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Probe into school’s ‘anti-gay’ policy

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  • Apologetic headteacher blames ‘old policy’ on school website
  • Scandal follows PM’s 2009 “We got it wrong” apology

 

A HAVERFORDWEST school is being investigated by the Welsh Government after its website was found to carry an unlawful policy on teaching pupils about homosexuality.

Tasker Milward school in Haverfordwest, which has over 1000 students, was one of a number of schools in the UK identified as having a published policy which breached the 2010 Equality Act.

The policy statement echoed the notorious Section 28 brought in by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1988, which outlawed the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools. In 2003, Section 28 was repealed and the 2010 Equality Act made discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation an offence.

Tasker Milward’s policy stated it: “[did] not prevent teachers from addressing issues of homosexuality in the classroom in a neutral and unbiased manner; however, the local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material which actively promotes homosexuality.”

The policy’s presence on the school’s website was described by campaigners as “simply unacceptable” and the Welsh Government confirmed it was “concerned” and investigating as “a matter of urgency”.

Stonewall advertising boardThe school has stated that the policy dated from 2008, was an old one that had not been in operation and that an oversight led to the policy not being deleted from the school’s website.

The school has not explained how a policy directly referring to legislation repealed in 2003 was placed on its website five years later. All bar one other policy accessible on the school website carry a date of 16 January 2013.

The school has apologised for any offence caused.

An investigation by the British Humanist Association led to the revelation that 45 schools either published policies that replicated Section 28 or had policy documents that were “overly vague” on the issue. The British Humanist Association (BHA), campaigns against faith education.

BHA spokeswoman Pavan Dhaliwal said schools in question must urgently review their policies to ensure all pupils were treated with equal respect and understanding.

She said: “It is simply unacceptable that over a decade after the repeal of the pernicious Section 28 that these schools continue to enforce similar policies, while others have statements which are overly vague on this matter.”

The BHA first started investigating after a policy at Colston Girls’ School in Bristol was brought to their attention.

In total, the BHA found 20 policies where it believes there is something clearly offensive, a further 22 that still seem to imply that Section 28 might some way be in force and three that are otherwise vague.

There are no national curriculum guidelines on sex education and details of lessons are left to individual schools to draw up. However schools are required to comply with the Equality Act, forbidding any discrimination.  There are fears that faith schools launched under the Coalition Government’s controversial ‘Academy’ system are seeking to circumvent the law and breach the Act.

After Tasker Milward School’s policy was made public, the Welsh Government said on Twitter: “We are investigating this as a matter of urgency.”

Introduced in 1988, Section 28 of the Local Government Act banned the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities and said that schools “could not promote of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

Section 28 was repealed in England and Wales in 2003 and in Scotland in 2000.

Officials at the UK Department for Education (DfE) launched a separate investigation from the Welsh Government yesterday.

On Tuesday, the Chairman of the Commons Education Committee urged for ministers to update SRE guidelines. Conservative MP Graham Stuart said: “It looks like an echo from the past. It looks as if schools have just copied that wording from years ago, before Section 28 was revoked, rather than with any deliberate intent.”

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “All children and young people in Wales should receive inclusive Sex and Relationships Education.

“It is extremely important that young people are taught in a way that does not subject them to discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 is very clear on this.

“Our guidance to schools provides definitive advice about the teaching of all aspects of relationships and specific sexual health and well-being issues such as sexual orientation.

“Teachers should deal with sexual orientation honestly, sensitively and in a non-judgemental way. The needs of every learner must be met and schools should encourage open discussion, promote inclusion and challenge inequalities.

“We will be reminding all schools of our guidance and their responsibilities.”

A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesman said: “The Sex Education policy on the Tasker Milward school website was an old policy not in operation and which had not been deleted.

“The school does have a current Strategic Equality Plan, further details of which can be obtained directly from the school.

“The headteacher, Maggie Haynes, apologises for any distress that the failure to remove the old policy from the website may have caused.”

Tasker Milward is the same school where WikiLeaks whistle blower Bradley Manning attended while living in Wales with his mother. As a 13-year-old pupil at the school, he is said to have questioned his sexuality before later coming out as openly gay.

Wes Steeting, head of education at Stonewall, said: “We need to see very clear guidance about the importance of tackling homophobic bullying and the promotion of a curriculum that is inclusive.”

Former pupil Hywel ap Dafydd, 34, said: “It’s thoroughly disheartening that some two decades after I first came out my old secondary school still advertises Section 28 on its website almost a decade after it was repealed.

“In the 7 years I attended Tasker Milward I was constantly victimised about my sexuality, often in front of teachers who ignored it, receiving little support with the exception of my friends and a few notable teachers. My distress was clearly visible and even though I was once discovered crying with a knife at my wrist, no real effort was made to address my problems.

“I would like to believe that in the 20 years since,, the school might have understood the concept of Pastoral Care but in light of this latest oversight I wonder just how much has changed and how many other pupils have suffered the same neglect that I did?”

