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Education

Pembrokeshire County Council Failings lead to set up of Education Recovery Board

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huw-lewis-265017737-2512757Concerned parents and guardians of our County’s children will be disappointed with the decision by the Welsh Assembly to appoint a Welsh Recovery Board to oversee improvements, once again, in Pembrokeshire County Council’s education service. This comes after nearly two years of our Council attempting to resolve this worrying situation, without, it would appear, satisfactory success.

In 2011, a report by Children Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler, led to a team being sent by the Assembly with the purpose of overseeing change in Pembrokeshire County Council’s policies and systems for safeguarding children and young people. These were judged to be ‘unfit for purpose’ by ESTYN who had produced a report at that time.

Council leader at the time, John Davies, assured voters and County constituents that Pembrokeshire County Council were not hiding from the matters raised, and he promised improvements and change in order to meet the requirements of both ESTYN and the Welsh Assembly.

It will come as grim news, therefore, that now Ministers from the Welsh Government have stated that changes in how our Pembrokeshire County Council safeguards children are not happening fast enough. As a result of this dissatisfaction, Huw Lewis, the Assembly Education Minister, along with Local Government Minister, Lesley Griffiths, have decided to set up a Recovery Board to oversee these required improvements in Pembrokeshire’s Education Services.

Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, Jamie Adams, is quoted as saying he welcomes the board, having already had productive meetings with them.

Reading from a local newspaper’s message board, and in response to this developing story, it was clear from the comments attached to the story, that parents are angered and dismayed by the seeming inability of Pembrokeshire County Council to resolve issues and problems directed at them from some two years ago, despite Assembly assistance.

In April of this year, the Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board was wound up after more than a year and a half advising the local authority on changes to its policies and operation for safeguarding children.

In a Welsh Government written statement, Huw Edwards, Minister for Education, commented on an ESTYN report published in December 2012 that had said of Pembrokeshire, ‘The Authority’s education services were found to be unsatisfactory’, and it further went on to say that they had, ‘judged Pembrokeshire’s prospects for improvement as unsatisfactory’. As well as that, it stated that, ‘corporate leaders and senior elected members have been too slow to recognise key issues in safeguarding’. Of Pembrokeshire County Council, Mr Lewis continued by adding that, ‘arrangements lack rigour and do not identify, accurately, areas in need of further improvement and the Authority has made limited progress in addressing recommendations from previous inspections’.

In support of those who provide the day to day education in our County, Angela Davies, Shadow Minister for Education and local AM, said that,

“Education services in Pembrokeshire have gone through a torrid time over the past few years but parents and pupils must hold fast to the fact that the majority of the teaching profession are totally committed to providing an excellent education for Pembrokeshire children”.

She was, however, quite clear as to where the blame should lie for the failings of the County Council education services and said,

“The ongoing problems stemmed from inadequate management practices within education services and a poor attitude to the proper safeguarding of children. Like all parents I know that I expect my children to be treated well and kept safe at school. Their well being and safety is of equal importance as the education they receive, and it was with a great sense of shock that we learnt of the adverse, and, at times, damning reports from Estyn and CSSIW which were the reasons for the initial Pembrokeshire Ministerial Board and for education services to be put into special measures.

The key issues appear to be inadequate oversight of key services, a lack of action when things went wrong, inadequate management, weak representation and an overly strong officer culture resistant to change. Since then a number of agencies have examined aspects of education and safeguarding in Pembrokeshire and there appears to be a sense that improvements are ongoing but are happening too slowly.

The fact that the Welsh Government have felt able to replace the Ministerial Board with a Recovery Board is good news and I am sure that Pembrokeshire’s appointment of a new Head of Education Services will usher in a more dynamic and constructive era.”

She also went on to make further comment on the Assembly’s role in education for Wales,

“I am concerned that there are so many local authority education services in special measures throughout Wales and I have called on the Welsh Government to explain why this is so.

It is also concerning to note that the General Teaching Council for Wales is not being inundated with lots of disciplinary cases arising from all these special measures and I would have thought that if education is so very bad in Wales, given the six Authorities in special measures, then the GTC would be flat out.

I am aware that the Government has an agenda for change and there are recommendations that there should be fewer local education authorities, ultimately, perhaps, leading to fewer county councils. However, I do not want to see education services, teachers and, above all, our children’s present and future being used to crowbar change. So I challenge the Government to ensure their actions are crystal clear and their motives pure.”

