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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.”

Education

Ysgol y Preseli in Crymych named Welsh secondary school of the decade

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NEWS that Ysgol y Preseli in Crymych is the Sunday Times Welsh State Secondary School of the Decade has been welcomed by the local authority.

The school is named in Parent Power, the Sunday Times Schools Guide, which identifies the 2,000 highest-achieving schools in the UK, ranked by their most recently published examination results.

The news will be published in The Sunday Times and online this Sunday, November 29th.

Nick Rodrigues, the deputy editor of Parent Power, said: “This bilingual school has risen around 300 places in our rankings since 2012 and now stands 186th overall. Last summer’s results were the best we had captured. The school is consistently moving in the right direction.

“Head teacher Michael Davies and deputy head Iola Phillips are both retiring this year which makes it especially poignant that Ysgol Y Preseli wins the Welsh State Secondary School of the Decade award. It marks the end of a fantastic era of dedication by two exemplary educators and is a fitting testament to their hard work.

“Under their leadership teachers have fostered productive working relationships with their pupils ensuring they are highly motivated.

“Officials noted during its last Estyn monitoring that ‘Ysgol y Preseli is an extremely homely community with an inclusive and caring Welsh ethos’ and emphasised teachers’ conscientious aim to support every pupil, making clear why this school is the perfect recipient for our Welsh State Secondary School of the Decade award.”

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “I am absolutely delighted to hear that Ysgol Preseli has been awarded Welsh State Secondary School of the Decade.

“This is a fantastic achievement and recognises the hard work and dedication of the whole Preseli education community. It is particularly poignant and timely that this comes as the Head and Deputy Head retire. My thanks and congratulations to all who have contributed to this award.”

Head teacher Michael Davies said it was fantastic news for everyone associated with Ysgol Y Preseli.

“To be ranked the top Welsh State Secondary School of the Decade is an incredible achievement,” she said.

“This is the culmination of ten years of hard work and I would like to dedicate the award to all the team at Ysgol Y Preseli, governors, senior management, staff, pupils, parents and the Pembrokeshire community.”

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Education

Partial closures for two schools due to staff absence

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TWO Pembrokeshire schools are partially closed today (Monday) due to staff absence.

At Ysgol Harri Tudur/ Henry Tudor School (Pembroke), years 7-9 and Sixth Form should attend as normal but Years 10 and 11 are asked to learn from home. 

Please visit the school website for further information www.yht.wales  At Spittal VC School Class 2 (Reception, year 1 and year 2) is closed to all pupils for Monday.

Learning tasks will be posted through the usual system.

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Education

Help shape new Pembroke library

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COUNTY residents are being asked to help shape the design and services on offer for a new library for Pembroke.

The new Pembroke Library will be part of the planned major redevelopment of the South Quay site in the town.

As well as the library, the development is proposed to include the Henry Tudor Visitor Centre, café, community rooms and garden.

Libraries now offer much more than books, offering a place to access computers, attend events, study and get information.

Pembrokeshire County Council is launching a survey to discover what is important to the local community to help inform the design of the library and shaping services available.

The survey is online at https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/ Print copies will be available from Pembroke and Pembroke Dock Libraries.

The survey is open to all adults in Pembrokeshire and respondents do not need to be members of the library.

It is hoped that many people from Pembroke and the surrounding areas in particular will get involved.

The closing date for responses will be Sunday, December 20, 2020.

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