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Pembroke Dock: Future uncertain for Catholic primary school

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THE HERALD understands that the governing body of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Pembroke Dock, is commencing a period of consultation on the future of the school. It has consulted with the trustees of the Diocese of Menevia on the governing body’s proposal to close the school permanently from April 2019 and has received their agreement to take the next steps in this process.

Parents were outside the school gates on Wednesday to demand answers, and say they are organising a meeting at the school on Friday (Sep 28)

The governers released a statement which reads: “As the school is a voluntary aided school, the proposal to consider it for closure has to be agreed by the GB and the trustees of the Diocese. However, the governing body has asked the Local Authority to provide support from officers to ensure that the requirements of the statutory consultation process are met and this will be discussed at the next meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council on October 11.

“The next stage of the process is the publishing of a consultation document with detailed information on the school which will be widely available and comments will be invited from members of the public and organisations including the Diocese and Local Authority. These comments will be considered by the GB prior to it making a final decision on the school’s future.”

A spokesperson commented “The decision has been made with great sadness, but it was felt to be the only one left to governors for a variety of reasons.

“There has been a dramatic fall in the school’s roll in recent years and we now have only 32 full time pupils at the school.

“There has been a significant drop in Catholic baptisms in the local area, reducing demand for places and the low numbers have called into question the financial viability of the school.”

A spokesperson for the Diocesan Director of Education commented “The Trustees of the Diocese of Menevia have accepted the GB’s decision with a heavy heart, and has urged all parties to work together to ensure continuity of access to Catholic education for any child whose parent desires it.

“The governing body will work towards this with the Diocese and Local Authority and to safeguard so far as possible, the employment of all those members of staff affected.”

The GB has been assured that there is sufficient capacity in other local schools to secure alternative places for the school’s pupils.

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Cleddau Bridge Hotel fire started deliberately

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A RESPONSE to a Freedom of Information Act request made by Llanion councillor Joshua Beynon reveals that the fire which devastated the Cleddau Bridge Hotel on March 30 this year was arson.

The blaze followed a protracted period during which the hotel had been empty following the refusal of a planning application for change of use to residential accommodation.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that investigators have now concluded the fire investigation regarding the fire that took place at the Cleddau Bridge Hotel on March 30, 2019.

“The investigation determined that the fire was started deliberately, and all relevant information has duly been passed on to Dyfed Powys Police.”

The Herald has asked Dyfed Powys Police to comment on the progress of its investigation.

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No prosecutions in Pembroke Dock grant fraud allegations

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MORE than five years since allegations of impropriety in publicly-funded building restoration grants were taken up by the police, the local force tells Pembrokeshire County Council chief executive, Ian Westley, in a letter circulated to councillors: “The Crown Prosecution Service has determined that there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against any of the suspects.”

More details to follow – the matter will also be discussed at this Thursday’s full council meeting.

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Fishguard school last in Wales without broadband

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CHILDREN in a school in Fishguard are excited about next term before the summer holidays have even begun.

Ysgol Llanychllwydog is the last school in Wales without broadband.

The pupils sometimes have to wait half an hour for pages to load. Sometimes videos won’t play. Now the school is looking forward to an ultra-fast future, and for the head teacher the changes cannot come quickly enough.

Currently when the internet goes down Amanda Lawrence has to drive 10 minutes to her other school to send an email to report it.

“It’s frustrating. There are lots of schools that are able to use schemes where you can plan electronically, but it’s difficult for staff here to do that,” she said.

As part of a scheme to target hard-to-reach places, fibre optic cable is being laid along a 15-mile route from Haverfordwest.

Matt Lovegrove, who works for Openreach, admitted it had been ‘a massive challenge’.

He said: “We’ve had to plough 1.5 miles of new trench to put new duct in, we’ve had to put new poles and had to span the cable between 50 poles as well, so a real variety of challenges.

“The product is limitless in terms of speed. It’s gigabit capable, that means they can download music, interactive learning et cetera, and it will be instant for them.”

The wider community will also benefit from the upgrade, he said. “We are looking to work with local government and residents to expand that fibre footprint to as much of the village as possible.”

“They’ll be able to access the high speed broadband and again get all the benefits from that.”

The last school in Wales without broadband

Broadband is a Welsh Government priority. It’s invested £13.8m in school broadband.

But Llanarchllwydog has been a tough nut. It’s taken the efforts of Welsh and UK governments to bring broadband.

“Because of the challenging topography, that we are familiar with, it has taken rather a long time to make sure that every school is equipped with the broadband speeds that they need,” said Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams.

“This means that schools will have the external infrastructure that they need to deliver our exciting new curriculum and I hope to be making an announcement shortly on further investment on kit and equipment inside schools.”

The work is being done through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity programme.

DCMS minister Margot James MP agrees cooperation between the two governments has helped deliver the project.

“That’s not the end of it for Wales,” Ms James said.

“The other aspects of the rural gigabit connectivity programme is that we are using that £200 million to bring full fibre to local public buildings like hospitals and schools so that they get the gigabit connectivity first.”

The cable has now reached the telegraph post outside the school. The final work will happen over summer.

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