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Education Minister announces ‘back to school’ plans for September

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DECISION backed with £29 million to recruit, recover and raise standards

The Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, has today confirmed that all pupils will be able to return to school in September.

“plan to open in September with 100% of pupils physically present on school sites, subject to a continuing, steady decline in the presence of COVID-19 in the community.”

The Minister announced that:

  • Schools will return to full capacity, with only limited social distancing within
    contact groups.
  • At full operations, a contact group should consist of around 30 children. Some direct or indirect mixing between children in different contact groups will also be unavoidable, such as on transport, receiving specialist teaching or due to staffing constraints.
  • Social distancing for adults should remain in line with regulations and guidance.
    Schools will be required to minimise the risk of transmission by taking other mitigating measures using the hierarchy of risk controls.
  • Every school should continue to be “Covid Protected” – having carried out risk assessments and mitigated them with a combination of controls such as hand and surface hygiene, one-way systems and so forth.
  • If early warning information shows a local incident or outbreak then nearby schools should implement appropriate restriction measures.
  • Each school will be provided with a supply of home testing kits.

The Minister confirmed that the autumn term will start on 1 st  September and schools that can accommodate all pupils from the start of the term should do so.

The Minister outlined plans just hours after confirming the Welsh Government would make £29m available to ‘recruit, recover and raise standards’ in Welsh schools in response to the impact still felt from the pandemic.

Commenting on the additional funding announced, the Minister added: “We will recruit, recover and continue to raise standards.”

It is thought that there will be around 800 newly qualified teachers in September and around 800 supply staff currently working within Wales.

“With this funding, we will recruit the equivalent of 600 extra teachers and 300 teaching assistants throughout the next school year.

“We will target extra support at Years 11, 12 and 13, as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable learners of all ages.

“The support package, provided at a school level, could include extra coaching support, personalised learning programmes and additional time and resources for exam year pupils.

“We must never lower our expectations for any of our young people, no matter their background.

“Together, we will continue to raise standards for all, reduce the attainment gap and ensure we have a system that is a source of pride and public confidence.”

Councillor Ian Roberts, WLGA Spokesperson for Education, said: “Since schools closed at the start of the crisis, many children and young people have felt anxious about loss of learning and not being able to see their friends.

The Minister’s plan today will enable schools to safely reopen classrooms from September. Local authorities will work closely with their schools to make sure that necessary arrangements are in place to abide by Welsh Government guidance.

“Our schools have been hit by severe disruption during this pandemic, and we welcome the £29m pledged by the Minister for targeted support to minimise the effects of the past few months on pupils.

We will continue to work together in partnership the safest and best possible learning experiences for our children and young people, especially in such challenging circumstances.”

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Police appeal after man found dead near Kilgetty roundabout

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POLICE in Pembrokeshire are  investigating the sudden death of a man in Kilgetty, Pembrokeshire.

The man, aged in his 60s, is often seen on or near Kilgetty roundabout. Concerns for his welfare were raised this morning (Saturday, Nov 28) and sadly, a body was found near the Kilgetty roundabout a short while later.

Police said: “Anyone with information that could help piece together the circumstances surrounding his death, which is being treated as unexplained, is asked to contact police.

“Though formal identification has not yet taken place, the man’s next of kin has been informed. HM Coroner is also aware.

“Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20201128-076.”

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Garage planning appeal dismissed

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A PLANNING inspector has upheld a Pembrokeshire County Council decision to refuse planning permission for a detached garage.

The Inspector dismissed the appeal by Mr Peter Baker against the Council’s decision to refuse the proposed development at Amroth Road, Ludchurch.

Planning Inspector J P Tudor agreed that the development would cause unacceptable harm on the character and appearance of the area.

The planned garage was to be placed in front of a detached bungalow.

Other properties nearby generally have garages situated to the side or rear or integrated into the main building.

The Inspector said: “Given its size and position, the garage would appear prominent in public views along the highway and be noticeable from neighbouring properties. It would compromise the existing sense of space and openness to the front of most dwellings.

“Therefore, the development would have an adverse effect on the character an appearance of the area.”

The appeal was dismissed.

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New guidelines for hospital visiting during Coronavirus outbreak

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NEW revised NHS Wales hospital visiting guidance during the coronavirus outbreak will be published on Monday 30 November 2020. This supersedes previously published guidance.

The revised guidance sets out the baseline for visiting in Wales during the pandemic, but allows health boards, trusts and hospices to have more flexibility to depart from the guidance.

This flexibility is due to the changing picture of coronavirus transmission across Wales, with significant variations in community transmission across different parts of the country and differences in the rate of nosocomial transmission.

The new guidelines allow health care providers to asses local factors and work with local infection prevention and control teams and Public Health Wales when agreeing visiting arrangements.

Healthcare providers may depart from the guidance in response to:

  • rising levels of covid-19 transmission in their localities, including levels which result in a national lockdown and/or evidence of nosocomial transmission in a particular setting; or
  • falling levels of transmission in their local area.

In addition to allowing for this flexibility the revised guidance has been amended for maternity services after listening to feedback from women and families and consulting with Heads of Midwifery and Sonography/Radiography Services. Visiting in maternity services will now be based on a risk assessment approach by health boards. This will take into consideration local environmental factors such as room sizes, ability to socially distance and infection prevention and control risks in enabling partners to safely accompany pregnant women and new mothers. This risk assessed approach should be taken in collaboration with relevant health professionals, local infection prevention and control teams and Public Health Wales. All women will be supported to have at least one partner with them during active labour, birth and for the period immediately after the birth, except in an extremely limited number of circumstances.

The updated guidelines also recognise that some people may require an essential support assistant for specific additional support eg a support worker or interpreter. Essential support assistants will not to be classed as visitors, in some circumstances, where people receive care and support from a family member or partner, they may nominate this person as their essential support assistant.

Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething, said: “We recognise that the restrictions on visiting has a huge impact on patients, their families and loves ones. We have announced further changes to the guidelines today to provide health boards, trusts and hospices with flexibility to depart from the guidelines in response to local levels of Covid-19 transmission. It is important to remember that the virus has not gone away and the health, safety and wellbeing of patients, communities and NHS staff remains an absolute priority for both the Welsh Government and health care providers. Tough choices will still need to be made but we hope the revised guidelines will allow more flexibility for health care providers. ”

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