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Secondary schools and colleges in Wales will move to online learning from Monday

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SECONDARY schools and colleges in Wales will move to online learning from Monday, December 14 as part of a ‘national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams confirmed today.

The Minister made it clear that, thanks to the efforts of education staff across the country, schools and colleges are safe and secure environments, with almost half of all Welsh schools having had zero covid cases since September.

However, it is also recognised that education settings being open can contribute to wider social mixing outside the school and college environment.

By making this decision, the Minister felt it was important to make a ‘clear, national direction’ to take pressure off individual schools, colleges, local authorities, parents and carers.

The Minister said her decision followed expert advice from Wales’s Chief Medical Officer showing that the public health situation in Wales was deteriorating.

The latest TTP data shows that rates of Covid-19 have further increased across Wales and have now exceeded 370/100k with a test positivity of 17%.

The R rate in Wales has increased to 1.27 with a doubling time of just 11.7 days.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “Every day, we are seeing more and more people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms.

“The virus is putting our health service under significant and sustained pressure and it is important we all make a contribution to reduce its transmission.

“In his advice to me today, the CMO recommends that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils as soon as is practicable.

“I can therefore confirm that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils and college students from Monday next week.

“We recognise, as we did during the firebreak, that it is more difficult for primary and special school age children to undertake self-directed learning.

“That is why we are encouraging primary and special schools to continue to stay open.

“Having spoken to local education leaders, I am confident that schools and colleges have online learning provision in place.

“This will also be important in ensuring that students are at home during this time, learning and staying safe.

“Critically, and this is very important, children should be at home.

“This is not an early Christmas holiday, please do everything you can to minimise your contact with others.”

“The education family in Wales has pulled together so many times this year to make a real difference to the course of this virus and ultimately to save lives and I know we can do the same again.

“Together we will keep Wales safe.”

Commenting on the statement today that secondary schools and colleges will close on Monday (December 14) as part of the Welsh Government’s plan to reduce transmission of Covid-19, the Shadow Health Education Minister – Suzy Davies MS – said:

“This is another instance in just the last couple of days of mixed and confusing messages coming from the government here, and doesn’t take into account differing rates of infection across Wales.

“I am pleased that primary schools will remain open. I hope that the repeated reassurances about the low infection and transmission risk in younger children will mean a good attendance rate. The last week of the Christmas term is always a special time in primary schools.

“However, the First Minister, on Tuesday, sounded sceptical about whether secondary school children would genuinely be safer at home, even though there are higher transmission rates among older pupils. I share his concerns about the temptation to mix outside of the ‘bubbles’ formed in schools, especially as the recent rises are very evident in young adults.

“Today, the Education Minister, bowing to pressure from teaching unions, who seem to dominate education in Wales, has taken a different view. I wish she’d listened to school leaders who would tell her you can’t switch an entire secondary school onto online learning overnight

“There is no doubt that the situation is grave in parts of Wales, but I would have preferred targeted interventions where needed, not another blanket ban.

“However confusing and contradictory for parents this is, I suppose the best thing to say is that at least she has made a decision, unlike during the summer when she left it up to LEAs and headteachers to decide. It just happens to be one I and many others disagree with.”

The Education Minister stated that she is “encouraging” primary and special schools to continue to stay open. Education for other learners will be placed online.

Mrs Davies added: “The success of online learning has, to say the least, been patchy across Wales.

“I, and I’d say many parents of secondary-age learners, will be looking for far more detail and reassurance from the Education Minister that after a year of missed lessons and lost learning time, there will be work to see these students through until the end of term.”

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Shock in Carmarthenshire as it’s named as one of the top locations for most reckless young drivers in UK

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CARMARTHENSHIRE has landed some unwanted publicity after being named as home to some of the most reckless young drivers in the UK.

According to comprehensive analysis by Adrian Flux, the county is one of the areas with the speediest teenagers on the road. On average 87.1% of FluxScore users there will receive a serious warning about their speeding compared to less than one in five in Conwy (17%).

The warnings are triggered by a black box that sits in the driver’s car to monitor their performance in the hope of improving safety and saving them money.

“This gamification style approach has helped sensible drivers save up to 60% for year-long safe driving upon renewal,” said Scott Goodliffe at Adrian Flux, one of the UK’s largest specialist motor insurance brokers.

“Unfortunately, some users are less attentive or cautious and their behaviour is a cause for concern because it leaves them more likely to make a claim or hurt themselves or others.

“It’s disappointing when alerts have to be sent but we’re proud that they are helping to change behaviour behind the wheel. We already know FluxScore is reducing the number of speeders across the board by 70% and hopefully this analysis will help address the small number who negatively impact these already impressive figures slightly.”

There are also considerable concerns about how quickly youngsters are travelling in Rhondda Cynon Taf with the area also being named and shamed in the top 10. It’s a much better picture in Conwy though with youngsters there being rated amongst the most careful drivers in the UK.

Adrian Flux’s self-fitting black box sits on the inside of the windscreen and tracks journeys. It helps reward safe driving by providing daily updates on the FluxScore app to show how the previous 24 hours’ driving has affected a driver’s renewal premium.

FluxScore sends alerts to drivers who it deems as driving dangerously or above the speed limit. The findings focus on Alert 2s, which are considered serious speeding events and take into account other factors such as the type of road. If a driver receives three Alert 2s, this will result in their policy being suspended.

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Local specialist contractors needed for countryside works

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is seeking local specialist countryside contractors for work on Public Rights of Way and conservation sites throughout the county.

Businesses in Carmarthenshire are being encouraged to tender for the countywide framework, which is for two years, starting in September with an option to extend for a further two years.

The work will include the management of nature reserves, mitigation for development and government funded habitat projects on sites with challenging conditions, ecological constraints, wet land and difficult access.

Examples of the work include path maintenance, installation of countryside furniture (stiles and gates), mowing overgrown fields, chainsaw and strimmer work, excavator work, woodland management, fencing and tree planting.

A proven track record and a good understanding of working in the rural and natural environment and knowledge of conservation is essential, as is an understanding of the way that the land changes in challenging weather conditions.

Applicants will need to make available vehicle inspection documents and maintenance records, certificates of operator competency (in relation to plant hire with operatives), health and safety policy and relevant insurance documents.

Any suppliers interested in tendering for this work need to be registered on the National Procurement Portal Sell2Wales website, where they can express their interest and receive further information.

This is a free online service and allows businesses to promote their organisation not only to the council but to other Welsh public sector bodies, and to receive notifications about contract opportunities suitable to their field of work.

The council also encourages businesses to register on the Business Wales Business Directory – a free resource where businesses can advertise their services.

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Police appeal for information after vehicle collides with two pedestrians

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POLICE say they are appealing for witnesses following a road traffic collision which occurred on College Street, Newcastle Emlyn just after 4pm on Monday 20th June.

A black coloured Honda CRV vehicle collided with two people on the pedestrian crossing.

A 70-year-old female sustained serious injuries and was airlifted to hospital.

A 50-year-old female was taken to hospital by ambulance with what are described as minor injuries

The 64 year old female driver of the vehicle was arrested on suspicion of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and has been released under investigation pending further enquiries.

Anyone who witnessed the incident, or has information that could help officers with their investigation, or anyone who was driving in the area at the time and has dashcam footage, is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20220620-283.”

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