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Probe into school’s ‘anti-gay’ policy

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  • Apologetic headteacher blames ‘old policy’ on school website
  • Scandal follows PM’s 2009 “We got it wrong” apology

 

A HAVERFORDWEST school is being investigated by the Welsh Government after its website was found to carry an unlawful policy on teaching pupils about homosexuality.

Tasker Milward school in Haverfordwest, which has over 1000 students, was one of a number of schools in the UK identified as having a published policy which breached the 2010 Equality Act.

The policy statement echoed the notorious Section 28 brought in by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1988, which outlawed the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools. In 2003, Section 28 was repealed and the 2010 Equality Act made discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation an offence.

Tasker Milward’s policy stated it: “[did] not prevent teachers from addressing issues of homosexuality in the classroom in a neutral and unbiased manner; however, the local authority shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material which actively promotes homosexuality.”

The policy’s presence on the school’s website was described by campaigners as “simply unacceptable” and the Welsh Government confirmed it was “concerned” and investigating as “a matter of urgency”.

Stonewall advertising boardThe school has stated that the policy dated from 2008, was an old one that had not been in operation and that an oversight led to the policy not being deleted from the school’s website.

The school has not explained how a policy directly referring to legislation repealed in 2003 was placed on its website five years later. All bar one other policy accessible on the school website carry a date of 16 January 2013.

The school has apologised for any offence caused.

An investigation by the British Humanist Association led to the revelation that 45 schools either published policies that replicated Section 28 or had policy documents that were “overly vague” on the issue. The British Humanist Association (BHA), campaigns against faith education.

BHA spokeswoman Pavan Dhaliwal said schools in question must urgently review their policies to ensure all pupils were treated with equal respect and understanding.

She said: “It is simply unacceptable that over a decade after the repeal of the pernicious Section 28 that these schools continue to enforce similar policies, while others have statements which are overly vague on this matter.”

The BHA first started investigating after a policy at Colston Girls’ School in Bristol was brought to their attention.

In total, the BHA found 20 policies where it believes there is something clearly offensive, a further 22 that still seem to imply that Section 28 might some way be in force and three that are otherwise vague.

There are no national curriculum guidelines on sex education and details of lessons are left to individual schools to draw up. However schools are required to comply with the Equality Act, forbidding any discrimination.  There are fears that faith schools launched under the Coalition Government’s controversial ‘Academy’ system are seeking to circumvent the law and breach the Act.

After Tasker Milward School’s policy was made public, the Welsh Government said on Twitter: “We are investigating this as a matter of urgency.”

Introduced in 1988, Section 28 of the Local Government Act banned the “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities and said that schools “could not promote of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

Section 28 was repealed in England and Wales in 2003 and in Scotland in 2000.

Officials at the UK Department for Education (DfE) launched a separate investigation from the Welsh Government yesterday.

On Tuesday, the Chairman of the Commons Education Committee urged for ministers to update SRE guidelines. Conservative MP Graham Stuart said: “It looks like an echo from the past. It looks as if schools have just copied that wording from years ago, before Section 28 was revoked, rather than with any deliberate intent.”

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said: “All children and young people in Wales should receive inclusive Sex and Relationships Education.

“It is extremely important that young people are taught in a way that does not subject them to discrimination. The Equality Act 2010 is very clear on this.

“Our guidance to schools provides definitive advice about the teaching of all aspects of relationships and specific sexual health and well-being issues such as sexual orientation.

“Teachers should deal with sexual orientation honestly, sensitively and in a non-judgemental way. The needs of every learner must be met and schools should encourage open discussion, promote inclusion and challenge inequalities.

“We will be reminding all schools of our guidance and their responsibilities.”

A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesman said: “The Sex Education policy on the Tasker Milward school website was an old policy not in operation and which had not been deleted.

“The school does have a current Strategic Equality Plan, further details of which can be obtained directly from the school.

“The headteacher, Maggie Haynes, apologises for any distress that the failure to remove the old policy from the website may have caused.”

Tasker Milward is the same school where WikiLeaks whistle blower Bradley Manning attended while living in Wales with his mother. As a 13-year-old pupil at the school, he is said to have questioned his sexuality before later coming out as openly gay.

Wes Steeting, head of education at Stonewall, said: “We need to see very clear guidance about the importance of tackling homophobic bullying and the promotion of a curriculum that is inclusive.”

Former pupil Hywel ap Dafydd, 34, said: “It’s thoroughly disheartening that some two decades after I first came out my old secondary school still advertises Section 28 on its website almost a decade after it was repealed.

