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School defends Welsh-medium homework policy

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Better for kids?: Welsh-medium schools

Better for kids?: Welsh-medium schools

PRIMARY school children, whose first language is English, and who attend Welsh-medium schools are less likely to be top performers in core subjects. The figures were obtained by the BBC Wales show, released after a Freedom of Information request and were taken from a comparison of 25,000 pupils. The research is based on looking at how well 11 year olds are doing in English, Maths and Science, as well as first language Welsh in Welsh schools. The information covered 87% of children in Welsh-medium schools and 78% of pupils from English-medium schools.

Three groups of children were compared:

• Pupils in English-medium schools

• Pupils in Welsh-medium schools from Welsh-speaking homes

• Those in Welsh-medium schools from English-speaking homes. Better news was that, overall, when English is taken out of the equation, Primary school children from Englishspeaking homes who go to Welshmedium schools are less likely to underachieve than pupils in Englishmedium schools. Dr Mirain Rhys, research associate at Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, is an expert on the issue and told The Herald: “Many of the concerns raised by English-speaking parents of pupils in Welsh medium schools were about children being able to complete their homework and having support from their parents. It’s an area which needs more research. When they don’t speak Welsh themselves it’s quite a worry. I know the Welsh Government and the Welsh Language Board used to have a helpline to helping pupils and parents – it’s initiatives like that that can help.”

Gwennol Ellis, head of Ysgol Bro Cinmeirch, Denbighshire (a welsh medium school), said: “We invest heavily in staffing. Through singing and oral work they become fluent in a year. The work sent home is to reinforce class work, and notes go home in English. Children are able to get on with their own homework. The aim is to get them to speak Welsh as if they were first language speakers. They are encouraged to speak Welsh with each other” Carla Bartlett, head of Welsh at Ysgol Gyfun Cymer, Rhondda, where 99% of pupils were from English speaking homes, also commented on the issue of homework being sent home in Welsh, telling The Herald: “I came from a background where my parents didn’t speak Welsh. I understand the parents can’t help with the language side, so homework is set appropriately. At the end of the day, the homework is for the children and not the parents.”

This newspaper was keen to find out how a local Welsh-medium school, Ysgol Glen Cleddau in Haverfordwest, managed pupils from English speaking backgrounds, which is 95% of their full register. Speaking exclusively with The Herald was head teacher, Mr Aled Davies who explained: “All subjects (other than English) are taught through the medium of Welsh, although aspects of subjects in Key Stage 2 (KS2) might be completed through the medium of English; extended pieces of writing in history ( e.g a letter or some narrative), the occasional science experiment, some problem solving in maths. Pupils are able to switch from one language to the other with ease which is what bilingualism is all about. By the end of KS2 they are able achieve good standards in both languages”. Mr Davies commented on the issue of homework in Welsh: “Homework would usually include; spelling lists, some maths (which would mainly be number work where either language could be used), reading in both languages, and work in log books (the Log Book includes little projects which would involve research in books or on the internet and parents would be able to assist and the recording might be through the medium of Welsh or English). Obviously we’d encourage parents to become involved in their children’s learning and we’d ensure that there was enough English medium homework available to enable them to do so”. He went on to discuss pupils’ access to English language skills acquisition, saying: “Pupils achieve high standards in English by the end of their time in this school. English is the mother tongue of most of our pupils, and they get ample time to develop their English oral skills outside school; at home, in sports clubs, with friends and relations.” “These skills would be honed in English language lessons at school; discussions, debates, dialogues, drama work etc. Of course they’re allowed to use conversational English (in and around school), but obviously they’re encouraged to speak Welsh. It is vitally important that pupils speak correctly in both languages. Their English and Welsh oral, reading and writing skills are developed side by side in school, and we encourage excellence in both languages. That is the essence of bilingualism.”

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Education

School to share digital experience under lockdown

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Greenhill School in Tenby is set to share their digital journey with other
educators in Wales next week in a national webinar.

Leading their part of the webinar will be Jonathan Evans, Greenhill’s DCF
(Digital Competence Framework) lead, who will be accompanied by Vicki
Price (the school’s Head of Computing) to talk about how staff, pupils and
parents have embraced digital engagement and training since the
lockdown started.

They were approached by Ryan Evans, Google Trainer with Aspire2Be, to
be part of the webinar with him and other Google experts.

Vicki said it was a fantastic opportunity to showcase what the school has
been doing.

“Jonathan has held a twice-weekly geek meet online with staff which has
been very successful,” she said.

“He has created a resources website for staff, pupils and parents to
support them. On top of this, staff meet daily on Microsoft Teams to
discuss the day ahead giving them valuable time to connect with each
other.

Vicki added: “The school has fully embraced many features of the Hwb
Platform, some more successfully than others, and we hope that by taking
part in this webinar we can show others the journey our staff, pupils and
parents have taken in these challenging times.”

