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Council investigates Ysgol Bro Banw

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Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 09.43.00INFORMATION RECEIVED from a source, who has requested total anonymity, has revealed a catalogue of grave concerns regarding the governance of Ysgol Bro Banw, Ammanford.

That source has confirmed and expanded upon the situation at Ysgol Bro Banw which led to a critical report by Estyn.

The Herald has previously rep orted Estyn’s finding regarding a school placed in the Green Band of Welsh Government School Categorisation. That report found a lack of scrutiny by school governors, irregular employment practices, and evidence that the school’s self-assessment – on which its Green Categorisation was partly based – was hopelessly optimistic and out of kilter with the reality.

As a result of the Estyn inspection, the school was assessed as having unsatisfactory prospects for improvement while serious criticism was levied at the school’s leadership and governing body.

The Herald can now confirm that, after we put a series of detailed allegations to the local authority, the Director of Education, Robert Sully told us: “We are in the process of investigating a number of issues regarding circumstances at Ysgol Bro Banw. We will be unable to comment further until all investigations have been concluded. This process is likely to take several weeks before reaching a conclusion.”

The number and nature of the allegations suggest that what is uncovered is likely to of considerable interest, not to say embarrassment, at the very highest levels at County Hall.

STAFF FEAR RECRIMINATIONS

Referring to the damning report on the school from Estyn recently about serious failings with regards to the management and leadership of the school our source claims that since its content was made public, many worrying revelations have been made in confidence by staff who are too scared to make these known publicly for fear of recriminations.

It is alleged that attainment levels across the school were inflated across the core subjects to present a better picture of its standards and that staff were directed to ensure this was done.

Our source states that the discrepancy between work seen during the inspection and the attainment levels recorded was severely criticised by Estyn and is behind the Council’s decision to send in a team of experts to independently assess attainment levels.

Before the Estyn inspection team, teachers were allegedly told to alter their job descriptions as those held by the school were either hopelessly out of date. Some staff discovered that their job descriptions meant they should have been paid a higher salary than they received.

Another allegation is that teachers were compelled to re-write comments on children’s books going back over two years in order to comply with standard practice for assessment in order to attempt to hoodwink Estyn’s inspectors.

AVOIDING THE INSPECTORS

The correspondent goes on to claim that the head teacher of the school took steps to avoid an interview with Estyn regarding the progress of the inspection and involved another member of school staff in her efforts to avoid questioning by the Estyn inspector.

We asked the head teacher, Mrs Meryl Davies, to respond to a detailed allegation relating to that purported course of events.

On not receiving a reply to our email, we telephoned the school on Thursday (May 5). We were asked to refer our enquiry to the Council Press Office: a step already taken. The Council did not deny that the specified allegation had been made.

The Herald makes no comment on the truthfulness or otherwise of that allegation, or the others. We observe, however, that the fact such grave allegations have been made suggests that there is something seriously awry in the relationship between school leaders and members of the school’s staff.

Indeed, Estyn’s criticism of Ysgol Bro Banw certainly ring true with a number of claims our source has made regarding staffing practices, including allegations that some staff were appointed without going through a proper interview process.

The Estyn report states: ‘The head teacher and governors do not follow best practice in setting the arrangements for appointing staff to leadership posts and do not provide staff with equal access to opportunities for development and promotion’. Further allegations are made about the way the school has utilised the Welsh Government’s pupil deprivation grant, including placing televisions in the playground and providing iPads to learners. The Estyn report was highly critical of the school in this area stating: ‘Leaders do not use the pupil deprivation grant appropriately or effectively’.

STAFF CALL FOR UNION HELP

Our source raises serious concerns regarding the management of finances at the school claiming that the school does not have a Finance Clerk and that all school finances are subject to little or no effective scrutiny from the board of governors.

The Herald has been told that as a result of the damning report, teachers and Classroom Assistants at Bro Banw have contacted their union representatives and provided them with detailed grievances.

We contact Unison, who informed us that they were discussing the issues raised with staff but could not comment further at this time.

While Estyn referred to their media handling protocol in declining to either confirm or deny the incident involving the alleged abortive interview with Ysgol Bro Banw’s head teacher, it directed our attention to their inspectors’ specific finding that ‘the school was identified as in need of significant improvement’.

Chair of the Board of Governors Huw Evans refused to comment on the situation at Bro Banw when contacted by our reporter.

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Carmarthenshire’s sensory garden: why locals should embrace this wellness trend

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WITH ‘#sensorygarden’ 499.1k views on TikTok – locals have the advantage of experiencing a sensory garden on their doorstep at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. Wildlife experts explain why you should visit.

Wildlife expert Sean McMenemy shares how sensory gardens can do wonders for our wellness whilst providing a safe haven for wildlife and encourages Carmarthenshire locals to visit their local sensory garden this autumn.

A sensory garden is an outdoor space that stimulates the five senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste, and can be created in your own garden. Sensory gardens at home remain relatively rare, but the trend is growing with the TikTok hashtag ‘#sensorygarden’ amassing 499.1k views*. 

Carmarthenshire, dubbed the Garden of Wales, has a huge array of beautiful green spaces to explore. It’s home to the National Botanic Garden of Wales which spans a huge 568 acres, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The stunning Great Glasshouse features a sensory trail that explores the largest single-span greenhouse in the world! From fluffy flowers from South Africa to a strongly scented Australian plant, it’ll engage all your senses. 

