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Uncertainty over school closures

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county hallPembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet took the decision on Monday (January 13th) to undertake a review of secondary education provision in Haverfordwest.

A report will be re-submitted to Cabinet in Spring 2014 that will outline options and recommendations that could ultimately decide the future of the two Haverfordwest secondary schools. This comes after a report was commissioned in June of last year. The report’s findings may make for alarming reading for parents, teachers and governors alike.

According to the “School Organisation Matrix – Secondary Schools” report, both schools scored low in the following criteria: quality and future sustainability of education provision; sufficiency and accessibility of school places; the condition, suitability and standard of school buildings and value for money.

These findings were the catalyst to Cabinet discussing the need for approval for a further detailed review of secondary education, and the future of the two schools. Options that are being considered, which include maintaining the status quo, also, alarmingly, cite the possibilities of either a merger or even closure. In addition, being considered are changes to designation that might include age, language or faith.

The Council published the following proposition, “A review of provision should be undertaken prior to moving to preliminary consultation, to ensure that consultation proposals:

• Are prepared at a formative stage, with all relevant options included.

• Include sufficient reasons and information for the proposal to enable intelligent consideration and response.

• Give a detailed description of the status quo setting out its strengths and weaknesses and the rationale for change.

• Provide a timeline for each option in the proposal in respect of informal and statutory consultation and implementation.

• Benefits and advantages analysis of the proposals.

• Information on learner travel arrangements.

• Community impact assessment and equalities impact assessment.”

The Council states that the objectives for any review are designed to, ‘drive up standards of teaching and attainment in all schools, to improve educational outcomes for children and young people in all phases, to ensure value for money, to ensure buildings are fit for the future delivery of high standards of education and to help narrow the inequalities in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged areas, groups and individuals’.

Anxious parents and teachers will hope the Council looks favourably on the standards in both schools as well as seeing value for money. Either way, the community impact could be devastating if any changes are made to the continued provision of education by both schools.

The future of Thomas Picton and Taskers coincides with another review taking place that is assessing the fate of another Pembrokeshire School, Templeton CP.

This has come about, again, from the School Organisation Matrix. In a report the conclusions, amongst other things, stated that standards of education in the school have declined since the school’s Estyn inspection in 2009. It also said that the level of spaces in the Templeton and Stepaside areas are a cause for concern in relation to meeting Welsh Government targets and, ultimately, that the catchment areas of the schools should be revised as a means of re-balancing the sufficiency of pupil places in the area.

As a result, the following options are being considered in relation to the school’s fate: extending the age range of the school to accept part time three year olds, establish federation with either Narberth CP school or Tavernspite CP school, the closure of the school or, a change of status of either Templeton CP or Narberth CP Schools to a Welsh Medium school.

Parents will wait anxiously to find out what happens as a result of Cabinet approval, that the Director for Children and Schools undertake a review of educational provision at the school.

 

 

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Community

Consider the benefits of living in a community-led housing scheme

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NO one could have missed the Extinction Rebellion protests around the world in recent months, but a little-known low-impact eco-community in Pembrokeshire is also working hard to spread the sustainability message.

The Brithdir Mawr community grow their own food, generate their own electricity and provide low cost rented housing, as well as sharing ideas, resources and skills with people who want to learn more.

More than 100 people have lived there over the past quarter of a century and the current residents have an innovative way of living.

One such resident is Lea Trainer. He moved here a few months ago and feels the move has changed his family’s life for the better after he left his job as a project manager in London: “My wife Kirsty and children Brianna and Frankie have been here since June but the community has been around for more than 25 years. My wife brought the children here last year for an educational trip and they were texting me about birds and insect-spotting and I had a bit of an epiphany.

“Our life is incomparable to before. We now live a lower impact life and have reduced our footprint on the Earth. I’m learning all the time about nature, renewable energy. It’s fantastic to be part of a community contributing towards the development of a regenerative culture, farming using organic methods and preserving and increasing biodiversity.

Living at Brithdir Mawr has also brought personal benefits to Lea: “Now I can spend quality time with my children and my wife. I’ve already noticed a real difference in the children. They have really developed their personalities and freedom of expression. They know much more about nature and have really come out of their shells in the time that we’ve been here.”

“Each day is different here. We do all meet as a community at 11 for coffee and then again for dinner. Some people have part-time jobs, others will tend to the garden and our children are home-schooled. We have a community day each week where we do activities together, like apple-picking.”

Brithdir Mawr is being supported by the Wales Co-operative Centre, which has been supporting and championing the growth of co-operative and community-led housing since 2012. In April this year, it launched its Communities Creating Homes programme which aims to stimulate demand for community-led housing throughout Wales. The programme is funded by the Nationwide Foundation and Welsh Government.

With more than 30 schemes already in place across Wales, communities can be created for various purposes and shared visions. Where some schemes have been created to make housing more affordable for residents, others have been developed for people who want improved eco-friendly lifestyles.

Meanwhile, Brithdir Mawr community is planning for the future. It has been there for 25 years but wants to make sure it’ll be there for future generations and continue the message of sustainability by purchasing the lease for the 80-acre site. The residents have launched a crowdfunding campaign to try and raise funds to buy the land they live on and are hoping to raise £1million to purchase the site.

Go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-brithdir-mawr for more information and how you can support Brithdir Mawr. Visit https://wales.coop/co-operative-community-led-housing/ for more information on community-led housing schemes and how they work.

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News

Firefighters tackle blaze at St Clears

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A FIRE broke out in a commercial garage at Lower St Clears this morning (Monday).

Firefighters were called to the fire in Bridge Street at around 8.18am. Crews from Carmarthen, Whitland, Tenby, Crymych and Pembroke Dock attended to tackle the blaze.

A spokesperson for the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Firefighters extinguished the fire using four breathing apparatus, two hose reel jets, two thermal imaging cameras and one safety jet. Two environmental kits and small gear were also used by crews during the incident.

“The police, ambulance service and Western Power were also in attendance. The fire service left the incident at 11.33am.”

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News

Haverfordwest man accused of robbing a teenage boy

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A HAVERFORDWEST man is to stand trial accused of trying to rob a 13-year-old boy.

Ry Robert Williams, aged 27, was before Judge Keith Thomas at Swansea Crown Court today via a video link with the city’s prison where he is being held on remand.

Williams, of Peregrine Close, denied attempting to rob the youth of an unspecified amount of money on July 5. Judge Thomas said on Friday (Nov 15) that his trial would begin on January 30 and Williams was further remanded in custody.

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