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Education

Updated guidance published for schools’ return

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ON MONDAY, July 13, the Welsh Government published updated guidance to support schools before the return of all pupils in September.
Last Thursday, the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, announced that all learners would be able to return to schools in the autumn.
The guidance will supports schools, local authorities and settings to implement full operations in the autumn, including new guidance on contact groups.
The Welsh Government will make £29 million available to ‘recruit, recover and raise standards’, in response to the pandemic.
Kirsty Williams, the Minister for Education, said: “This updated guidance reflects the latest medical and scientific advice, striking a balance between structured national guidance and local flexibility.
“We have learned this year that we must be prepared for a range of scenarios. This guidance sets out what learning priorities should remain constant, regardless of where learning takes place.
“It will support our schools and education settings in ensuring learners continue to access a broad and balanced curriculum and continue to make progress in their learning.
“I would like to thank our local authorities and the trade unions for their input into this guidance, and of course our school staff for their dedication, professionalism and hard work over the last few months, which has set us in good stead for a full return in September.”
Laura Doel, director of school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said: “We welcome the fact that schools now have a degree of clarity about what the September return will look like. Schools can now begin to put plans in place to welcome all pupils back next term. However, we should not underestimate the scale of the logistical challenges this guidance will pose school leaders in particular. We should make no mistake, this is not a return to ‘business as usual’ and there is a great deal of work that now needs to be done.
“There are some specific areas where we still need clarity from the Welsh government. These include their recommendations around the use of face coverings, and how they expect wrap-around care to operate.
“It is essential the Welsh government continues to engage with us on these and other matters too so that schools and parents alike have full confidence in the government’s plan for a full return in September.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams and Co-chair of TAC Fliss Bennee are joining our NAHT Cymru webinar tomorrow evening where school leaders will have the opportunity to put their questions to them directly and we welcome the willingness and transparency of Welsh Government to engage with the profession.”
David Evans, Wales secretary for the National Education Union Cymru said: “Our members, as well as learners and their parents and carers, want to see as many children as possible going back to school, but only if it is safe to do so.
“We note the plans for a wider return to school in September, with priority given to certain year groups and more disadvantaged children. We will be working with our members to try and make the return as safe as possible for everyone involved. The two weeks at the start of term to plan for the safest return possible is therefore very welcome.
“We believe having a blended learning approach as ‘back-up’ is sensible. Even when schools open fully, they may have to close again if there is a further outbreak as happened in Leicester recently, therefore having blended learning ready to use is sensible. For this blended learning approach to be successful, children will need help to get online, with access to a computer and internet, which, as we understand, some children currently do not have. Parents may need some extra training, to help support their children when learning at home.
“An increase in the education workforce is welcome. We believe that supply staff and those new to the profession will welcome the opportunity to provide extra support for those pupils who need it at this challenging time.
“We do believe that as more children will be welcomed back to school, Local Authorities should consider the use of public buildings, such as libraries, to ensure greater capacity for social distancing and focus on everyone’s wellbeing. More space would allow education professionals and learners better opportunities to keep safe and we look forward to seeing more guidance around this. This would also allow education professionals who are shielding to support learners at home, whilst keeping safe – and avoiding pressure on our precious NHS resources.
“We support the proposal not to impose fines for parents of children who don’t attend.
“Many education staff have been in school since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, and we are very aware that, like the young people, they need to have a break ahead of another busy term in September. The two weeks at the start of term to plan for the safest return possible is therefore very welcome.”

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Education

School decisions on hold as Cabinet asks for extended review of council’s Modernising Education Programme

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The council will also prioritise plans for a new school to replace Llanelli’s Ysgol Dewi Sant and for new primary schools in Ammanford and Llandeilo.

PROPOSALS to discontinue primary schools in Mynyddygarreg and Blaenau have been put on hold pending the outcome of an extended review of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Modernising Education Programme.

Cllr Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services, has asked his education team to enhance a review of the MEP which is currently underway to ensure it continues to meet the needs of children and communities.

It means proposals due to be agreed today (Monday December 6, 2021), will not proceed at this time.

The extended review will seek to ensure that the MEP can adapt to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and climate change, which has changed the way people are living and making choices, how the education system has been affected and the rising costs of construction.

Cllr Davies said the review should look at how parents’ choices for their children’s education might change following the last 20 months.

The council has already noticed a shift in parental choice following the most recent annual admission of pupils during the pandemic.

With the construction industry having been hugely affected by the pandemic, with increased demand and rising costs for labour and materials, Cllr Davies said it is important to look at the knock-on effect this could have on the delivery and budgeting for school regeneration projects.

Cllr Glynog Davies

“We want to be able to factor these considerations in as we review the MEP, to have the time to properly consider how society is changing and how this will affect education services,” he said.