Having recently gifted King Charles with a beautiful oak sapling, the National Botanic Garden of Wales care deeply about the nation’s natural heritage. For those visiting the garden, the paths are wheelchair accessible with manual wheelchairs available on site. Open 10am – 6pm every day of the week.

Wildlife expert and founder of bird food provider Ark Wildlife, Sean McMenemy, explains the benefits of sensory gardening: “Sensory gardens provide a great deal of physical and mental benefits for different people and purposes. From getting vitamin D from sunlight to improving physical fitness by maintaining a garden, there are several physical benefits. Mentally, you can benefit from a mood boost and relaxation by spending time surrounded by calming stimulation.

“Sensory gardens can also have huge benefits for children, older people, those with learning disabilities and those who struggle with their physical and mental health. You can also create a sensory garden for your pets and garden wildlife!”

Top tips for creating your own sensory garden

If you do have the outdoor space, creating your own sensory garden is therapeutic in itself and doesn’t need to be a complicated process. The most important thing is to ensure that the garden engages all five senses. 

Melody Estes, landscape design gardening supervisor, says: “Whether you’re new to gardening or a seasoned pro, you can always improve your garden by adding some sensory elements.” 

Here are some tips from Melody for creating a sensory garden:

Sight – Plant colourful flowers that change with the seasons.

Sound – If you have a fountain or water feature on your property, consider adding some relaxing music to play alongside it. You could also place chimes near your front door to welcome people in.

Smell – Use scent. Consider planting scented flowers or herbs like lavender, rosemary and thyme that will give off a lovely aroma when they bloom.

Touch – Mix textures. The texture of plants can be as important as their colour and shape. Try using plants with soft leaves like ferns or grasses that are texturally different.

Taste – Planting herbs, fruits and vegetables not only provide tasty treats, but is a sustainable source of food.

Sean McMenemy adds: “Sensory gardens are an easy way to engage with wildlife and the outdoor environment. Growing your own plants and vegetables provides countless ways to learn about the natural world.

“You can bring your sensory garden to life by using bird feeders to attract beautiful feathered friends into your garden. They’ll bring the sound element to your sensory garden naturally. Fragrant flowers will attract colourful butterflies and other pollinators to your garden, giving you something to observe whilst helping nature to thrive.”

Some people may not have the time, money or space to create their own sensory garden. However, those with balconies and window ledges can still plant colourful, sweet-smelling flowers and edible plants. This mini sensory garden can still provide the benefits and satisfaction of an outdoor garden.

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Prince and Princess of Wales to visit Wales

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THE PRINCE and Princess of Wales have planned a trip to Wales to visit a variety of communities across the nation and learn about the work of key charitable organisations. 

The Prince and Princess have a deep affection for Wales, having made their first family home in Anglesey, and have thoroughly enjoyed their previous visits and the warmth and kindness shown by the Welsh people. 

Their Royal Highnesses are looking forward to spending more time in Wales over the next few years, they hope to strengthen their relationship with communities in all parts of Wales. 

During their first engagement, Their Royal Highnesses will visit the RNLI Holyhead Lifeboat Station, where they will meet crew, volunteers and some people who have been supported by their local unit.

Holyhead is one of the three oldest lifeboat stations on the Welsh coast and has a remarkable history of bravery, having received 70 awards for gallantry. 

Their Royal Highnesses will then take a short walk to the Holyhead Marine and Cafe Bar, where they will meet local people, including representatives of small businesses and organisations, including the Coastguard and Sea Cadets. 

In their second engagement, the Prince and Princess of Wales are expected to visit Swansea. 

Their Royal Highnesses will visit St Thomas Church, a re-developed church in Swansea which supports people in the local area and across the City and County of Swansea. 

Over the last two years the church has been transformed into a thriving community hub and is home to a vast array of services, including:

  • A foodbank which supports over 200 people per week
  • Swansea Baby Basics which distributes essential items for vulnerable mothers across the city, such as toiletries and clothes
  • Facilities for the homeless including food, showers and toilets
  • A not-for-profit cafe and community training kitchen
  • A surplus food distribution network which collects food from supermarkets at the end of each day and distributes it from the church to prevent food waste and to help end food poverty

As part of their visit, Their Royal Highnesses will meet those volunteering at the church across different initiatives including Baby Basics and the foodbank. Their Royal Highnesses will also spend some time meeting members of the public gathered outside the church. 

The Princess of Wales has previously worked with Baby Banks and the in summer of 2020 brought together 19 British brands and retailers to donate over 10,000 new items to more than 40 baby banks nationwide, operated by Baby Basics, Little Village and AberNecessities. 

Her Royal Highness has visited a number of baby banks across the UK, including in London, Sheffield and West Norfolk where she has spent time speaking with families about their experiences of using their local baby bank services, as well as helping unload donations. 

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Carmarthenshire farmer dies following attack by bull near Llandeilo

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A FARMER has died following an incident with a bull on a farm in Llandeilo.

The 58-year-old, named locally as Maldwyn Harrier, was attacked by the animal during a TB test on Friday morning.

Police have confirmed that they were called to a farm in the Penybanc area of Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, and are investigating alongside the Health and Safety Executive. 

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