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‘Check in, Catch up and Prepare’ All school’s in Wales prepare to enter next phase

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ALL children will have the opportunity to “Check in, Catch Up, Prepare for summer and September”, the Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced today as she published details of the next phase for schools in Wales.

It is proposed that all schools will start the next phase on 29 June, with the term extended by a week, therefore ending on 27 July.

In the next academic year, beginning in September, the intention is that the autumn half-term break will be expanded to two weeks.

In each school there will be a phased approach. Year groups will be split into cohorts with staggered starts, lessons and breaks. It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation.

There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates. This time will include online and personalised classroom experience, getting children and teachers ready for a similar experience in September.

Next week, the Welsh Government will publish guidance to support schools, as well as further and higher education institutions. This will include information on managing their facilities and logistical arrangements, including buildings, resources, cleaning and transport.

The Government is also today publishing a paper from its COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group, representing the latest understanding of the virus with respect to children and education.

Further Education colleges are ensuring that appropriate measures are being taken to re-open for face-to-face learning from 15 June. They will prioritise those students requiring licence to practice assessments and vulnerable learners. This follows close working with Government and the joint trade unions.

Guidance for childcare providers will also be published in the next week, supporting them to increase the numbers of children in attendance alongside schools.

Kirsty Williams said:

“My announcement today gives schools three and a half weeks to continue preparing for the next phase.

“We will use the last weeks of the summer term to make sure pupils, staff and parents are prepared – mentally, emotionally and practically – for the new normal in September.

“29 June means there will have been one full month of test, trace and protect, which will continue to expand. I can also announce that teachers will be a priority group in our new antibody-testing programme. As we continue to keep Wales safe, this approach will be critical.

“The evolving science suggests that warm weather and sunlight gives us the best opportunity to ensure more time in school. Waiting until September would mean almost half a year without schooling. That would be to the detriment to the wellbeing, learning progress and mental health of our young people.

“This is and has been a worrying period for us all. I know that many will feel apprehensive. We have not rushed this work and this decision.

“The three and a half week period before the next phase also gives us time to keep watch on developments elsewhere and provides further check-points to review evidence and the roll-out of testing.

“This is the best practical option that meets my five principles which underpin my decision making.

“I am also convinced that it is only by returning to their own school that we will see increased attendance from our more vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

“Working together we will secure equity and excellence for pupils as they check in, catch up, and prepare for summer and September.”

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Haverfordwest: Police appeal for information following high-value theft from Boots

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HAVERFORDWEST Police are appealing for any information following a high-value theft from Boots.

The theft occurred on Tuesday (Jul 7), anyone with information is asked to contact 101.

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Busy return to Welsh beaches for RNLI lifeguards as the charity urges parents to be beach safe

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RNLI LIFEGUARDS have had a busy return to service in Wales with two lives saved in the opening weeks. Now with further easing of Welsh Government restrictions this weekend, lifeguard teams are expecting the beaches of Wales to get busier again and are urging visitors to take responsibility for their safety.

On Whitesands beach in Pembrokeshire, a female body-boarder was pulled to safety by RNLI lifeguards after she was found separated from her board and struggling to stay above water. Lifeguards at Whitmore Bay saved the life of a swimmer who got into difficulty in the turbulent waters off Nells Point and on Langland Bay, Swansea, RNLI lifeguards have had a busy fortnight dealing with 16 major incidents, coming to the aid of 27 people.

With self-contained holiday accommodation expected to open in Wales from Saturday (11 July), the RNLI and HM Coastguard are today calling for anyone visiting the coast to take extra care and be beach safe this summer.

RNLI lifeguards will be patrolling on 26 beaches in Wales this weekend but lifeguards can’t be everywhere this summer, so the charity is urging beach-goers to be aware of the dangers at the coast, and to know what to do should they or a member of their family get into trouble.

