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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 In 2003, Section 28 was repealed and the 2010 Equality Act made discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation an offence.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The school has not explained how a policy directly referring to legislation repealed in 2003 was placed on its website five years later.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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Boris Johnston being treated in intensive care after ‘condition worsens’

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BORIS JOHNSON is being treated in intensive care after his condition worsened yesterday, with Downing Street warning that the Prime Minister may need to be put on a ventilator as he fights off coronavirus infection.

He was transferred to an intensive care unit at around 7pm yesterday on the advice of doctors after being taken to St Thomas’ Hospital for treatment just under 24 hours earlier.

Mr Johnson was conscious on admission to intensive care, Downing Street said, and asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to stand in for him.
“Since Sunday evening, the Prime Minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus,” a spokesman said in a statement issued at 8.10pm.
“Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the Prime Minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital.
“The PM has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is the First Secretary of State, to deputise for him where necessary.
“The PM is receiving excellent care, and thanks all NHS staff for their hard work and dedication.”

The news sparked a flood of well-wishes on social media, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeting: “My thoughts are with the PM and his family – sending him every good wish.”

The news followed mounting questions over whether Mr Johnson was well enough to continue leading the government, with Number 10 insisting he remained in overall charge of efforts to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The Prime Minister posted on twitter at 1.20pm that he was in “good spirits and keeping in touch with my team”. But in a sign of the seriousness of his condition, Mr Raab – who chaired the daily coronavirus ‘war cabinet’ yesterday morning – admitted he had not spoken to Mr Johnson since Saturday.

It comes as the latest official figures showed 5,373 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK, as of 5pm on Sunday – an increase of 439 on the previous day.

Foreign Office Minister James Duddrige appeared to call on the Prime Minister to stand back from his duties to recover, posting on twitter: “Take care boss. Get well.
Come back fighting. But for now rest, look after yourself and let the others do the heavy lifting.”

And Mental Health Minister Nadine Dorries, who herself recovered from coronavirus, said many of its sufferers would be “felled” by symptoms of fatigue and fever.

At yesterday’s daily press briefing on coronavirus, Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty declined to say, under repeated questioning from journalists, whether it was appropriate for the Prime Minister to lead the government from a hospital bed.

Prof Whitty insisted he was “absolutely not going to discuss any individual patient,” and said he was not Mr Johnson’s physician.
But he later added that some patients of his were able to “handle massively complicated things from their hospital beds”.

The Prime Minister first experienced symptoms and was confirmed as having coronavirus last Thursday, with his cough and high temperature continuing for 11 days.
Having previously been described as “mild”, Downing Street said yesterday that his cough and fever were “persistent”.

Mr Raab said the Prime Minister had “a comfortable night” at St Thomas’, across the River Thames from parliament, where he was taken at around 8pm on Sunday.

The decision was made on the advice of Mr Johnson’s private doctors and was a precautionary measure to undergo tests, and not an emergency admission.

But his official spokesman did not deny reports that the Prime Minister had been given oxygen, and would not comment on whether he was being treated for pneumonia.

Coronavirus patients not being allowed visitors in hospital, but Downing Street said a ministerial red box with official papers had been delivered to the Prime Minister’s hospital bed – despite Downing Street saying Mr Johnson would “follow the advice the same as anybody else”.

A report in Russian media that the Prime Minister had already been put on a ventilator was dismissed as “fake news”.

Downing Street insisted it had been “transparent throughout” about Mr Johnson’s health, and would communicate any change in the Prime Minister’s condition to the public.

In his twitter post yesterday afternoon, Mr Johnson wrote: “I’d like to say thank you to all the brilliant NHS staff taking care of me and others in this difficult time. You are the best of Britain.
“Stay safe everyone, and please remember to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”

At the daily coronavirus press conference in Downing Street, Mr Raab said ministers and officials were continuing to work “full throttle” to ensure the Prime Minister’s instructions were implemented.
“He’s in charge, but he’ll continue to take doctors’ advice on what to do next,” he said.

