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Education

Well done Gemma, you are an inspiration to us all

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A SINGLE mum of seven who left school with no qualifications is celebrating after gaining a degree from Swansea University.

Gemma Turnbull, aged 34, admits she didn’t attend school regularly as a child but now her determination to carve out a bright future for her and her family has seen her complete a BA in Humanities after studying part-time for six years through the University’s Department of Adult Continuing Education (DACE).

After leaving state education without a single GCSE, Gemma, from Pembrokeshire, fell pregnant at 16 and went on to have four children of her own, including Ruby, 11, who was born with a heart condition and 15-year-old Joe who has autism.

In 2011, wanting to secure a better life, Gemma began to explore further learning opportunities but she had to overcome further setbacks along the way.

Shortly after starting a two-year Foundation Certificate, Gemma found out that her sister’s three children were about to be moved into care.

She became the legal guardian to Leonie, Shaun and Jack, meaning she was responsible for seven children at the age of just 26.

“Life was quite bleak to be honest,” said Gemma, who is the first in her family to engage in higher education.

“At first, I worried about how I would cope being a student but I didn’t want the family to be split up.

“I wanted better for them and for them to be proud of me. I didn’t want the children to be like me, growing up with no education or no job.

“I was 26, with seven children to look after, and it was hard. I remember being asleep in the bathroom at one point at 4am after trying to do an essay all night and I was knackered – but now I’ve done it.”

Her nephew, nine-year-old Shaun, has Foetal Alcohol Syndrome which affects his behaviour, while Gemma herself was also diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia during her studies. It was during this period that her marriage broke down.

“All I ever wanted was to have the mum and dad all sat down as a family, with the children, like you see on TV,” she said.

“I know that isn’t reality sometimes but that’s what I wanted, so it was hard admitting that I’d end up being divorced like my parents. Nobody wants that.

“They haven’t got that male role model in their lives, but hopefully I can give them that and help them to have positive lives.

“I wouldn’t change anything. Life is what you make of it – you can either sink or swim. The best thing I ever did was have the children all with me under one roof. In fact, I actually cope better with seven than I did with four!”

With her graduation secured, Gemma has already set her sights on what she wants to achieve next.

“I plan to gain my Maths and English GCSE, but I’m going to get a private tutor for those. Then I hope to go on and do a PGCE before hopefully becoming a primary school teacher,” said Gemma, who is also a parent governor at Ysgol Harri Tudur in Pembroke.

“You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it and you want it badly enough. The whole experience has been really positive, especially the staff at Swansea University and their attitude towards helping me.

“If I had had teachers like that when I was at school I know I would have done a lot better – they have been amazing.

“The whole journey has made me a better mum – everything I do is for the children – and I think it is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Community

Top marks for Ysgol Casmael

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YSGOL CASMAEL in Puncheston are celebrating after being given an excellent report by school inspectorate, Estyn.

The rural north Pembrokeshire Primary school was inspected in November last year, and the report, published on Thursday, praised the school for their accomplishments.

The school was rated ‘Excellent’ in all five inspection areas.

Praising the school, the report said: “Leadership is strong and innovative and is developing the school as a very successful creative community, which makes the most of its local area to enrich its pupils’ education.”

“All members of staff have very high expectations to ensure the well-being and progress of all individuals.  This creates a healthy learning environment, in which all pupils are encouraged to work hard and create work of a high standard.  Nearly all pupils are extremely polite and treat each other and adults with a high level of respect.”

“Staff work together very effectively to plan an exciting, creative and stimulating curriculum for all pupils.  They provide practical and interesting experiences that engage nearly all pupils’ interest in full.  This helps pupils to develop as ambitious, confident and knowledgeable learners.”

Speaking specifically about standards at the school, Inspection Area 1, the report pays particular reference to the numeracy skills.  “More able pupils solve increasingly complex problems, for example when calculating the volume of different cylinders and prisms successfully”, giving this area and excellent judgement.

With regards to wellbeing and attitudes towards learning at the school, Inspection area 2 was again awarded an excellent judgement, the report states, “Nearly all pupils behave excellently in lessons, during break times and during periods while working independently.  Nearly all pupils are very keen to attend school daily, as they enjoy the exciting activities and the care that is available to them.”

Inspection area 3 is focused on Teaching and Learning Experiences, here inspectors praised the teachers for providing an “Exceptionally stimulating and creative curriculum for pupils, which develops their skills very successfully across all areas of learning.  Effective planning methods are preparing staff and pupils well to introduce the new curriculum.”  This again received a judgement of excellence.

