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Public anger over MP’s ‘Hart-less decision’

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A PEMBROKESHIRE MP who backed the UK government not to extend the free school meal scheme to cover children throughout England for school closures up until Easter 2021, has experienced huge backlash on social media.

A motion on providing 1.4 million disadvantaged children in England, with a £15 a week voucher during school holidays until Easter 2021, was voted down in the House of Commons last Wednesday (Oct 21).

Simon Hart MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, stood with his Government and voted against the bill by 322 to 261, a majority of 61.

Simon Hart was named, along with over 300 of his Conservative colleagues, on The Daily Mirror’s front page, after voting to allow some of the UK’s poorest and vulnerable children to return to school ‘too hungry to learn’.

Stephen Crabb, the MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, abstained from the vote.

With many organisations calling the decision ‘cruel’ and ‘callous’, one Pembrokeshire pub has taken their stance on the situation further.

Taking to their Facebook page, The Globe in Fishguard has issued a lifetime ban for both Pembrokeshire MP’s, they said: “Following the decision by the Mill and Il Manilo pub in West Yorkshire to ban their local MP Rishi Sunak and other MPs in nearby constituencies over their voting against extending free school meals over the holidays, I would like it known that abstainer Stephen

Crabb and Simon Hart, who voted in support of allowing children to starve, are similarly barred for life from The Globe!

“Thank God that the WG has promised to provide food vouchers for children in need in Wales.

“Anyone who actively or passively enables children to go hungry cannot possibly possess any humanity in our opinion. Here in the Globe we only allow humans and dogs to enter the building; as

Mr Crabb and Mr Hart appear to be neither of these then we feel we have no option but to impose a lifetime ban.”

In a statement on his Facebook page rounding up the week of politics, Mr Hart defended toeing the Government line: “The “opposition motion” last Wednesday seeking an extension to the free school meal programme into the holidays was non-binding and even if passed would not have changed anything.

“The frustrating thing about these motions is that they are nothing more than political theatre. For what it’s worth, it was this Government that extended FSM’s in Easter and Summer holidays in the first place but which has now decided that families in greater need are best served through increasing benefits over a whole year, not just via food vouchers in the holidays.

“I do understand how this looks in the media though (which is exasperating for all of us) but it’s not as straightforward as just removing something without trying to offset the consequences.”

Mr Hart omitted to mention that FSM provision over the summer holidays only happened after the Westminster Government was shamed into action after a massive public outcry over its initial refusal to provide them.

His position was not helped by a series of inflammatory tweets from fellow Conservative MPs, such as Ben Bradley, who claimed over the summer meal vouchers were traded for drugs and prostitutes in his Mansfield constituency.

However, Mr Hart will be pleased to have had support echoing his point on free school meals from Carol Peett, the wife of his constituency chairman, Rayner Peett.
Mrs Peett posted the following on Facebook: “All this Marcus Rashford rubbish – momentum scam to try & destabilise the government using a thick footballer’s name as a frontman – the Government had already given money to councils to make sure these children are fed so totally pointless.”

The Welsh Government has extended free school meals for those eligible through the school holidays up to and including Easter 2021.

Commenting on Simon Hart’s vote, Alistair Cameron, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd Candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire said: “Simon Hart’s recent voting choices demonstrate callous neglect for struggling families. Whilst Kirsty Williams in the Senedd has been ensuring that poverty should not mean hunger for our most disadvantaged children, our MP has chosen to deny children across the border the funding that could stop them from going hungry. I am deeply disappointed in our MP.”

The Herald asked the Conservatives’ Education Shadow Minister in the Senedd, Suzy Davies MS, to say whether or not she supported the Welsh Government’s decision to extend free school meal provision.

A spokesperson replied: “The UK Government has invested more than £4 billion in Wales to fight Covid-19 which the Welsh Government are able to use to fund support for people including free school meals during holidays.”

“While the primary duty to feed children lies with the parents, we recognise lockdowns and other restrictions have placed real pressure on family budgets, especially where people haven’t been able to access support or have to use convenience shops which can be more expensive.

“Ensuring children stay physically and mentally healthy during this time is a priority so that they can get the best out of their education and not let Covid-19 define their future. But any scheme must support those who truly need it; those that can afford to contribute should.”

