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Education

Young cleaners helped ensure schools safe

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YOUNG people are helping to ensure that all schools in Pembrokeshire meet the required Covid 19 hygiene safety standards as they re-open their doors to pupils.
Some 30 young people aged between 18 and 25 have been employed by Pembrokeshire County Council as additional cleaning staff to support schools with the extra work necessary to help keep pupils safe when they return to education.
Pembrokeshire Youth Service worked quickly with other PCC teams to mobilise the small army of cleaners as soon as the additional cleaning support was identified, says Chris Powles, Youth Team Manager.
“Young people have been disproportionately affected in the employment market during the pandemic, with the majority of summer employment they would have usually taken up in the tourism, leisure, and retail sectors being unavailable due to lockdown restrictions,” said Chris.
“By linking with secondary schools, Pembrokeshire College, the Youth Service Outreach and Cam Nesa teams, young people were contacted directly to be given the opportunity to apply for cleaning posts in primary, secondary and special schools across the county.
“The response was overwhelming. Young people have been keen not only to secure employment but to also play their part in supporting communities in dealing with the pandemic.”
One of the new employees, Courtney Cramb, said: “I love that this opportunity has been given to students especially during this time as many of us are unable to work but still have things like car insurance to pay for!
“I also think it will be a good experience and gives us the opportunity to help by giving back to the community whilst earning some money.”
The new staff are currently going through pre-employment checks and training to enable them to begin their casual contracts and start earning the incomes they thought that they had missed out on.
“This was a fast paced process with the requests for additional cleaning support from schools only coming in once they had been able to assess the need, whilst planning and risk assessing for their reopening on the 29th June,” said Cllr David Simpson, Council Leader.
“We are delighted to have given young people the opportunity to be part of the PCC workforce, and it shows the ability of Council departments to work together in responding quickly and effectively whilst trying to minimise the impact on those who are affected by the pandemic.”

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Education

Doubts cast over Milford Haven secondary school refurbishment

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FRESH doubts have been cast over the refurbishment of Milford Haven Secondary School.

At a meeting of the Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, January 21, it was announced that it could be delayed until 2024.

The school had been earmarked for refurbishment but after costs were escalated due to the building’s poor state, it has been suggested that a new-build would be needed.

Cllr Viv Stoddart said she was ‘very disappointed’ by the new information and said that Milford Haven was coming out ‘second-best’.

Cllr Bob Kilmister said: “We are doing the prep work for Milford Haven in terms of where we go.

“The 21st Century Schools budget goes up to 2024 and there is a £15m gap at the moment. So if nothing happened we would need to fund £15m. That is unaffordable.

“I have been in contact with the Welsh Government to ask if they can expand our budget of £106m upwards. The extra budget gap would be £5m and that would be affordable.

“They have said they cant do that at the moment as we are not far enough down the program.

“We are looking at the options for Milford Haven. It was down as a refurbishment but that is just not an option that is viable. It would be very poor use of money.

“This administration’s intention is to try and complete the whole of the programme.”

Cabinet member for Education, Cllr Guy Woodham added: “There was an increased figure in the refurbishment of the building. That was still less than a new build but it did close gap.

“It was almost a no-brainer to go with the new build over the refurbishment.

“Both the secondary and primary schools in Milford Haven are in Band B which runs until 2025 but we are trying very hard to ensure we deliver all projects. I remain optimistic that we should be able to deliver all Band B projects.”

Cllr Stoddart responded saying she was ‘very pessimistic’ about it adding: “It has been at least two years since we had a meeting in Milford Haven School, we’ve had the problem with the
learning resource centre. I find this information very disappointing.”

Cllr Woodham added that Haverfordwest had been the main project in Band B and that the next one on the list was Milford Haven.

Cllr Ken Rowlands said that the people in Milford should have the same sort of facilities that are on offer elsewhere in the county and that they shouldn’t be ‘short-changed’.

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Education

PembrokeshireCollege receives Carers Scheme award

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PEMBROKESHIRE COLLEGE has recently been recognised for its work to support staff and students with caring responsibilities securing a Bronze Award in the Investors in Carers Scheme.

 

Delivered by Hywel Dda University Health Board, and supported by its local authority and third sector partners in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, the Investors in Carers scheme is designed to help health, social care, and other institutions to focus on  their carer awareness and to improve the help and support that they can offer to carers.

 

Pennie Muir, Lead at Investors for Carers, presented Pembrokeshire College Safeguarding and Wellbeing Officer, Judith Evans, with the award and commented on the College’s achievement saying: “Pembrokeshire College have been recognised for their commitment to supporting unpaid carers and their families within both their student and their staff communities.

“Originally designed to help health facilities such as GP practices, areas within hospitals and other organisations to focus on and improve their carer awareness and enhance the help and support they give unpaid carers of all ages, the Scheme has been expanded to education settings including secondary schools and colleges. Pembrokeshire College joins the other two Colleges in the west Wales region to have achieved this level.”

