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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.”

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Council’s cannon stolen from outside Cleddau Bridge Hotel

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A LARGE cannon has been stolen from the now closed Cleddau Bridge Hotel in Pembroke Dock in the last few days.

A local councillor and the police have appealed for information which will lead to the safe return of the gun.

Ward councillor Joshua Beynon said: “Dyfed-Powys Police have just telephoned me to say they are investigating the cannon that was stolen from the former Cleddau Bridge Hotel. It is believed to have gone missing sometime between the evening of Wednesday 20th March to the morning of Thursday 21st March.”

The police said in a statement: “If anyone has any information then can I urge you to call the police on 101 and quote the crime number: DPP/0064/21/03/2019/01/C as soon as possible.”

The cannon, one of two dug up from the ground at Hobbs Point and later restored, used to stand outside Llanion Park, the former offices of South Pembrokeshire District Council, which is now the head office of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

The canon is the property of Pembrokeshire County Council and was given to the hotel on loan.

The hotel’s management neglected to make arrangements for its return to the local authority on closing down.

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How to get a refund for unused Cleddau Bridge tickets after April 1

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has announced details on how it plans to refund Cleddau Bridge users left with unused books of bridge tickets after it becomes toll-free.
From 1st April until 30th June refunds will be available from the Cleddau Bridge office itself and the North Wing Customer Service Centre in County Hall, Haverfordwest.
Refunds for all three classes of tickets will be available at the Cleddau Bridge office.

The classes are:

Class A blue-coloured tickets (for motorcycles)
Class B red tickets (cars and light commercial vehicles)
Class C orange tickets (HGVs).

Refunds at the office will be available round-the-clock from 12 noon on 1st April and will be paid – wherever possible – back to the original debit/credit cards up to a maximum of £150 with cash refunds up to £30.

Any refunds over £150 will be made by BACS transfer unless otherwise agreed in advance.

Only Class B red tickets will be refunded at the North Wing Customer Service Centre in Haverfordwest.

Here, refunds will be paid back to the original debit/credit card up to a maximum of £90 (ie three books of 50 tickets)

The maximum cash refund at this location will be £30 (ie one book of 50 tickets).

Refunds at the North Wing Customer Service Centre will be available weekdays between 9 am and 1 pm and 2 pm until 5 pm.

Organisations which have previously purchased tickets with a value exceeding £400 will be contacted during the week commencing Monday, 25th March with instructions on how to reclaim their refunds on an appointment basis at the Cleddau Bridge office.

The County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy, Paul Miller, said: “I am delighted to announce that bridge users who have unused tickets due to the cessation of tolls will be reimbursed and not find themselves out of pocket.”
Those who qualify for refunds are asked to wait a few days before making a claim so as to avoid a long wait. This particularly applies to refunds at the Cleddau Bridge office.

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Council issue ‘rave alert’ to farmers, landowners and local communities

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL and Dyfed-Powys Police are asking farmers, landowners and local communities to be on alert over the coming weekend (23rd and 24th March) for warning signs of any illegal raves planned for their land.

Any suspicious activity should be reported immediately to the police, especially if there are unusual numbers of vehicles – in particular, camper vans, vans or trucks – seen in the locality.

Illegal trespassers may recce sites in advance of any rave, or people may approach landowners and ask around for land, in the guise of hiring it for acceptable activities such as gymkhanas or scout camps.

Raves can cause anxiety to the community they are held in and, if not dealt with swiftly, are difficult to stop due to the sheer numbers of people involved. There is also a safety concern involved in breaking up such events.

Anyone with concerns should call Dyfed Powys Police on 101 and ask to speak to the Duty Sergeant or Duty Inspector at Haverfordwest Police Station.

Alternatively, please call Pembrokeshire County Council’s out-of-hours service on 01437 775522.

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