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Time period for penalty notices scrapped

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PH270516_Page_06_Image_0002PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has agreed to changes in the way it will issue penalty notices for low school attendance.

The Council had intended to use a 12-week rolling period but after consultation it was agreed that the council should not proceed with the idea because of the burden placed on schools.

At the Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday (May 23), Councillors agreed that a notice would be issued if a pupil’s attendance dropped below 90% in the school year.

Cabinet Member for Education and Safeguarding, Cllr Sue Perkins said: “We’re obliged under Welsh Government regulations to administer penalty notices and this report simplifies and clarifies the criteria under which the penalty notices might be considered.

“There are a range of views about the use of penalty notices and a fair degree of opposition to the policy as a whole, however it is the law in Wales and we are expected to implement it.

“In Pembrokeshire, we will base every decision we make on penalty notices on the circumstances of each individual case and we will not operate a blanket policy.

“We must acknowledge that school attendance is crucially important to children’s achievement as the data shows.

“The penalty notices are an option in some cases where we think that the child’s educational prospects are suffering because of excessive and unauthorised absence from school.”

Head of Performance & Community, Mr James White added: “The penalty notices are an option to be used in some circumstances but it’s part of the tool kit around attendance and it is far from being the only thing that we do.

“We have six pupil support officers working on the attendance agenda with our schools and the penalty notice workload would be less than half of one of those posts so it is a small fraction of the resource that we put into this.

“If the standard of teaching is good and the educational offer is good then the attendance will almost certainly be good and that is probably the key message.”

Cllr Adams asked about the relevance of a recent court case in England but James White added: “There are two issues which make the high court judgement, I think, not so relevant in Wales.

“One of which is, education is devolved in Wales and there is a different policy framework around it although the high court does have jurisdiction over England and Wales.

“The second point is, in England they take the view that any term time holiday absence, they will take action against it whereas in Wales we take the view that action could be taken if it takes a child’s attendance below 90%.

“In Wales, we have a view that a moderate amount of absence during term time can be authorised by head teachers if they think it’s not going to damage the child’s education prospects.”

Cllr Huw George said: “The issue of these notices is the last resort, are we doing everything we can to make sure that the school/home agreement is clear for parents that they have buy-in and they understand from the beginning because otherwise schools are being looked at in a negative light and that’s not fair because schools are there to educate and I welcome the last proposal where we take away ‘holiday in term time’.

“It’s not about holidays it’s about attendance in school.”

James White added: “We’ve issued 26 penalty notices so far which I think demonstrates that we’re not trigger happy about this and we consider cases on their merits and we do it were we feel the point needs to be made.

“Other authorities have gone well into three figures on this and that shows we are being reasonably sparing in our application of this.”

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COVID-19 tests being encouraged for wider range of symptoms

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PEOPLE living in Pembrokeshire are being encouraged to have a free COVID-19 test if they have a wider range of symptoms.

Previously, only those with either a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss/change of taste and smell, were advised to seek a test. The health board is now also encouraging people to have a test if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Flu-like symptoms, including myalgia (muscle ache or pain); excessive tiredness; persistent headache; runny nose or blocked nose; persistent sneezing; sore throat and/or hoarseness, shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Generally feeling unwell and a history of being in contact with a known COVID-19 case
  • Any new or change in symptoms following a previous negative test

The change aims to find hidden COVID-19 cases in our communities and drive down the numbers of onward transmissions.

Identifying infections, which could otherwise go undetected, is particularly important as new variants of the virus emerge. The more tests carried out, the easier it will be to spot early clusters of cases and possible virus mutations. This will help with easing restrictions in the future.

The new testing regime will initially run for at least 28 days and will then be reviewed. Swansea Bay University Health Board is also expanding its offer of testing in this way.

Alison Shakeshaft, Director of Therapies and Health Science at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “Overall, we are seeing a positive picture across the three counties and there has been a steady fall in the number of COVID-19 cases.

“Also, the demand for tests has come down considerably since the end of 2020, so we have capacity to expand the offer of testing to those with a wider range of symptoms.

“We know the wider group of symptoms do occur in COVID-19 but are not reported as often as the ‘classic three’ symptoms. With the very low rates of flu circulating at the moment, it is more likely that wider flu-like symptoms are due to COVID-19.

“Our aim is to find as many COVID-19 cases as possible so we can prevent the virus being passed on to others. We want to do everything we can to help bring the pandemic to a close as fast as possible and help restrictions to be lifted.”

If you have any of the symptoms outlined above, please stay at home and get a test by booking online via the UK portal https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or ringing 119.

As these are national contacts, you may automatically be asked about the ‘classic three’ symptoms. However, to book your test simply choose either one of these options: “You have been asked to take a test by your local council” or “You are part of a government pilot project”.

Once you have had your test, you must continue to self-isolate until you receive your result, which will usually be within 24 hours of the test. If your result is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the date your symptoms started. You will also be contacted by the local Tracing Team.

If your result is negative, you can end your self-isolation, when you feel well enough to do so.

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Dale Morgan charged with murder of Judith Rhead, police confirm

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DYFED POWYS POLICE have charged a man in connection with the alleged murder of 68 year old Judith Rhead who was found dead in her home in Market Street, Pembroke Dock on Saturday (Feb 20).

Dale Morgan, 43, will appear at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court today by video link.

Dale Morgan, in court today

A spokesman for the force said: “Dyfed-Powys Police can confirm that Dale Morgan, aged 43, has been charged with the murder of Judith Rhead, aged 68, who was found in a property in Market Street, Pembroke Dock.

“He is due to appear before Llanelli Magistrates’ Court today (Thursday, 25 February).”

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Judith Rhead murder investigation – Detectives given more time to question suspect

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POLICE have been given more time to question a 43-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murder.

The man has been in police custody since Saturday night, after being arrested over the death 68-year-old Judith Rhead.

She was found in a residential property in Market Street.

The police now have until Thursday afternoon (Feb 25) to question the suspect.

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