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Education

Secondary schools and colleges in Wales will move to online learning from Monday

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SECONDARY schools and colleges in Wales will move to online learning from Monday, December 14 as part of a ‘national effort to reduce transmission of coronavirus’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams confirmed today.

The Minister made it clear that, thanks to the efforts of education staff across the country, schools and colleges are safe and secure environments, with almost half of all Welsh schools having had zero covid cases since September.

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

By making this decision, the Minister felt it was important to make a ‘clear, national direction’ to take pressure off individual schools, colleges, local authorities, parents and carers.

The Minister said her decision followed expert advice from Wales’s Chief Medical Officer showing that the public health situation in Wales was deteriorating.

The latest TTP data shows that rates of Covid-19 have further increased across Wales and have now exceeded 370/100k with a test positivity of 17%.

The R rate in Wales has increased to 1.27 with a doubling time of just 11.7 days.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “Every day, we are seeing more and more people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms.

“The virus is putting our health service under significant and sustained pressure and it is important we all make a contribution to reduce its transmission.

“In his advice to me today, the CMO recommends that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils as soon as is practicable.

“I can therefore confirm that a move to online learning should be implemented for secondary school pupils and college students from Monday next week.

“We recognise, as we did during the firebreak, that it is more difficult for primary and special school age children to undertake self-directed learning.

“That is why we are encouraging primary and special schools to continue to stay open.

“Having spoken to local education leaders, I am confident that schools and colleges have online learning provision in place.

“This will also be important in ensuring that students are at home during this time, learning and staying safe.

“Critically, and this is very important, children should be at home.

“This is not an early Christmas holiday, please do everything you can to minimise your contact with others.”

“The education family in Wales has pulled together so many times this year to make a real difference to the course of this virus and ultimately to save lives and I know we can do the same again.

“Together we will keep Wales safe.”

Responding to the announcement from the Education Minister, UNISON Cymru Wales lead officer for schools Rosie Lewis said: “UNISON welcomes the announcement by the Education Minister this afternoon that all secondary schools in Wales will close to pupils and move to online learning for the remainder of term.

“Earlier this month, we wrote to the Minister requesting a move to this position based on the worrying evidence of the R rate in Wales rising and the significant increase in the number of pupil’s and staff needing to self-isolate and in some areas schools having to close to all pupils.

“The need for all staff in schools to have a proper break during the Christmas period without the added worry that they may have to self-isolate or worse still test positive along with the same concerns for parents was fundamental to our request.

“It will be extremely disappointing for support staff in primary schools who are feeling particularly anxious that this decision does not extend to primary settings which is what UNISON had requested. I want to take this opportunity to recognise the commitment and tenacity that all school support staff have shown in very demanding circumstances and thank them for their continued dedication.”

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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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Education

St Davids pupils’ Covid-19 themed exhibition available to view online

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A NEW exhibition showcasing artwork by St Davids school pupils is now available online after Covid-19 restrictions led to the closure of Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre, where it was due to go on display.

Organised and funded by the Friends of Oriel y Parc, the Jeff Davies Award is an annual art competition in partnership with Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi, honouring the memory of local man and former chairman of the Friends of Oriel y Parc.

This year’s competition was judged by special guests Amanda Wright, Sarah Jane Brown and Alun Davies on the theme of ‘Covid-19…Your View’, which asked students to interpret the impact of the virus.

Oriel y Parc Manager, Claire Bates said: “Unfortunately we had to close the Centre just as we were putting the finishing touches to the exhibition.

“We didn’t want all the pupils’ hard work to be hidden away so we thought the only option was to create an online gallery so that this amazing artwork was available for all to see.

“Although we are now closed until the New Year, I would like to thank everyone that has visited Oriel y Parc this year and look forward to welcoming more people as soon it is safe to do so in 2021.”

The joint winners from Campws Dewi were Jazmine Hanna and Shelby Hanna, with third place going to Becky Wadia.

The winner of the Campws Non category was Seren Reason, with Becky Millington in second place and Carys Reason third.

From Campws Aidan, Leila Lloyd Phillips was the winner with Liliwen Evans in second and Archie Morgan third.

For the latest updates from Oriel y Parc Gallery and Visitor Centre and to view the Jeff Davies Award exhibition online visit www.orielyparc.co.uk.

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