extend opportunities for all our young people so that every young person has an equal opportunity to reach the highest standards and achieve their full potential.
“Reducing teacher workload is a key priority for the Welsh Government – smaller class sizes lessen the workload while improving both the quality and quantity of time teachers spend with pupils. I am delighted with the progress shown in today’s report.”
Penyrheol Primary School Headteacher Alison Williams added: “The additional funding that has been made available by the Education Minister has made a tremendous difference to the children at Penyrheol Primary School.
“It has supported the deployment of additional staff within lovely refurbished accommodation which has made a real difference.”
The Welsh Government scheme targeted a limited number of schools in each of Wales’ local authorities.
The grant was split into revenue funding, ie paying for extra staff, and capital funding for investment in schools’ physical infrastructure.
The majority of schools that received the revenue element of the grant said they will not be able to maintain an additional teacher beyond the grant.
Schools report that budgets are becoming more challenging each year and maintaining the additional teachers would put them in a deficit budget.
A very small number of schools said that they would consider the possibility of maintaining these classes through raiding their Pupil Development Grant (PDG) or making savings elsewhere in their budgets.
The way in which capital funding was allocated to different councils shows some large variations.
For example, Carmarthenshire gained £1.6m in funding allocated to buildings at four schools, and Ceredigion gained £1m, used at only one school.
Nursing graduate’s new life after drugs battle
A FORMER drug addict who turned her life around has graduated from Swansea University and become a nurse so she can help others.
Joanne Hill, aged 42 from Burry Port, started taking drugs at the age of 15 and after she entered a relationship that turned abusive, she became addicted to heroin.
The situation worsened when her two children, Callum and Kian, were both put into the care of their grandparents as her heroin addiction spiralled.
She then came close to losing her life after another spell of drug abuse saw her rushed to hospital with endocarditis in September 2012.
“When I was injecting heroin I sort of didn’t care if I lived or died,” she said. “If I hadn’t have gone to hospital then I would have died.
“That was a real wake up call for me. I had to decide, did I want to carry on being a drug addict and die a drug addict? Or did I want to work at it and change my life around?
“I lost friendships, I lost my relationship with my family, my mother and father, I lost my two boys. I had no hope that things would change, I thought I would probably die a drug addict.”
However, a chance meeting with a nurse on her ward saw Joanne decide to turn her life around and start the road to recovery and a career in nursing.
“One day this nurse, Vanessa, sat with me and really made an impact on my life,” said Joanne. “She encouraged me to go to rehab and made me decide that I wanted to become a nurse. I wanted to have that same effect on other people’s lives.
“I think if she hadn’t have spent time with me when I felt like I didn’t deserve her time, I probably would have left the hospital and gone back to the life I was living before.”
After a 19-month stint in rehab – coupled with her Christian faith – Joanne got herself clean and turned her life around.
She spent time volunteering with Sands Cymru before embarking on a three-year adult nursing degree at Swansea University – where she gained first-class honours.
Now she is working as a staff nurse at Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli and her two sons are back living with her.
“It’s a huge feeling of achievement,” said Joanne. “If you’d have said to me eight years ago that I’d be doing a nursing degree and be caring for people, your boys are going to be back living with you, then I probably would have laughed because of the state my life was in. There was just no way I could have imagined that.
“If you really want something and turn your life around, stop using drugs, then with hard work and determination, it is possible. I do feel privileged to be a nurse.
“Before I wouldn’t have been able to walk into a room full of people because I was full of guilt and shame, but my life is different now.
“I was at my lowest and I wanted to be there for people when they were at their lowest. I think nursing is the perfect profession to do that.”
Tackling period poverty in schools
THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has committed over £3.3m to tackle period poverty in communities and promote period dignity in schools and colleges across Wales.
Young campaigners, who welcomed the renewed funding for 2020, said: “It’s just ensuring a girl’s period isn’t a barrier to her succeeding in life.”
Every college, primary and secondary school across the country will benefit from a £3.1m fund, enabling them to provide free sanitary products for every learner who may need them.
And each local authority will be allocated part of a £220,000 fund to help them provide free period products to women and girls who may otherwise be unable to afford them, making them available in community-based locations such as libraries and hubs.
Period poverty refers to a lack of access to period products due to financial constraints. Period dignity is about addressing period poverty whilst also ensuring products are free and accessible to all women and girls in the most practical and dignified way.
Amber Treharne, 16, and Rebecca Lewis, 15, are two members of Carmarthenshire’s Youth Council who are raising awareness of period dignity in their county and finding the best ways to support young women and girls.
Amber said: “It started back in 2018 when the member of the UK Youth Council from our county, Tom, carried out the Make Your Mark ballot paper. It came out that period poverty was a very prominent issue. It shocked all of us really when we learnt young girls within the county were missing out on education and that one in 10 girls aged 14 to 21 in the UK couldn’t afford sanitary products, so as a youth council we decided to set up a period poverty campaign.
“In every school we’ve being delivering boxes which have free packs of tampons and sanitary towels which young girls can then access at any time in the school day.
“Our work is all about raising awareness and promoting the message that it’s not okay that you have to miss out on your education or you have to miss out on work because you don’t have adequate sanitary products. It’s just ensuring a girl’s period isn’t a barrier to her succeeding in life.”
The Youth Council has joined forces with the Body Shop in Carmarthen to ensure women and girls have access to free period products every day, not just when they’re in school.
Rebecca said: “It’s really sad that there’s stigma and young girls may feel embarrassed to go ask for help so by us putting this into place in the schools, youth groups and in the Body Shop, young girls can go access the products and don’t have to have the stigma anymore.”
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip Jane Hutt said: “We’ve made considerable progress in tackling period poverty in 2019 and the £3.3m for 2020-21 will mean we can continue to ensure period dignity for every woman and girl in Wales by providing appropriate products and facilities.
“It’s heartening to see young people taking on this issue and working within their schools and communities to combat the stigma and taboos which unfortunately still exist today.”
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