The webinar will be held via Hwb on Tuesday, 12 th May at 12:30pm as part
of a demonstration of Creative Writing Using G Suite.
You can register here to view the webinar:

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Education

Ancient Connections – Pembrokeshire and Wexford stories to be retold by school children through animation

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Ancient Connections – a three-year arts, heritage and tourism project linking North
Pembrokeshire and North Wexford is delighted to celebrate the start of a cross-border
schools project which began in March 2020 and is expected to continue until Spring 2021.
The project will bring three schools together in the ambitious creation of a short animation
film telling the stories of connection between these two regions. The participating schools
are Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, Scoil Naomh Maodhog Ferns and St
Edan’s School, both in Ferns, County Wexford. In March, the project kicked off with a group
of 19 pupils aged 12-13 plus staff traveling from St Davids to Ferns to meet and get to know
their peers in the Ferns schools. The group have been learning about their own heritage
stories, as well as the stories that link these two regions through working with Fishguard
based storyteller Deb Winter. In Ferns, the group performed these stories and in turn
listened to their Irish counterparts, who had been coached by storyteller Lorraine O’Dwyer.
Cilla Bramley, Head of Expressive Arts at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi said:

I just wanted to send a HUGE thank you from all at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi for the amazing visit
we had to Ireland. The pupils and I were so 'blown away' by the incredibly warm Irish
welcome and every aspect of our visit was perfect! The arrival at Scoil Maodhog was moving
and our pupils are now texting, snap chatting/what's apping etc. and looking forward to the
return visit. All the excursions were fabulous and informative and when I asked pupils what
their favourite aspect of the trip was, not one of them could decide as there were just too
many things to pick from.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the project will now continue through online and digital
means, until September 2020 when they will begin work with Cardiff based animation
studio Winding Snake to creatively retell these stories through different animation
techniques, culminating in a short film that will be screened in venues and online in 2021.
Amy Morris, Director of Winding Snake says:

"The team at Winding Snake are thrilled to be working with the schools involved as part
of this exciting and historic project.  We can't wait to get stuck in and start making! The
young people taking part will work with us to create animation, learn musical composition,
make foley and sound effects, participate in script writing and storytelling sessions, and will
work with professional actors to learn acting and performance skills. With lots and lots of
arts and craft thrown into the mix too, it's going to be a wonderful project." 
A short documentary film about the project will also be created by filmmaker Terence White
based in Wexford.

Community and academic research led by Angharad Wynne and Abarta Heritage has
unearthed some fascinating stories that link these two ancient Celtic lands. From the deep
friendship between St David and St Aidan, founder of Ferns Monastery, to strategic
marriages between powerful Irish Kings and the daughters of Norman knights in the
Mediaeval period, to human entanglement with mysterious and mythical sea creatures as
well as inclement weather causing shipwrecks on unforgiving coasts.

The Animating schools project forms one aspect of the wider Ancient Connections project,
with the aim of motivating both communities to rediscover their shared heritage; to be
mentors for one another; sharing knowledge, experience and skills to create a stronger
sense of identity and place that will continue to flourish in years to come. The stories that
emerge from the project will also be employed to create ways to attract visitors to North
Pembrokeshire and Wexford outside of school and summer holidays.

Ancient Connections is led by Pembrokeshire County Council, together with partners
Wexford County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority and Visit Wexford
funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales co-
operation programme

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Education

Marine energy presents an ocean of opportunity

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Before lockdown, Pembrokeshire College, in collaboration with marine sector employers, recently hosted a STEM Careers in Marine Energy event for local students.

The event, organised in partnership with the Port of Milford Haven, the Coastal Communities Adapting Together project, Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, Mainstay Marine, Bombora, ORE Catapult, Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (Swansea University) and the Bucanier Project, was designed to raise the profile of the marine energy sector.

With exciting and imminent developments in marine energy in south Pembrokeshire, the purpose of the event was to introduce possible new careers in marine energy (both locally and globally) to 70 STEM students, sowing the seeds of local development and regeneration.

A-level pupils from Ysgol Harri Tudur, along with A-level and engineering students from Pembrokeshire College, were invited to attend the event, which saw the Bridge Innovation Centre in Pembroke Dock transformed into a series of interactive workshop spaces.

David Jones the CEO of Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, and Andy Edwards, Port of Milford Haven’s Vice-Chair, opened the event by setting the scene around present and future careers in marine energy. Interactive workshops were led by local marine energy developers; Bombora Wave Power, Mainstay Marine Solutions, Pembrokeshire Coastal Forum, and Swansea University.

The students joined in the innovation focused workshops which included building their own floating wind turbine platform, against the clock.

The new Guide to Careers in Marine Energy was also launched at the event. This has been developed collaboratively between the marine energy industry and the supply chain to showcase the industry and possible careers within it. English and Welsh versions will be made available to learning institutions locally and online as a learning resource, in time for the next academic year.

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