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Milford Haven: Primary schools consider shutting at 12:15pm on Fridays

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PARENTS with pupils in many primary schools in Milford Haven have been told that a consultation is underway to see schools shut at 12:15pm on Fridays.

Already, parents have voiced concerns about the plans, which will see break times and lunch times shortened and lessons crammed into a longer school day on Monday to Thursday, with classes starting ten minutes earlier in the mornings.

One mother has told this newspaper that the earlier start and shorter rest times could affect children’s concentration and ability to learn in the afternoons.

A letter sent to parents in St Francis RC Primary School on Monday (Feb 18) states that the new timings are “an exciting time of change, and the shape of the New Curriculum for Wales.

The school says that the earlier finish time of a Friday “would enable pupils, parents and staff to benefit from improved wellbeing through increased family time”.

The school added that there would also be opportunities to benefit from long weekends to spend time with friends, or to engage in sport, hobbies or informal learning. It would also “further support parents who work in and run local businesses and mirror the flexibility in shift patterns shown by major employers in the local area e.g. the nine-day fortnight.”

But Tim Pratt, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru says that it is an insufficiency of funding to Welsh schools is “likely to cause situations where some schools may decide to close early.”

There is currently a funding crisis in primary education in Wales and it is hard to think that a lack of money is not the reason for this change.

The proposed changes mean that staff training or inset time would increase from 23 hours per year to 61 hours a year.

Due to reduced play time and lunch breaks children’s teaching time would not be reduced.

SOUTH PEMBROKESHIRE

Pembroke Dock Community School and Ysgol Harri Tudur have both started closing early on Friday afternoons.

Ysgol Harr Tudur, a high school with around 1,500 pupils in Pembroke Dock, is open from 8.40am to 3.15pm Monday to Thursday. On Friday it shuts early with school running from 8.40am and stopping “formal learning” at 1.30pm.

It says on its website: “Our new school day includes an early finish on Fridays to allow for an extensive programme of pupil enrichment activities, whilst also enabling professional development time to support teachers.”

Pembroke Dock Community School opens at 08:45 on Fridays and shuts at 12:15pm on Fridays or 12:45pm for pupils staying for lunch.

The rest of the week it opens 8.45am with the school day ending at 3.15pm for early years and reception, 3.20pm for years one and two and 3.25pm for years three and up.

THE LEGAL ASPECT

Schools wanting to change opening and closing times must abide with the Changing of School Session Times (Wales) Regulations 2009, which includes a full consultation with, amongst others, staff, parents and the local authority.

Pembroke Dock Community School, consulted on shutting early in spring 2018. The local education authority said the main reason it gave at the time was: “To allow for additional time for staff training.”

The school added in its consultation letter: “This additional training time for staff would allow us to further upskill all staff in order to develop them into the best skilled workforce, with the aim to further improve teaching and learning for all the pupils…
“…an earlier finish time on a Friday would also enable pupils, parents and staff to benefit from improved wellbeing through increased family time. There would also be opportunities to benefit from long weekends to spend time with friends or engage with sport, hobbies and informal learning.
“It would further support our parents who run and work in local businesses and mirror the flexibility in shift patterns shown by major employers in the local area”.

There is no reference to cost saving in any of the school’s consultation correspondence but the time away from formal teaching would mean teachers had statutory time away from their classes in the week to prepare lessons. Otherwise this time out is funded by teaching assistants covering their lessons.

A Pembrokeshire County Councils spokesman told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “We are aware that similar proposals are being considered elsewhere in Pembrokeshire, notably in the Milford Haven area.
“On the basis of consultation correspondence received to date, cost savings do not appear as reasons for the proposed changes.”

Tim Pratt, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, said he could not comment on schools shutting early in Pembrokeshire: “It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the decision of an individual school to close early because we don’t know the circumstances.
“However, in general, the insufficiency of funding to Welsh schools is likely to cause situations where some schools may decide to close early.
“This saves a small amount of money in terms of keeping premises open, and it means that with constrained staffing levels, schools are still able to allocate time for planning, preparation and assessment.
“The public can rest assured that schools will always take decisions in the best interests of their students and staff despite the very difficult funding conditions. But it is absolutely vital that the level of funding is improved as a matter of urgency.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “This is a decision for schools and governing bodies.
“Schools must fully consult before making any changes, ensuring that the number of teaching hours are not being compromised and that the curriculum is being delivered in its entirety.”

Business

Castell Howell Foods highlights sector concerns over Covid recovery

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THE HOSPITALITY sector may be opening up, but transport and supply issues are hampering the industry’s recovery – according to Castell Howell Foods.

One of the UK’s largest independent food wholesalers, Castell Howell, has taken the step of contacting customers to highlight the significant challenges faced by the sector as it recovers from the pandemic.

While there is relief at easing lockdown and optimism for a busy summer with bookings for UK ‘staycations’ and leisure activities, pressing issues remain.

Shortages of key staff and problems faced by some suppliers have resulted in the Welsh wholesaler being forced to make some “uncomfortable” decisions and changes to its operation, including having to pass on some supply chain price increases.