If you can, please visit a life-guarded beach. But wherever you are;

  • Have a plan – check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage
  • Keep a close eye on your family – on the beach and in the water
  • Don’t allow your family to swim alone
  • Don’t use inflatables
  • If you fall into the water unexpectedly, FLOAT TO LIVE. Fight your instinct to thrash around, lean back, extend your arms and legs, and Float
  • In an emergency dial 999, and ask for the Coastguard
  • Chris Cousens, RNLI Water Safety Lead for Wales, said: ‘We have now got RNLI lifeguards on far more beaches than we originally planned after the easing of lockdown rules. Our ability to do this has been helped by the regular dialogue between the RNLI and Welsh Government, the approach to easing restrictions and the caution and responsibility shown by the people of Wales.’

‘But our lifeguards still can’t be absolutely everywhere this summer.’

‘That’s why we are urging everyone to take extra care of themselves and their families whenever they are in or near the water.’

‘No one ever goes to the coast expecting to be rescued, yet RNLI lifeguards and lifeboat crews rescue thousands of people each year. And the fact that we have been so busy already this summer shows us that some people are not taking these warnings seriously enough.

‘If you get into danger in the water, relax and float to give yourself time to recover before swimming to safety or calling for help. If you see someone else in danger, please call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’

Claire Hughes, director of HM Coastguard said: ‘We know from sad experience that whether you’re local or not, whatever your ability of experience in your chosen sport or leisure activity, the sea can still catch you out and be unmerciful when it does

‘We know how beautiful the coast is but it’s deadly if you get it wrong and your choices might put your family, friends and our frontline responders at risk as well as yourself.

‘Check tide times and remember the sea has currents and rip tides that can’t easily be seen. Look out for each other and if you get into trouble call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.

‘Don’t make your trip to the coast memorable for all the wrong reasons.’

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Hospitality businesses gear up for post-lockdown season

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AS THE COUNTDOWN is on to hospitality reopening, over 40 pubs, cafes and restaurants from across Preseli joined Stephen Crabb in a digital discussion.

In a Zoom call hosted by Stephen Crabb MP, a number of pubs, cafes and restaurants took time away from getting ready to reopen to discuss how they can make best use of the season ahead of them, after a difficult few months due to lockdown.

Joining Crabb was local MS Paul Davies, representatives from Pembrokeshire County Council, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and UK Hospitality, and an array of hospitality businesses from across the constituency including Martha’s Vineyard in Milford Haven, The Royal Oak in Fishguard and The Ferry Inn in St Dogmaels.

On Monday (Jul 13) hospitality businesses are able to reopen in Wales, following strict guidelines including outside only, 2m social distancing with pre-booking advised. Many establishments in Pembrokeshire without large outdoor spaces will be unable to open, but those who can are working hard to make it as enjoyable and safe for customers as possible and also commercially viable.

Only on Thursday evening, four days ahead of reopening, did Welsh Government publish guidance to help businesses reopening. This delayed support has left some hospitality businesses feeling left behind.

Speaking following the forum, Stephen Crabb said: “I’m delighted to have been able to bring together so many hospitality businesses in what was the largest digital business forum I’ve hosted. There has been huge interest from the sector and I’m really grateful to Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning, licencing and tourism team for joining the call, along with the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and trade body UK Hospitality.

“There is a real sense of a ‘Team Pembrokeshire’ approach to the reopening of this important sector, with businesses happy to share ideas and good practice to ensure the local visitor economy opens safely and successfully.”

“All the signs are pointing to a ‘staycation’ boom for British tourism this summer and there is potentially a real prize waiting for Pembrokeshire businesses. But there is a lot of work to be done in the next few days to adapt to new ways of working and it is essential for Welsh Government to issue detailed guidance.”

Paul Davies MS said: “Pembrokeshire’s hospitality businesses are the backbone of our local economy and so it was extremely useful to hear more about the challenges they’re facing and how Governments at all levels can do more to support them. The Covid-19 pandemic will continue to have an impact on the industry for the foreseeable future and whilst businesses have worked extremely hard to adapt their business models, the fact remains that if further support isn’t forthcoming, then many hospitality businesses simply won’t survive. I will of course, do everything in my power to challenge the Welsh Government on its lack of support for the sector and encourage Ministers to use the levers at their disposal, to better support the sector before it’s too late.”

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