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Local authority misleads pupils

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THE HERALD has seen a letter from the Council’s education department regarding its eleventh hour cancellation of a meeting between Kate Evans-Hughes, the local authority’s recently appointed Director of Education, and the School Councils of Tasker-Milward and Sir Thomas Picton School.

Ms Evans-Hughes, whose conduct during the consultation has been the subject of complaints to the local authority, cancelled a meeting with members of the schools’ pupil bodies due to take place on March 15 and Prendergast Archives Centre.

While school students were disappointed at the late cancellation of the meeting and the thwarting of their chance to let their views be known to the person with ultimate responsibility for ignoring them, the content of the communication to the schools telling them of the cancellation has raised yet more questions about the Council’s cavalier approach to its legal responsibilities.

The letter, signed by Huw Jones, Professional Officer, Planning Places & Admissions at County Hall, states that. ‘It is considered that there is little purpose in holding further specific events to ascertain the views of pupils on the Council’s proposals for Haverfordwest, particularly as we already have sufficient evidence of their views from previous proposals’.

However, that letter represents either a deliberate or negligent omission of one salient fact that appears at the head of every page of the Council’s current and ongoing consultation; namely, ‘Please note: this consultation supersedes all previous statutory consultation undertaken in relation to secondary school reorganisation in Haverfordwest. Responses previous consultations will not be reconsidered’.

In other words the Council, is telling students it has no need to consult with them because it has their previous responses which it will not consider.

The apparent complete contempt for the views of students is as nothing, however, with the very clear contempt that the Council has for the Code it is supposed to be following in relation to ascertaining pupils’ views. Those rules provide that Pembrokeshire County Council MUST make suitable arrangements to consult with pupils of any affected school… and, where possible, with children and young people who are likely to attend those schools.

As a minimum, this must include consultation with the school councils of the affected schools, but should also include consultation with individual learners where this is appropriate and practicable. Governing bodies must help facilitate this aspect of the consultation’.

At the very least, the letter from the Council to head teachers about the consultation with pupils is a gross misstatement of the position with the potential to mislead pupils that their responses are no longer required. At the very worst, the letter from the Council to head teachers about the consultation with pupils is a deliberate attempt to mislead both pupils and schools as to the terms of the consultation and pupils’ participation in it.

In either the event the breach of Code is clear and, should the Council elect to proceed with the consultation in spite of the breach, it lays itself open to a legal challenge on the basis of that breach.

The Herald invited a comment from the Director of Education and/or the Head of Legal Services asking for clarification of how the Council is able to reconcile Huw Jones’s email with either the content of the Code or the content of its own consultation document.

A spokesperson told us: ‘In accordance with the School Organisation Code, the Council has made suitable arrangements to consult with pupils, and the School Councils of all affected schools have been invited to respond to the current consultation on the proposal to reorganise secondary education provision in Haverfordwest. There is, however, no requirement to hold consultation meetings.

‘All responses from previous consultations have been declared null and void and will not form part of any evidence presented to Council.

‘The Council is committed to securing the views of all stakeholders and their responses will be included when the Consultation Report is considered by Council. This will clearly show whether young people have engaged in the process’.

We responded and pointed out that the response completely ignored the fact the letter said the Council did not need to meet with pupils as it already knew what their views were from previous consultations, even though it now said it would disregard them in ongoing exercise.

We received no reply.

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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