“Across the authority, several other departmental reviews are also underway. It would be prudent to ensure the MEP continues to align with the council’s priorities and objectives, and therefore it makes sense to take the outcome of these reviews into consideration also.

“I am asking officers to do this piece of work for me urgently.”

Speaking to fellow Cabinet members he said: “I hope that you will agree that no decision can be made today without this work taking place. I am asking that the Cabinet does not push ahead with proposals for Ysgol Mynyddygarreg and Ysgol Blaenau at this point in time, and I will not be announcing the statutory notice for these schools – we have to give full consideration to these proposals.”

Whilst Cabinet agreed to postpone these decisions, Cllr Davies confirmed the council’s commitment to continuing the delivery of a number of projects already in development.

These include a new state of the art specialist school to replace Ysgol Heol Goffa, a new primary school to replace Ysgol Pen-bre, and planned improvements at Ysgol Bryngwyn in Llanelli and Ysgol Bro Myrddin in Carmarthen.

He said the council will also prioritise plans for a new school to replace Llanelli’s Ysgol Dewi Sant and for new primary schools in Ammanford and Llandeilo.

Carmarthenshire’s Modernising Education Programme, in collaboration with the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme, is about transforming the network of nursery, primary and secondary schools serving the county into strategically and operationally effective resources that meets current and future need for a school based and community focused education.

This is achieved through developing and improving buildings, infrastructure and spaces that are appropriately located, designed, constructed or adapted to foster the sustainable development of the people and communities of Carmarthenshire.

By the end of 2020/21 financial year, £295million has been invested in accommodation and facilities at schools across the county and it includes building 12 new primary schools and two new secondary schools, plus remodelling and refurbishment in a number of other schools. 

Further information about this programme and individual school programmes can be found at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education.

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Education

Celebrating the safeguarding work of the Wales Police Schools Programme

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Schools police officer Constable Paul Tebbutt delivered a brand new lesson called ‘Rue the day’ about cannabis possession and supply and the consequences of this offence.

THE ROLE of the police in safeguarding children and young people has been showcased at Fitzalan High School in Cardiff – at an event to celebrate the work of the newly renamed Wales Police Schools Programme. 

The focus was on the pupils in the event, giving them a chance to explore the significant role the programme plays in supporting their safety and looking forward to life after the pandemic.

Pupils and teachers met Alun Michael , Police and Crime Commissioner, along with Temporary Chief Constable Claire Parmenter (Dyfed-Powys Police), and Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle – and the event provided an opportunity for pupils to pose questions to all of them about all aspects of the programme. 

Following a review by Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables, with Welsh Government Ministers, and consultation with Teachers, pupils and parents across Wales, the refreshed Wales Police Schools Programme is demonstrating enormous commitment to children and young people – boosted by the confirmation of continuing joint funding by the Welsh Government and the Police across Wales of nearly £2 million. 

It is an example of a successful partnership working between the Welsh Government and the four Welsh Police Forces, where the aim is to safeguard the children of Wales through crime prevention education.

The programme uses Crime Prevention inputs in the classroom but also supports the whole school community aiming to:

  • Promote the principles of positive citizenship through the school environment.
  • Achieve a reduction in the levels of crime and disorder amongst young people. 
  • Educate children and young people about the risks to their health and wellbeing from online threats, substance misuse and other aspects of modern life – as well as dangers to their families and the wider community

As changes emerge in the wider environment of crime and the threats facing young people, officers seconded to schools need to be agile and flexible so Commissioners and Chief Constables agreed on a shift from a purely lesson-based approach to a ‘whole school’ one, with a wider pastoral role for the Schools Police Officers that is adapted to the specific needs of particular schools or units.

A snapshot of the programme’s success over the period September 2020 to July 2021, includes:

  • 12,141 Crime Prevention presentations and lessons
  • 91% of schools involved
  • 404,255 children and young people have had lessons and inputs from School Police Officers
  • School Police Officers helped schools deal with 7,773 incidents, keeping thousands of pupils from getting a criminal record

Faith McCready, National Coordinator for the Wales Police Schools Programme said: “We are privileged to work with schools across Wales, who invite us to deliver sessions about vitally important topics that impact on children and young people.  We are passionate that the well-being of young people is central to our work, and that they have the opportunity to ask questions and contribute to the Programme as they did at this event in Fitzalan High School.”

The review revealed very strong support for the programme, particularly from teachers and parents as well as children themselves. One head teacher said they would struggle to find the expertise or credibility on subjects which School Police Officers cover and they would not be able to sustain the competent or effective service the programme gives to children and young people at a vital point in their development as young adults. 

The fact that police officers are routinely welcomed, listened to and included in a child’s education from Reception to Year 13 is a crucial part of children’s educational journey.