“In the 7 years I attended Tasker Milward I was constantly victimised about my sexuality, often in front of teachers who ignored it, receiving little support with the exception of my friends and a few notable teachers. My distress was clearly visible and even though I was once discovered crying with a knife at my wrist, no real effort was made to address my problems.

“I would like to believe that in the 20 years since,, the school might have understood the concept of Pastoral Care but in light of this latest oversight I wonder just how much has changed and how many other pupils have suffered the same neglect that I did?”

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Community

Haverfordwest Youth Club hosts successful open evening

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Credit - Haverfordwest Youth Club

HAVERFORDWEST Youth Club posted to their Facebook page to thank those who attended their open evening last night (June 30). 

They celebrated Youth Work Week by sharing their amazing new facility in Haverfordwest with the local community. 

Haverfordwest Youth Club

The open evening was located at the new venue at The Picton Centre. They had a range of activities including VR goggles, face painting and jewellery making.

Haverfordwest Youth Club wrote: “A special thank you to Haverfordwest Town Council, Sian – Haverfordwest Morrison’s Community Champion and Martin Jones from Ogi for supporting the evening. Also, to our members Sara, Amelia, Sureya, Pippa and Lily for volunteering their time to help on the evening”.

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Community

Milford Haven’s “To The Sea” carnival returns this weekend

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To The Sea is this year's theme

THE CARNIVAL returns to Milford Haven this Saturday (July 2), after a two year break. With a variety of events, rides and food, it is expected to be fun for all the family. 

This year’s theme is “To The Sea”. Milford Haven Round Table have organised an Under The Sea Parade which will form part of the procession.

This year’s procession will take on an exciting new route, ending at the new and exciting  Carnival Arena on Milford Waterfront. 

It will leave Waterloo Square at 1pm, and travel across Hakin Bridge and up Hamilton Terrace. The carnival will then proceed down Charles Street and Dartmouth Street before arriving at the Carnival Arena. 

Map of the procession (Credit – Milford Haven Round Table)

Acrobats, an animal club, live music, street food stalls, and an amazing “fly board” act on the water are among the fun activities and events planned for the Carnival Arena.

Entry to the arena is £1 for adults and 50p for children. The festivities are expected to begin at 1:30pm. 

Andrew Holmes Fun Fairs will be providing a range of rides and stalls at the Arena, such as the Sizzler, the Can Can, the Terminator and a Circus Funhouse. A superslide and games stalls will also be available. 

Rides and stalls will not accept cash on Carnival Day, but will instead be accepting tokens which are available from the grey token box at the entrance of the arena. 

Each token costs £1. It is advised to pay for tokens with cash. Although card is accepted to purchase tokens, due to the location of the Carnival Arena the signal may be a problem so the card readers may not work as planned. 

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Deputy chief whip made ‘massive misjudgements’, says cabinet minister

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A PEMBROKESHIRE MP has said that Tory deputy chief whip Chris Pincher appears to have made “massive misjudgements”.

Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, told GB News: “…my first reaction with all of this is always one of sadness rather than anger because so many people are affected by this.

“Clearly massive misjudgements appear on the face of it to have been made and and I think our first priority, rather than turning this into a sort of part of political discussion, with which it sounded almost dangerously like it was about to be, that we look after the interests of people who have been adversely affected by this.

“They must be and will remain our absolute first priority so that anybody in Parliament for any party who feels that they have ended up in one of the very unfortunate positions has an independent grievance procedure they can go to.

“They can expect to be heard, as I say, anonymously, and independently and I, that for me seems to be the priority that we should be addressing, rather than so try to use this as an opportunity to say notch up a couple of political goals that seems sort of sounds and feels to me a bit unedifying, in a very difficult situation.”

Speaking during an interview on Breakfast with Stephen Dixon and Anne Diamond, he was asked what he could say that will restore people’s faith in MPs.

Mr Hart said: “Me standing here alone, I probably, there isn’t a sentence or a word that I can use which is instantly going to change all of this and suddenly make everybody feel better about it.”

He added: “There isn’t a workplace in the land, which could say with absolute certainty that these sorts of things never happened.

“We want to minimise the risk and above all, we want to make people, we will make people proud to work here, people love working in this place, it is fantastic that most MPs do a really good job and take their standards incredibly seriously as do most of the staff who work here too.

“So yes, there are some really sad and unfortunate, very stark examples of where this goes wrong.

“Nine times out of 10 it doesn’t go wrong but when it does, I hope that there are measures in place…it’s still in its infancy. I hope it protects people’s interests as well, best we can.

“Nobody likes hearing these things. I mean, I’d much rather come on here and talk about other stuff but we have to confront these things when they come off.”

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