There are approximately 30,000 carers under the age of 25 in Wales with a carer being defined as someone who provides care to an adult or disabled child.

Pembrokeshire College are committed to actively seeking to identify and support young carers and to provide the best resources and support possible to ensure that they can continue to study alongside their caring responsibilities.

Judith expressed it was a proud moment and a positive step forward to supporting these young carers: We are delighted to have achieved the Investors in Carers Bronze Award. We have worked hard to develop the services we provide for our learners and staff with caring responsibilities and feel that the changes we have made to support them are already making a difference and have ideas for further developments in the future. The Investors in Carers team have been so helpful, providing us with ideas, resources and information. We look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.”

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Education

Schools to stay closed in Wales as coronavirus situation worsens

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT, in consultation with the WLGA and Colegau Cymru, has just agreed that all schools and colleges will move to online learning until January 18.

The Welsh Government says it will use the next two weeks to continue to work with local authorities, schools and colleges to best plan for the rest of term.

In a statement education minister Kirsty Williams said: “This is the best way to ensure that parents, staff and learners can be confident in the return to face to face learning, based on the latest evidence and information.

“Schools and colleges will remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable learners, as well as for learners who need to complete essential exams or assessments.

“We had already ensured that schools had full flexibility in the first two weeks of term to decide when to reopen based on local circumstances.

Reacting to the announcement, Suzy Davies MS – the Shadow Minister for Education – said: “With many children having been due to begin a ‘staggered’ return to school from Wednesday onwards, this news has come late for them and for their parents.”

The closure will affect all primary and secondary schools, and additional learning needs (ALN) bases will remain open “if possible”.

However, schools and colleges will remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable learners, as well as for learners who need to complete essential exams or assessments

Welsh Conservative Mrs Davies continued: “Because of the planned staggered return, we were told that teachers were preparing online, blended learning. I hope, and I’m sure all parents and pupils feel the same, that these systems can be adapted for this full closure.

“What parents, pupils, and teachers across Wales need is reassurance from the Minister as to what conditions must be met for schools to re-open, because while a prudent measure, to read that the next two weeks will be used to plan for ‘… rest of term’ offers little reassurance.

“This announcement, however, reinforces our calls for teachers to be prioritised to receive the new vaccine, because this virus has damaged our young learners’ education enough.”

Laura Doel, Director of NAHT Cymru, the Welsh school leaders’ union said: “The decision to close schools to gain control of Coronavirus has been inevitable for some time. The announcement this evening will bring some much-needed clarity to the situation.

“Besides parents and carers there is no one more committed to the education and welfare of children at school than school leaders and their teams. NAHT Cymru members want children back in school as soon as possible and the restricted attendance from tomorrow should be used to organise an orderly and sustainable return.

“The Welsh Government has repeatedly said it wants to prioritise education, in that case it must also prioritise safety in schools and the communities schools serve.

“Work should be undertaken with school leaders and Public Health Wales to establish and agree new Covid-related safety measures in schools during the temporary restriction for implementation in good time prior to lifting restrictions.

“There needs to focus on vaccinating staff so that further disruption to teaching and learning can be ruled out.

“Welsh Government must also urgently review its approach to special schools given the statement that states special schools should remain open if possible. This once again demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the complexities faced in special schools in keeping covid restrictions in place.

“It is uncertain whether the next two weeks will be enough time to ensure a fully risk-assessed plan is put in place to facilitate the safe return with a properly organised and resourced testing regime and priority vaccinations for staff, but I know that NAHT Cymru members stand ready to work with the government for the good of all children. For its part the government should be prepared to work directly with leaders from every phase and sector of education.”

 

FULL WRITTEN STATEMENT
Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education

The situation in Wales and across the UK remains very serious. Today, the four UK Chief Medical Officers have agreed that the UK is now at the highest level of risk, Joint Biosecurity Council level 5.

In the light of that decision the Welsh Government, in consultation with the WLGA and Colegau Cymru, has agreed that all schools, colleges and independent schools should move to online learning until January 18th.

As a government we will use the next two weeks to continue to work with local authorities, schools and colleges to plan for the rest of term.

This is the best way to ensure that parents, staff and learners can be confident in the return to face to face learning, based on the latest evidence and information.

Schools and colleges will remain open for children of critical workers and vulnerable learners, as well as for learners who need to complete essential exams or assessments. On this basis Special Schools and PRU’s should remain open if possible.

We had initially given schools flexibility in the first two weeks of term to decide when to reopen based on local circumstances.

But it is now clear that a national approach of online learning for the first fortnight of term is the best way forward.

We know that schools and colleges have been safe and secure environments throughout the pandemic.

However, we also know that education settings being open can contribute to wider social mixing outside the school and college environment.

We are confident that schools and colleges have online learning provision in place for this immediate period,

Universities in Wales have already agreed a staggered start to term. Students should not return to universities for face to face learning until they are notified that they can do so.

Wales remains in the highest level of restrictions. Everyone must stay at home.

I will continue to update members.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.

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