A survey sent to schools across the four forces in Wales found that of the 561 children that responded, 64% stated that Schools Police Officers had positively changed their views of Police, and 74% of children felt they could speak to their Schools Police Officer if they needed help or guidance on any issues they might be experiencing.

Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Lynne Neagle said: “As a government we want all children and young people to grow up healthy, safe and happy. The Wales Police Schools programme helps to educate children in a safe and engaging way about important issues. It provides an outlet for them to express their opinions on topics that can affect our lives. The programme provides engaging learning tailored to school year groups and I was pleased to be able to attend the event and to see for myself how young people interact with the programme.”

South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael added: “It was a pleasure to be able to join pupils and partners, including a Welsh Government Minister, to celebrate the Wales Police Schools Programme and recognise its contribution to improving the safety and resilience of communities across Wales.

“I am particularly pleased that Fitzalan High School was chosen as the location for this celebration; it is a school I hold in particularly high regard, having served within the local communities as their MP for 25 years and now as their Police & Crime Commissioner. 

In setting out his principles for policing, Sir Robert Peel stated that ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’; this means that the police have to be really embedded in and reflect their community to be a part of it. That’s why it’s so important to have police officers in schools, because each school is a community in its own right and sits at the heart of every community. I believed this passionately when I was a youth worker, engaged with schools across Cardiff. Having a police officer spending time in every school, engaging with young people and delivering tailored prevention messages that reflect local issues is critical to reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, whilst strengthening relationships between the police and communities.”

Dyfed-Powys Police Temporary Chief Constable Claire Parmenter said: “I was delighted to be at the event to celebrate the Wales Police Schools Programme, which I think is an excellent example of partnership working between the Welsh Government, the four Welsh Police Forces and our partners in Education across Wales.

“This programme provides a wrap-around service to schools in Wales offering crime prevention, education and supportive policing services to our young people.

“Our Schools Community Police Officers are trained to deliver lessons on current themes which can impact the lives of our young people such as substance misuse, personal safety and how young people can further safeguard themselves online and via their mobile phones.  In addition to their professional training as Police Officers, our School Officers support schools in many ways through supportive policing; dealing with incidents and offering restorative resolutions including restorative conferencing when required.  

“I am grateful to our partners for their continued support in this vital area of Policing.”

At the event pupils asked some probing questions of the panel, and a lively and informative discussion was had in response to those.

Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales said: “I’m a big fan of the programme having watched and taken part in several lessons over the last few years – the Wales Police Schools Programme provides really important support to our children and young people and their schools, and will continue to do so, particularly with the new curriculum.

“And most of all, and this is particularly close to my heart, the programme and the officers delivering it engage with children and young people, to make sure that children are aware of and afforded all of their human rights in schools, and they’re supported with them.

“Well done to all involved in the programme, and I’m really excited to see some of the resources and continue to follow your excellent work throughout Wales.”

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Education

New Year start date for new state-of-the-art Pembrey primary school

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The new modern purpose-built £8.25million primary school will be built next to the existing school site on Ashburnham Road.

WORK will get underway to build a state-of-the-art primary school in Pembrey in the new year.

Carmarthenshire County Council has unveiled plans for its latest new school, part of its multi-million pound Modernising Education Programme, jointly funded by the Welsh Government through its 21st Century Schools initiative.

The new modern purpose-built £8.25million primary school will be built next to the existing school site on Ashburnham Road.

On completion it will provide high-quality teaching facilities for 270 primary pupils and 30 nursery pupils.

It will also incorporate a Flying Start facility for younger children, located in a mobile classroom on the current school site.

The school has been designed by Carmarthenshire County Council’s own architects and the work will be carried out by Carmarthenshire-based TRJ Construction Ltd, selected from the South West Wales Regional Contractors Framework.

Headteacher Helen Jacob said: “Teaching staff, pupils and families are excited and looking forward to seeing our new school come to life. Our children will benefit from seeing every phase of their new school being built right alongside us – it has been designed to enhance learning and teaching and it is very much deserved.”

Cllr Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Children’s Services, added: “We are proud to be delivering yet another fantastic new school in Carmarthenshire as part of our Modernising Education Programme.

“The new Ysgol Pen-bre will provide an excellent learning and teaching environment and will also benefit the local community, with many features built into the design that can be used by local people when it opens.

“We look forward to seeing construction start in January.”

By the end of the 2020/21 financial year, Carmarthenshire County Council will have invested £295million in transforming its network of nursery, primary and secondary schools.

Since the programme was launched, 12 new primary schools and two new secondary schools have been built and a number of other schools have been remodelled and refurbished to provide top-class learning and community facilities.

Find out more at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/education

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