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Home office is ‘misleading the public’ over police funding, says Police and Crime Commissioner

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THE POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER has told The Herald that he believes that the Home Office is ‘misleading the public’ that his force will have an increase in funding in 2019/2020.

On the face of it, it appears that Dyfed-Powys Police will have an increase in funding of £8.1 million in 2019/20. However this figure is based upon the presumption that PCC Dafydd Llywelyn will increase the current Band D property precept level by £24 annually.
After what he describes as a frustrating delay, the Government’s provisional grant funding settlement has been announced, which sets out the position for Dyfed-Powys Police for the 2019/20 financial year. On the face of it, it appears that Dyfed-Powys Police will have an increase in funding of £8.1 million in 2019/20. However this figure is based upon the presumption that PCC Dafydd Llywelyn will increase the current Band D property precept level by £24 annually.
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn said: “The way in which the Home Office and Central Government are misleading the public is disgraceful and I am very disappointed in the way this settlement once again shifts the burden onto local tax payers. I continue to try and do the right thing to protect our communities but I feel we are being let down by the Government in London as their actions are likely to impact on our local services.”
“I am currently consulting with the residents of Dyfed-Powys; asking if they would be willing to pay additional police precept to continue to safeguard our communities. Within the survey I have outlined the impact of for Dyfed-Powys Police and its communities. My decision will be made by listening to local communities and the professional advice of the Chief Constable.”
“I am working closely with the Chief Constable to critically review all aspects of the budget requirement. Given the scale of financial challenges that are faced, a precept increase will be unavoidable, but how much this is increased by should not be dictated by Government.”

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Police issue warning over sheep attacks in Pembrokeshire

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE has issued advice to pet owners following a spate of livestock worrying incidents in the Saundersfoot, Narberth and Crescelly areas.

There have been six reports of dog attacks on sheep in the past three weeks, one of which caused a dog to be shot after it was caught attacking sheep in Solva.

PC Gerwyn Davies of the Pembrokeshire Rural Crime Team, told The Herald: “It is important dogs are always kept on leads near livestock, but especially so at this time of year. Sheep are heavily in lamb and their numbers have increased because they come from high grounds in mid Wales for the winter.

“Sheep worrying can have a long term effect on ewes as they can lose pregnancies as a result of stress. This obviously has a negative impact on farmers who not only lose out financially, but it is also very upsetting.

“Sadly, three ewes have been killed and several more injured in the past few weeks. One family dog was shot in Solva after it attacked sheep, which is a sad situation for the dog’s owner and upsetting for the farmer.”

Farmers can legally shoot any dog if they believe it is the only reasonable way of stopping it worrying livestock. If your dog chases or attacks livestock you should make arrangements to contact the landowner/livestock owner.

Anyone who has information about, or wants to make a report of livestock worrying, can contact the Pembrokeshire Rural Crime Team by calling 101.

Dog owners are reminded of this advice when walking in the countryside:

  • Do not allow your dog to enter a field on its own and keep it under your control at all times.
  • Keep your dog on a lead when crossing through fields that contain livestock.
  • Stick to public right of ways.

When at home:

  • Make sure you know where your dog is at all times.
  • Ensure that your property is secure and that your dog cannot escape day or night.
  • If you know your dog has previously chased or attacked sheep then take responsible measures to prevent it happening again.
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New First Minister announces his cabinet

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THE FIRST MINISTER FOR WALES, Mark Drakeford, has today announced his new look cabinet to lead Wales. The First Minister said: “It is an enormous privilege for me to be appointed First Minister of Wales. Every leader needs a strong team around them, and I am delighted to introduce my new cabinet which is a strong mix of experience, talent and passion.

“Brexit is our greatest challenge.  In the extraordinary and regrettable circumstances created by the UK Government, it is vital that we prepare for all outcomes. I have retained Ministers in posts where their experience of Brexit preparation is key, while creating a new post to reflect the priority I attach to international relationships and trade.

“As a government we will continue to speak up for Wales, to fight our country’s corner and make sure the government in London is never in any doubt at all of what matters to the people of Wales.”

Cabinet and Deputy Ministers

Vaughan Gething
Minister for Health and Social Services  – Y Gweinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Julie Morgan
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol

Eluned Morgan
Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language – Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol

Dafydd Elis-Thomas
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Diwylliant, Chwaraeon a Thwristiaeth

Ken Skates
Minister for Economy and Transport – Gweinidog yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth

Lee Waters
Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport – Dirprwy Weinidog yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth

Julie James
Minister for Housing and Local Government – Y Gweinidog Tai a Llywodraeth Leol

Hannah Blythyn
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government – Y Dirprwy Weinidog Tai a Llywodraeth Leol

Rebecca Evans
Minister for Finance and Trefnydd – Y Gweinidog Cyllid a’r Trefnydd

Kirsty Williams
Minister for Education – Y Gweinidog Addysg

Lesley Griffiths
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs – Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig

Jeremy Miles
Counsel General Designate and Brexit Minister – Y Darpar Gwnsler Cyffredinol a’r Gweinidog Brexit

Jane Hutt
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip – Y Dirprwy Weinidog a’r Prif Chwip

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