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Education

New strategy to support looked after children

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A NEW strategy and action plan that will help looked after children in Wales to fulfil their potential at school and beyond has been launched by the Welsh Government.

Raising the ambitions and educational attainment of children who are looked after in Wales’, which is jointly led by Education Minister, Huw Lewis and Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford, identifies key areas in which the Welsh Government and its partners will work to better support children in care in achieving better academic success.

While the primary focus is on supporting looked after children of compulsory school age, the strategy also looks at supporting children as they make the often tricky transition from school to further education, higher education and employment.

The strategy sets out how the Welsh Government and its partners will:

  • Raise educational aspirations and attainment of looked after children and the ability of those who care for them (i.e. foster carers) to support their educational development;
  • Reinforce collective accountability for looked after children and effective leadership across the Welsh Government, regional education consortia, local authorities, schools and further and higher education institutions;
  • Make education a priority and point of focus and stability for looked after children, especially during periods of upheaval and uncertainty
  • Ensure necessary support is in place to enable positive life and career choices and reduce the chances of looked after children entering the youth justice system;
  • Identify data to aid practice, policy making and monitoring of educational outcomes,
  • Ensure excellent practice is identified, promoted and shared wherever it exists.

The strategy is supported by a detailed action plan and the Welsh Government will monitor delivery against the plan on an annual basis.

Education Minister, Huw Lewis said: “Every single child in Wales – including those who are looked after – has the right to expect an excellent education.

“We know that good educational attainment can provide the gateway to future stability and can help to secure an independent and fulfilling life, however we also know that outcomes for looked after children rarely compare favourably with other children.

“In developing this strategy we have worked closely with partners such as the Fostering Network, Voices From Care, and Cardiff University’s Research Centre, Cascade to ensure it reflects the views and experiences of both children in care and foster carers.

“Their input has been invaluable and I would like to thank them for their hard work and contribution.

“The publication of this strategy is just the first step in our work to ensure sustained improvements in outcomes for looked after children and we will continue to work closely with our partners to make this ambition a reality.”

Minister for Health and Social Services Mark Drakeford said: “We are determined as a government to do all we can to support looked-after children and care leavers to reach their full potential.

“This strategy is the first step in a concerted effort by the Welsh Government to ensure sustained improvements in all outcomes for looked-after children, which will impact positively on all aspects of their lives. We are developing a national approach for looked-after children which will help reduce the number of children entering care, improve outcomes for children already in care and provide better opportunities for care leavers.

“A good education with successful exam results may not prevent children who are looked after from making the wrong life choices but having a flying start in life and a strong foundation in education will stand them in good stead for the demands of modern life. It will also help open up opportunities and inform better life choices.”

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Education

Teacher’s gruelling challenge to help visually impaired child

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TEACHER Sion Jenkins is running 100 laps around a famous Pembrokeshire landmark to raise money to help a visually impaired child in his class.

He is aiming to raise £2,000 on crowd funder platform Go Fund Me by doing laps of Carew Castle and Mill in just 24 hours, about one hundred miles in total.

Sion said: “I decided that I wanted to raise money to help purchase a trike/adapted bike to help a visually impaired child in my class.

“Due to his sight, he isn’t able to ride a bike – and is desperate to gain some independence/confidence and ride a bike like every other child.

“On the back of a challenge set by school, to complete the ‘100 challenge’ as a tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore, I decided to tie the two together and have a go at completing this gruelling challenge.

“100 laps of Carew Castle and Mill will total just under 100 miles – in less than 24 hours.”

If you would like to contribute to this epic challenge this is the link:

https://uk.gofundme.com/f/carew-mill-100-laps-in-24-hours?

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Education

Schools partnership promotes the benefits of outdoor learning

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OUTDOOR learning across the county has received a welcome boost over the past 12 months as a result of additional funding secured by the Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools (PODS) project, which has covered the cost of a Co-ordinator working directly with schools.

Thanks to financial backing from the People’s Postcode Local Trust and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust, the PODS Co-ordinator has been able to help with the delivery of high quality, curriculum-linked learning experiences in school grounds and local outdoor spaces.

Part of the Co-ordinator’s role is also to bring together local and national organisations, including Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Discovery team, teachers and head teachers. Pooling their diverse knowledge and expertise, the partnership seeks to share good practice and promote the benefits of taking lessons outdoors.

Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools Co-ordinator Bryony Rees said: “Last summer, the Welsh Government recognised the importance of outdoor learning in the post-lockdown return to school. We have been working hard to support this by giving children and teachers increased opportunities to take their learning outdoors.

“We have already engaged with a number of schools across Pembrokeshire and produced some live webinars. Supporting resources for these can be found on HWB. This has made it possible to reach out to even more schools with practical information, inspiration and advice on delivering outdoor learning programmes.

“Several schools have taken the opportunity to develop their school grounds to support outdoor learning and more recently, Neyland Community School has introduced outdoor lessons every Friday.”

During the most recent lockdown, work has continued online and the PODS website has been developed to provide teachers with some learning resources. Outdoor learning ideas and inspiration for teachers and parents are also shared on the PODS Facebook page (Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools) and on Twitter @PembsOutdoorSch.

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Education

Education announcement welcomed by Pembrokeshire County Council

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THE LOCAL AUTHORITY has said that it welcomes the Welsh Government’s announcement today (Friday, 29th January) that schools will be the first to reopen when Wales’ current lockdown restrictions are lifted.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that the ‘alert level four’ restrictions will remain in Wales for three more weeks but following that period, there would be a ‘phased and flexible back-to-school approach if coronavirus cases continue to fall’.

He said primary school children would be the first to return, if the public health situation continues to improve, and that students studying vocational qualifications would also be among those prioritised for the phased return to colleges.

Mr Drakeford said: “We’ve seen a really welcome fall in cases of the virus all over Wales, but they are still too high and the NHS continues to be under intense pressure.

“We need to keep the lockdown restrictions in place for a little while longer to help us bring rates of the virus down further. If we can do this, we will create the headroom we need to get children back to school after half term – starting with the youngest at primary schools.

“We will work with teachers, colleges, local authorities to plan for the safe return of children to school over the next couple of weeks and keep parents updated.”

Pembrokeshire’s Director of Education, Steven Richards-Downes, will be meeting virtually with Welsh Government ministers today together with other Education Directors.

Mr Richards-Downes said: “We welcome the Welsh Government’s statement that schools will be the first to reopen, whenever that may be.

“We will continue to work directly with unions, headteachers, governing bodies and other Council services to ensure that schools are Covid-safe when they are re-opened.

“Distance learning will continue for now and parents should contact their schools directly if they have any queries regarding this.”

He added: “Any parent experiencing difficulties with digital exclusion should contact their school directly.

Free school meals payments will continue to be paid to families who have applied for them, as planned. The next payments will be made on Thursday, 4th February.

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