It is to be hoped that for the sake of our County’s children and for the peace of mind of parents and guardians alike that this Recovery Board is able, finally, to steer our County Council’s education services in the right direction, and resolve the safeguarding issues that remain of grave concern to all those who work in those areas where children are involved. As one local teacher put it, “No one wants to see a repeat of what happened at the Pupil Referral Unit in Neyland or read again about twenty-five cases of alleged professional abuse, as happened between 2007 and 2011”.

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Community

Dairy challenges Pembrokeshire kids to win £1,000 for their school

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ECO-FRIENDLY kids in Pembrokeshire are being urged to get creative with recycling and win their school £1,000.

The call comes from Wales’s leading yoghurt producer, Llaeth y Llan, who want to hear from primary schools with wizard ideas for re-purposing their plastic pots.

They’re offering £1,000 for the school with the best plan for reusing those little pots in a fun and useful way.

And to show they’re serious about making sure Llaeth y Llan yoghurt even more environmentally friendly they are also urging schools to collect the lids and send them back to the dairy.

Llaeth y Llan have put up a total of £20,000 to encourage schools across Wales to recycle and Director Gruffudd Roberts said: “Climate change and the environment are now global issues and a lot of that is down to young people and their concerns.

“As a company we believe it’s vital to involve children in spreading the message of the importance of recycling to secure the future of our planet.

“We are extremely excited to see the designs created by each school using our pots.

“Not only is recycling our main focus, we are proud to fund prizes that will assist the children’s future.

“Being able to give £20,000 worth of prizes to schools whose budgets are stretched makes the project worthwhile.

“School funding is simply not going to buy vital equipment such as Chromebooks, garden supplies, sports gear and school trips. We want every school in Wales to have an equal opportunity to win their share of our £20,000 prize fund.”

Llaeth y Llan yoghurt, made with local Welsh milk, was started by dairy farmers Gareth and Falmai Roberts over 30 years ago and is still a family-run operation based at Tal y Bryn Farm, in the Vale of Clwyd.

These days though their yoghurts are on sale all over the country and are on the shelves of the UK’s biggest supermarkets like Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Co-Op’s.

Those distinctive pots now come off a state of the art production line and Gruffudd Roberts added: “We’ve already seen many innovative ideas for the pots from schools across Wales but there’s still time to stake your claims to a share of the £20,000 prize fund.

“We’d especially like schools to take pictures as they make their creations at each step and send them to us along with a main picture showing the end result.”

Entries for the competition close on February 25th and full details on how to take part in Llaeth y Llan’s are on the website at www.villagedairy.co.uk/school-registration/

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Education

No opt-out for learning about religion, relationships and sexuality

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PARENTS will not be able to prevent their children from learning about religion, relationships and sexuality in the new curriculum.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams made the announcement this week, emphasising the need for ‘careful and sensitive implementation’ of the decision.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams told The Herald: “Our responsibility as a government is to ensure that young people, through public education, have access to learning that supports them to discuss and understand their rights and the rights of others.

“It is essential that all young people are provided with access to information that keeps them safe from harm.

“Today’s decision ensures that all pupils will learn about issues such as online safety and healthy relationships.

The announcement was made following an eight-week Welsh Government consultation on ensuring access to the full curriculum, including the teaching of Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Religious Education (RE).

Kirsty Williams added: “I recognise this is a sensitive matter and the consultation responses reflected a wide range of views.

“There is clearly a need for us to work with communities and all interested parties in developing the learning and teaching for RSE and RE – this work will be vital to enable everyone to have trust in how the change is implemented.”

The Minister outlined plans for implementation which include the creation of clear guidance, resources and professional learning for schools and the creation of a Faith/BAME Community Involvement Group to hold its first meeting this February.

The group will engage in the development of RSE guidance, develop a shared understanding of the new curriculum and address the concerns raised by faith and community groups during the consultation.

The Minister continued: “It is vital that we continue to work with communities across Wales to ensure parents have the right to develop, care for and guide their children into adulthood while allowing our schools to provide a broad and balanced education.  

We will build on the community engagement which accompanied the consultation with a long term investment in listening to our communities and finding ways to address the issues which concern them.

The Minister also confirmed plans to establish a new RSE Working Group that will oversee the refinement of the new RSE statutory guidance to form part of the new curriculum guidance.

The Minister added: “I want to take the opportunity in 2021 to test the approach for RSE prior to it being made statutory in the new curriculum.  

