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Education

AM backs Milford Haven School’s ‘Challenge Cymru’

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A LOCAL Assembly Member, Rebecca Evans, has backed Milford Haven School in Pembrokeshire after it was announced that it would be part of the Schools Challenge Cymru programme announced by the Welsh Labour Government this week.

Called ‘Pathways to Success Schools,’ Education and Skills Minister Huw Lewis announced that Milford Haven School is one of forty secondary schools benefiting from the Welsh Labour Government’s multi-million pound improvement programme to increase performance in Welsh schools.

Schools have been chosen using a range of performance data and information that reflect the challenges they face in terms of their circumstances and stage of development. They have been also been chosen because they have the potential to deliver swift and positive improvements for learners.

Working with their own Schools Challenge Cymru advisor, each Pathways to Success School will be given the opportunity to access proven expertise to deliver a package of support that is individually tailored to meet each school’s needs and the needs of their learners. The programme will be backed by around £20 million of Welsh Government funding.

The programme will also provide targeted support to participant schools cluster primaries in order to address challenges at the earliest opportunity and improve transition between these key stages of education.

Mrs Evans said:

“I wish Milford Haven School all the best as it takes part in the Schools Challenge Cymru programme.

“I hope that the substantial amount of targeted support that the school will receive will help to take the school to the next level in terms of what it offers pupils and how it supports them to achieve their full potential. This is a very exciting time for the school.

“The Welsh Labour Government is committed to raising standards across the board in our education system and the Schools Challenge Cymru programme is part of that.”

Making the announcement Welsh Labour Education Minister Huw Lewis said:

“Today is a landmark day for Wales as we announce the forty schools which are going to be taking part in our Challenge.

“This programme will help raise achievement at schools who will get the support and challenge they need to take the next steps in their school improvement journey.

“I’ve made no secret of my desire for a relentless focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning here in Wales. These schools have been chosen as we believe they have the potential to make swift and lasting improvements which will benefit learners in the short term and long into the future.

“What we’re doing here in Wales is really special. We’ve learned from the most successful parts of the London and Manchester Challenges and delivered something specifically tailored for our young people in Wales.

“We must drive up educational standards in Wales for all our learners, raising levels of literacy and numeracy and, in so doing, breaking the link between educational attainment and poverty.

“Today’s announcement is a major step forward in making that happen.”

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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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Community

Education Chief to leave Council

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IAN WESTLEY, Chief Executive of Pembrokeshire County Council, announced to staff and Members on Wednesday (Dec 11) that Kate Evan-Hughes, the Director for Children and Schools, will be leaving the Authority at the end of January, 2020.

She is taking up an appointment as Strategic Director with a local authority in England.

Interim arrangements have been discussed with the Leader of the Council, David Simpson, and the Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, Guy Woodham.

Following Kate’s departure Steven Richards-Downes will act up as Chief Education Officer and James White will undertake the duties of deputy.

Discussions about permanent arrangements will begin in the New Year.

Mr Westley said he wished Kate all the very best as she embarks on the next phase of her career.

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