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Education

Teaching union to ballot on strike action

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A LEADING teaching union has called for a ballot for its members to consider strike action. The National Union of Teachers (NUT), at its annual conference in Harrogate, have said that they fear that a gap in school funding in England and Wales is so severe that it could leave one in ten teachers facing redundancy. Head teachers have reported to the union that their budgets are being squeezed as a result of the rising cost of pensions, NI contributions and pay.

The union said it will hold a ballot after the election. NUT executive member, Ian Murch, said: “We have not seen cuts like this in a generation and lots of members will be looking at losing their jobs. It’s too late for most schools to do much cutting this September. So early next year, across England and Wales as employers face up to the financial realities, there will be a ‘night of the long knives’ in every school and every college as teachers are cut, support staff are cut, courses and programmes are cut, and the focus will be how can we raise class sizes, how can we provide less provision for special needs.”

Owen Hathway, NUT Wales Policy Officer, also added his concerns for schools under Welsh Assembly control, saying: “We know that funding has historically been lower per pupil in Wales than in England. That has hampered the abilities of schools and teachers to ensure that their dedication, and the dedication of pupils and parents across Wales, is supported in the way it should be. Over the past few years we have seen some real progress in standards but that will be put at risk with the financial claw backs we are experiencing.

Quite simply, school budgets are at breaking point and we cannot accept that situation continuing.” Dr. Philip Dixon, Director of ATL Cymru had this to say: “The quality of education will suffer if staffing numbers are decimated. In Wales further cuts will exacerbate an already fraught situation where schools have been chronically underfunded by the Welsh Government for over a decade. All politicians need to accept that you can’t do education on the cheap.’

Lib Dems education spokesman David Laws, was keen to point out his party’s position, stating: “You can’t raise standards; recruit great teachers, and help every child reach their full potential if schools are starved of cash. We will protect the full education budget in real terms – including schools, early years and 16-19 education.” A Conservative spokesman said: “The NUT leadership’s irresponsible decision to agitate for further strike action shows just how out of touch they are with parents and children across the country. We have had to make difficult decisions to tackle the record deficit we inherited, but we have protected spending on schools in real terms and spending per pupil has gone up over the course of this Parliament.”

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Education

Teacher’s gruelling challenge to help visually impaired child

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TEACHER Sion Jenkins is running 100 laps around a famous Pembrokeshire landmark to raise money to help a visually impaired child in his class.

He is aiming to raise £2,000 on crowd funder platform Go Fund Me by doing laps of Carew Castle and Mill in just 24 hours, about one hundred miles in total.

Sion said: “I decided that I wanted to raise money to help purchase a trike/adapted bike to help a visually impaired child in my class.

“Due to his sight, he isn’t able to ride a bike – and is desperate to gain some independence/confidence and ride a bike like every other child.

“On the back of a challenge set by school, to complete the ‘100 challenge’ as a tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore, I decided to tie the two together and have a go at completing this gruelling challenge.

“100 laps of Carew Castle and Mill will total just under 100 miles – in less than 24 hours.”

If you would like to contribute to this epic challenge this is the link:

https://uk.gofundme.com/f/carew-mill-100-laps-in-24-hours?

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Education

Schools partnership promotes the benefits of outdoor learning

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OUTDOOR learning across the county has received a welcome boost over the past 12 months as a result of additional funding secured by the Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools (PODS) project, which has covered the cost of a Co-ordinator working directly with schools.

Thanks to financial backing from the People’s Postcode Local Trust and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Trust, the PODS Co-ordinator has been able to help with the delivery of high quality, curriculum-linked learning experiences in school grounds and local outdoor spaces.

Part of the Co-ordinator’s role is also to bring together local and national organisations, including Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Discovery team, teachers and head teachers. Pooling their diverse knowledge and expertise, the partnership seeks to share good practice and promote the benefits of taking lessons outdoors.

Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools Co-ordinator Bryony Rees said: “Last summer, the Welsh Government recognised the importance of outdoor learning in the post-lockdown return to school. We have been working hard to support this by giving children and teachers increased opportunities to take their learning outdoors.

“We have already engaged with a number of schools across Pembrokeshire and produced some live webinars. Supporting resources for these can be found on HWB. This has made it possible to reach out to even more schools with practical information, inspiration and advice on delivering outdoor learning programmes.

“Several schools have taken the opportunity to develop their school grounds to support outdoor learning and more recently, Neyland Community School has introduced outdoor lessons every Friday.”

During the most recent lockdown, work has continued online and the PODS website has been developed to provide teachers with some learning resources. Outdoor learning ideas and inspiration for teachers and parents are also shared on the PODS Facebook page (Pembrokeshire Outdoor Schools) and on Twitter @PembsOutdoorSch.

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Education

Education announcement welcomed by Pembrokeshire County Council

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THE LOCAL AUTHORITY has said that it welcomes the Welsh Government’s announcement today (Friday, 29th January) that schools will be the first to reopen when Wales’ current lockdown restrictions are lifted.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that the ‘alert level four’ restrictions will remain in Wales for three more weeks but following that period, there would be a ‘phased and flexible back-to-school approach if coronavirus cases continue to fall’.

He said primary school children would be the first to return, if the public health situation continues to improve, and that students studying vocational qualifications would also be among those prioritised for the phased return to colleges.

Mr Drakeford said: “We’ve seen a really welcome fall in cases of the virus all over Wales, but they are still too high and the NHS continues to be under intense pressure.

“We need to keep the lockdown restrictions in place for a little while longer to help us bring rates of the virus down further. If we can do this, we will create the headroom we need to get children back to school after half term – starting with the youngest at primary schools.

“We will work with teachers, colleges, local authorities to plan for the safe return of children to school over the next couple of weeks and keep parents updated.”

Pembrokeshire’s Director of Education, Steven Richards-Downes, will be meeting virtually with Welsh Government ministers today together with other Education Directors.

Mr Richards-Downes said: “We welcome the Welsh Government’s statement that schools will be the first to reopen, whenever that may be.

“We will continue to work directly with unions, headteachers, governing bodies and other Council services to ensure that schools are Covid-safe when they are re-opened.

“Distance learning will continue for now and parents should contact their schools directly if they have any queries regarding this.”

He added: “Any parent experiencing difficulties with digital exclusion should contact their school directly.

Free school meals payments will continue to be paid to families who have applied for them, as planned. The next payments will be made on Thursday, 4th February.

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