This will provide valuable intelligence to inform the refinement of our approach and will also enable learners, parents and carers and communities to see it working in practice and to feedback their views.”

Further details on this approach will be announced over the coming weeks.  The consultation also showed support for renaming the subject ‘Religious Education’.

The most popular choice from respondents was ‘Religion, Values and Ethics’ and, as a result, the Minister confirmed the subject name would change when the new curriculum comes into effect. The Terrence Higgins Trust said that the news was something they very much welcomed, and said that they have been campaigning for this for a number of years. The Trust said that Wales has very much lead the way on this one as the UK Government has resisted calls to remove the parental opt-out for lessons when RSE lessons become compulsory in England from September. Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy at the trust said: “By guaranteeing access to Relationships & Sexuality Education lessons for all pupils, Wales is leading the way. We’ve campaigned for compulsory RSE lessons for nearly four decades and until now far too many young people have learned about sex through whispers in the playground. 
“This decision by the Welsh Government will go some way to fixing this. It’s absolutely vital lessons are LGBT+ inclusive and have a strong focus on HIV and sexual health so all young people have the knowledge they need to form healthy and fulfilling relationships. We are now looking to the Welsh Government to continue leading the way by providing all schools with the resources and training they need to deliver these new lessons to the highest standard across the board.” 

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Education

Relax and let children tell a story

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PREMIER INN has launched the UK’s first-ever ‘wake up-time’ storybook for children, inspiring them to start the day in the best way possible.

The UK’s largest hotel company is searching for young UK literary talent to help it publish a children’s short story book packed with original tales.

Part of the book will be dedicated to bedtime stories to help encourage a great night’s sleep, while uniquely the other part will be dedicated to stories designed to be read in the morning – to inspire young people to get their day off to the best possible start.
The budget hotel chain is encouraging children and young people 15 and under to submit an original 500-word short story – either round the theme of relaxation or inspiration. Young people are invited to let their imaginations run riot – and stories can be inspired from their own real-life experiences or something from the depths of their imaginations. The hotel company will publish a diverse collection of tales, so stories revolving around friendship, families, animals or even science fiction are all welcome, providing they slot into the themes above.

The competition began on Christmas Even and runs through to early 2020.

Premier Inn experts and an esteemed panel of judges will crown national prize-winners in two categories: under 10s and ages 11-15. Also, there will be twelve regional runners-up, celebrating the UK’s literary brilliance from the South West to Scotland.
To launch the nationwide competition in the lead up to Christmas, children being cared for at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) were treated to story readings by Father Christmas and his festive elves. Premier Inn is a longstanding supporter of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity) and the winning stories will be available for a donation, with all proceeds donated to GOSH.
Simon Ewins, Managing Director at Premier Inn UK said: “We help millions of people to have a great night’s sleep and wake up ready for whatever the day holds, so we’re thrilled to launch our young people’s short story competition which will uncover exciting new stories to help encourage a restful night’s sleep – and get their day off to the best possible start. We’re all a huge fan of the traditional bedtime story and as a great night’s sleep is also all about setting you up for the day ahead, we thought it would be a fun twist to launch the UK’s first ‘wake up-time’ story collection. The UK is bursting with talented young people and we can’t wait to start receiving the stories”.

Amit Aggarwal, of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, said: “It’s brilliant that money raised through Premier Inn’s short story writing competition will benefit children and young people treated at GOSH, as stories that dive into the imagination can be a useful distraction for patients at the hospital. Writing and reading can help entertain children and young people during their treatment and empower them to express themselves too. We look forward to reading the fantastic entries for this competition.”

The winning wordsmiths’ work will then be published and the prize also includes a two-night stay at a Premier Inn of the winner’s choice.
Premier Inn, the UK’s top-rated hotel chain, has proudly been supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity since 2012 when it pledged to raise £7.5 million towards a brand new medical facility at the hospital. The Premier Inn Clinical Building, named in honour of the partnership, officially opened in January 2018, and provides state of the art facilities including new in-patient wards, operating theatres and a day case unit, to match the hospital’s world-class care. Most recently, Premier Inn pledged to raise a further £10 million to help fund a new Sight and Sound Centre, a specialist outpatient centre tailored to the needs of children with sight and hearing loss, which is due to open in 2020.

To submit a 500-word short story, young authors can submit their masterpieces by emailing StoryPremierInn@golin.com.

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