The £4bn claimed to be ‘invested’ in Wales is funding the UK Government was obliged to provide to our country using the Barnett funding formula. It came as a result of the UK spending further money in other parts of the UK to tackle COVID-19.

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North Pembrokeshire school closures explained

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PEMBROKESHIRE’S education chief has explained the decision to keep six North Pembrokeshire schools closed today (Tuesday, 24th November).

The schools – which were also closed on Monday following the increased spread of coronavirus in South Ceredigion – are:

• Ysgol Preseli
• Ysgol y Frenni
• Ysgol Llandudoch
• Ysgol Eglwyswrw
• Ysgol Cilgerran
• Ysgol Clydau.

The Pembrokeshire schools are closed as a precaution as they share services – such as transport – with the Ceredigion schools.
Pembrokeshire County Council’s Director of Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said the decision to keep the schools closed was
based around a series of meetings yesterday involving the Authority, Ceredigion County Council and Public Health Wales.

He explained: “Due to the sheer volume of contact tracing work the Cardigan situation has resulted in – and the widespread nature of the cases now across the town – many contacts remain to be spoken to.

“The view of the Incident Management Team in Pembrokeshire was to keep the schools closed to allow the contact tracing teams time to get hold of everyone they needed to and then review the decision later today.

“Everyone can be assured that it is our intention to re-open the schools at the earliest opportunity once we are satisfied that there will be no individuals within school setting who should be self-isolating.

“There will be an announcement this afternoon about the status of the schools currently closed and teaching staff will be in touch with families to arrange blended and distant learning.

“Officers are working hard dealing with this situation and we do appreciate the inconvenience caused. However, our priority has always been tackling this pandemic and ensuring that we stop the spread of the virus.”

Mr Richards-Downes added that he was grateful to teaching staff, parents and pupils for their co-operation in what had been a challenging few days.

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Masks now advised in all secondary schools

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PUPILS across Wales are now being advised to wear facemasks in all communal areas of secondary schools (including playgrounds), colleges and on transport to and from places of learning by the Welsh Government.

Although not compulsory, the new recommendations have been made by ministers to ensure a consistent approach in tackling COVID-19 across Wales.

People picking up and dropping off children are also advised to wear face coverings too to minimise the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19.

The new guidance, aimed mainly at secondary schools, which the Education Minister has described as ‘easy to follow’ was announced today and now means that the only spaces where staff and pupils can safely remove their facemasks is in the classroom.

The majority of councils already require secondary pupils and staff to wear masks in corridors and on most school transport with those rules extended to primary pupils too in some areas.

Education minister Kirsty Williams said: “It is vital that young people, parents, adults and the workforce feel confident that all measures are being taken to ensure the educational environments are as safe as possible.

“We have been clear that we will keep every policy under review and will continue to follow scientific advice. The policy we are announcing today does just that”.

The new advice has been recommended by the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group (Tag), which has been looking at the “possibility of wearing face coverings for older age groups in more circumstances, including on public and dedicated transport” and could “even include in the classroom on a risk assessed basis…. balancing benefits with harms to overall wellbeing of students.”

Tag is also looking at how feasible a mass asymptomatic testing programme in schools and colleges could be, the Welsh Government has said it is considering that approach.

Debbie Thomas, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru, said: “Face masks and coverings in communal areas could have serious consequences for Wales’ 2,500 deaf children, almost all of whom rely on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate.
“Socialising in corridors, break time chats and playground games are all rites of passage, but deaf young people now risk missing out because they can’t understand what others are saying. They’re also more likely to experience loneliness, isolation and bullying.
“Public health is the priority, but schools and colleges must move quickly to introduce reasonable adjustments to help deaf young people during this difficult time.”

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Two day centres to close temporarily as a precaution

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TWO north Pembrokeshire Day facilities for older people and people with learning disabilities are to close temporarily as a precaution following the rise in coronavirus cases in Ceredigion.

Bro Preseli Day Centre in Crymych and Wintern Day Centre, Goodwick, are to close temporarily from tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24).

The decision to close each site will be reviewed regularly.

It is emphasised that there have been no positive cases of Covid-19 detected at either site and the temporary closures have been put in place as a precaution.

 

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