Mr Johnson had been expected to leave isolation on Friday, with the pound trading lower on currency markets over fears about the impact that his extended absence from Number 10 could have on the response to the coronavirus outbreak.

His fiancée Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, revealed on Saturday that she was recovering after also contracting the virus.

Earlier, former Prime Minister Tony Blair said it would be “hellish” for Mr Johnson to be in hospital at the peak of the crisis.
Asked by the BBC’s Today programme whether the Prime Minister should give up control of the government to focus on his recovery, Mr Blair said: “I’m not going to second guess them on that.

He knows the state of his own condition and he will be judging it carefully himself, I’m sure.”

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the Cabinet “hope and expect [the Prime Minister can get back to Number 10 very soon”.

Mr Jenrick told Today: “He has worked phenomenally hard, as have many people across the country. This has been a uniquely intense period and I know for him personally it will be very frustrating that he has had to go to hospital to have these tests.

“He will want to be back in No 10 leading from the front, which is his way. But he remains in charge of the government; he will be updated regularly in hospital, as he has been as he’s self-isolating.”

Meanwhile, the Labour MP for Rochdale Tony Lloyd, who served as shadow Scottish Secretary during the final months of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, has been admitted to
Manchester Royal Infirmary for treatment of coronavirus.In a statement issued by the Labour Party, Mr Lloyd’s family said he was “stable and responding to the treatment and dedicated care that he is receiving from the brilliant doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff.”

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Community

Cemeteries re-open to public

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Following the issuing of revised guidance by Welsh Government
yesterday evening (Friday, 3 rd April), all 11 of Pembrokeshire County
Council-owned cemeteries will be re-opened to members of the public
from 8 am tomorrow, Sunday, 5 th April.

The grounds of Parc Gwyn Crematorium in Narberth will now also be
accessible at their normal hours (10 am to 5 pm) although the Chapel
of Remembrance will remain closed until further notice.  

Welsh Government is in the process of making amendments to the
Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions Wales) Regulations 2020
which clarify the arrangements for funerals and crematoriums.
This includes the revision that cemeteries can remain open but social
distancing must be taken into account.

The list of persons who may attend a funeral – namely members of
the deceased’s household, close family, and a friend (only if no
household or family members were attending) plus carers of persons
attending – is also being changed.

The revised legislation states: ‘This will now include the person
arranging the funeral and anyone invited by that person (or any carer
of any of those persons) who may attend a funeral (and will be
considered to have a reasonable excuse for leaving their homes).’
The numbers of mourners attending funerals at Parc Gwyn
Crematorium or burials in any Pembrokeshire County Council-owned
cemeteries remains unchanged at 12.

The Council’s 11 cemeteries are:
 Rosemarket
 Llangwm
 Freystrop
 St Ishmaels
 City Road, Haverfordwest
 Nolton Haven
 Llanfair Nanty Gof (Trecwn)
 Llanwnda
 Llanion, Pembroke Dock
 Monkton
 St Michael’s, Pembroke.

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Childcare for children aged 0-4 of critical workers

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Following the announcement today (Monday 6th April) made by the
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, funding is being
provided to each Local Authority in Wales to support the cost of
Childcare for children 0-4 years of Critical Workers and also
vulnerable children who also need to access registered childcare. 

From today, Critical Workers with children aged 0-4 years will be able
to access childcare at a registered setting at no cost.

To make this funding possible, The Welsh Government has had to
suspend the Childcare Offer for Wales with immediate effect.

Applications are now closed and all children who were due start on
the Childcare Offer this April will be cancelled until further notice.

However, The Welsh Government will continue to pay booked hours
for children who are currently participating in the Childcare Offer until
mid-June 2020, with a review to be undertaken at the end of that
period.   

Pembrokeshire County Council will manage all bookings for the
Critical Workers childcare Offer.

To access this, you must register your child with Pembrokeshire
County Council.

For more information and to register please visit: 
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-and-guidance/childcare-provision-for-children-of-critical-workers-and-vulnerable-children

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