In particular, a shortage of qualified delivery drivers has meant the Cross Hands based business has had to be resourceful to maintain its delivery frequency to its customers. To help bridge the gap in the short term, other Castell Howell staff who hold an HGV licence have been temporarily redeployed to the transport department. Among them are area sales managers.

Castell Howell Sales Director, Kathryn Jones, said “Unfortunately, due to the drastic reduction in sales in 2020, our workforce decreased by over 100 colleagues. Whilst we now need most to return to the workplace, many have found alternative employment; this is a common theme across the supply chain.

“We have been actively advertising and recruiting for several months. However, as highlighted in the press, there are over 75,000 vacancies across the UK for HGV drivers alone.

“We too are currently short of drivers, especially Class 2 HGV. Driving a multi-drop vehicle for Castell Howell is a very different proposition to driving a limited drop schedule. Consequently, as you can imagine, it has been challenging to fill these vacancies.”
Stock availability is also an issue, as some suppliers struggle to manufacture under new social distancing rules. Delivery to Castell Howell from suppliers is also being affected by the UK-wide shortage of haulage drivers.

Kathryn Jones said, “To build up buffer stocks, we are increasing our volume of orders, especially for commodity lines. We aim to mitigate future stock shortages the best we can. We are constantly seeking substitute products from manufacturers who have the capacity to deliver. However, this is becoming increasingly more difficult.”

Castell Howell has made changes to its ordering process to improve its own deliveries, with earlier cut-off times.

“These changes go against the grain and were extremely difficult decisions to take. However, it is imperative to implement these in order to continue operating under these difficult circumstances whilst still maintaining a high level of service. We are very grateful to our customers for their support, patience and understanding.”

For Castell Howell, the difficulties arising from the pandemic were exacerbated by the loss of business with SA Brain & Co. This loss occurred following the Welsh company’s deal with brewery giant Marston’s to operate SA Brains pubs from January 2021.

Before that date, Castell Howell had been the sole supplier to SA Brain since 2008, including supplying 80 of the Welsh brewery’s managed public houses.

Kathryn Jones said, “However, despite the challenges in the supply chain and deliveries, we remain optimistic that the sector in the UK will work together to navigate through these unprecedented times and have a successful summer.”

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Port boss: Pembroke Dock development full permission an ‘important step’

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THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE of the Port of Milford Haven has welcomed a decision of “non-intervention” by the Welsh Government over plans to re-vamp Pembroke Dock’s historic port facilities.

The redevelopment scheme, approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Planning Committee in May, will see some areas such as a dock covered with sand and “infilled”.

Plans also include the demolishing of some buildings, erection of buildings and ancillary works.
Despite planning being granted at council level, full authorisation to go ahead with the development was not to be issued until the Welsh Government made its decision regards the matter.

More about the planning application can be read here: https://www.herald.wales/west-wales/pembrokeshire/major-marine-project-causes-concern-about-visual-impact-and-heritage-loss/

Now that the Welsh Government has decided not to interfere with Pembrokeshire County Council’s grant of planning permission, the Port’s boss, Andy Jones, expressed his delight, saying: “This marks an important step forward in the development of Wales’ clean energy centre at Pembroke Dock.

“It will provide sustainable opportunities for the many people who rely on the activity along the Milford Haven Waterway for employment.

CEO: Port Authority’s Andy Jones (Pic MHPA)

“Pembroke Dock Marine will unlock new opportunities for young people to enter the maritime, renewable and engineering sectors, build resilience within Pembrokeshire’s business community, and make a positive contribution to our natural environment as we transition to a low carbon energy generation.”

Tim James, head of commercial and energy at the Port of Milford Haven called the project a “once in a generation opportunity to improve Pembrokeshire’s economy for years to come”.

Objectors had complained that the plans were too large and would damage the historic dockyard, as well as having a visual impact on the dock.

The was opposition from local heritage campaigners, with complaints over the size of two huge proposed hangars which the project’s critics said would impact adversely the landscape.

The economic benefits of the £60 million marine energy “far outweigh” any impact on the historic environment, a report earlier this year to council planners said.

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Medical evacuation from LPG tanker off St Ann’s Head

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ANGLE Lifeboat was launched on service at 12:59pm on Thursday afternoon (Jun 10) to assist in a medical evacuation from a LPG tanker 13 miles SSW off St Ann’s Head.

The coastguard helicopter from Newquay in Cornwall was also on route. With the poor visibility due to fog, Angle all-weather lifeboat was to stand by the vessel to provide an alternative route for evacuation if needed.

After a choppy route in the poor visibility the RNLI volunteers arrived on scene at 2:07pm.

At the time of their arrival, the paramedic from the coastguard helicopter was aboard the vessel preparing the casualty to be winched to the helicopter.

In less than ten minutes the casualty was winched up to the helicopter and flown to hospital, at which point the lifeboat and crews were stood down and headed back to the station.

After rehousing shortly after 3:30pm the lifeboat was washed fuelled and made ready for service shortly after.

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