A fourth excellent judgement was awarded for area 4, Care, support and guidance.  “The school promotes the importance of good behaviour, courtesy, respect and commitment very successfully.  As a result, pupils behave well consistently, are very polite and respectful towards each other and visitors, and apply themselves conscientiously to their activities….  All pupils have an individual development plan, class teachers give the content of these careful consideration when planning their lessons. “

Finally, Inspection area 5 makes a judgement on the leadership and management of the school.  “The head teacher has high expectations of herself, staff and pupils.  Her vision focuses clearly on supporting pupils’ wellbeing and developing ambitious and confident learners in a creative and Welsh environment…There is a strong sense of teamwork in the school…The school is an effective learning community in which staff learn from each other in a supportive environment…the school is innovative in developing a creative and stimulating curriculum that engages nearly all pupils’ interest in their learning.”  This area was also given a judgement of excellence.

Mrs Amanda Lawrence, head teacher at Ysgol Casmael, said: “I believe a team approach is essential to the success of any school, but particularly to a small school like ours, in a rural area.”

“Through working collaboratively with all stakeholders, we are ensuring that all pupils receive the best possible experiences in a homely environment, with a strong yet inclusive Welsh ethos.”

“I am so grateful to have the support of a strong team of highly experienced practitioners, a strong governing body, alongside supportive, appreciative parents, but above all I am grateful to our pupils, the individuals who make our journey towards a new curriculum in Wales so vitally important.  As we are receptive to their ideas, so they too are eager to take on board changes in our pedagogy with excitement and enthusiasm, this is what energises us as a staff to keep expanding our horizons.”
Mr Russel Evans, chair of Ysgol Casmael’s governing body, said: “On behalf of the Governors of Ysgol Casmael, I would like to thank and congratulate the school on their recent extremely successful and impressive inspection report.
As a governing body we are very aware of the hard work of the teaching staff and of the pupils in reaching these standards, together with the continued and constant support of the parents, non-teaching staff and the friends of the school.
As a school which values its community role, we are aware that the success of this school is dependent on everyone connected with our educational provision playing their part in our success and development.
May I also thank my fellow Governors for their hard work over the years and for their support to the school.”

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Community

Dairy challenges Pembrokeshire kids to win £1,000 for their school

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ECO-FRIENDLY kids in Pembrokeshire are being urged to get creative with recycling and win their school £1,000.

The call comes from Wales’s leading yoghurt producer, Llaeth y Llan, who want to hear from primary schools with wizard ideas for re-purposing their plastic pots.

They’re offering £1,000 for the school with the best plan for reusing those little pots in a fun and useful way.

And to show they’re serious about making sure Llaeth y Llan yoghurt even more environmentally friendly they are also urging schools to collect the lids and send them back to the dairy.

Llaeth y Llan have put up a total of £20,000 to encourage schools across Wales to recycle and Director Gruffudd Roberts said: “Climate change and the environment are now global issues and a lot of that is down to young people and their concerns.

“As a company we believe it’s vital to involve children in spreading the message of the importance of recycling to secure the future of our planet.

“We are extremely excited to see the designs created by each school using our pots.

“Not only is recycling our main focus, we are proud to fund prizes that will assist the children’s future.

“Being able to give £20,000 worth of prizes to schools whose budgets are stretched makes the project worthwhile.

“School funding is simply not going to buy vital equipment such as Chromebooks, garden supplies, sports gear and school trips. We want every school in Wales to have an equal opportunity to win their share of our £20,000 prize fund.”

Llaeth y Llan yoghurt, made with local Welsh milk, was started by dairy farmers Gareth and Falmai Roberts over 30 years ago and is still a family-run operation based at Tal y Bryn Farm, in the Vale of Clwyd.

These days though their yoghurts are on sale all over the country and are on the shelves of the UK’s biggest supermarkets like Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Co-Op’s.

Those distinctive pots now come off a state of the art production line and Gruffudd Roberts added: “We’ve already seen many innovative ideas for the pots from schools across Wales but there’s still time to stake your claims to a share of the £20,000 prize fund.

“We’d especially like schools to take pictures as they make their creations at each step and send them to us along with a main picture showing the end result.”

Entries for the competition close on February 25th and full details on how to take part in Llaeth y Llan’s are on the website at www.villagedairy.co.uk/school-registration/

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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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