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Education

Teachers have ‘unrealistic workload’

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Stressed out: Are teachers overworked in Wales?

Stressed out: Are teachers overworked in Wales?

UK EDUCATION SECRETARY, Nicky Morgan, has set out an agenda aimed at helping teachers overcome what many believe, in and out of the profession, to be an unrealistic workload. The promise to reduce the overall burden on teachers was made this week at the Conservative Party Conference. Miss Morgan explained how parents did not want their children educated by stressed and overworked teachers. She referred to teachers as ‘heroes of the education system.’

She went on to say she would work with teachers unions and representatives to discuss problems with workload, assuring them she would treat them as the professionals they are. Her approach represents a stark contrast in style from former Minister, Michael Gove, whom she replaced, who had often struggled with a strained relationship with the teaching profession.

The Teachers’ Union, the NUT, has already threatened strike action unless the Education Secretary reduces teacher workloads in England. Now the question remains as to whether or not Wales will follow suit and help teachers to have more time to do the actual job of classroom teaching.

Shadow Education Secretary, AM Angela Burns, commented on the initiative and how it might impact upon Welsh teachers, saying: “I have the opportunity to visit schools all over Wales in both the primary and secondary sector and no matter how motivated or dedicated the teacher is, one of their greatest concerns is workload. And it’s seldom the teaching workload but rather the endless changes, guidance, and policy statements constantly being issued by the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay. The (Welsh) Government must stop trying to micromanage teachers and teaching practices.

We need to give the teaching professionals time and space to do their job. That will result in better standards, more individualised teaching and a professional workforce that feels valued and able to deliver for pupils and parents. I applaud the moves being made by the Secretary of State in England and I hope our Education Minister pays heed.” Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Education Minister, Mid and West Assembly Member Simon Thomas said: “Having excellent teachers and heads sitting before a computer filling in forms or ticking boxes, or sweating over reports at home, is a waste of their talent and commitment. I want to see them freed up to teach at the whiteboard face as much as possible.

That’s why I’m proposing to set up a task-force to work with teaching unions to cut unnecessary bureaucracy. We need to nurture best practice, and teachers need freedom to do that. Unions tell us that often, teachers get tangled in red tape and are stopped from getting on with the job in hand. We want to let excellent teachers teach.” The Herald asked the Welsh Labour Government for a comment but did not get a response, however, speaking on behalf of the Labour Party, Delyth Evans, Parliamentary candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said: “Teachers work very hard and the pressures on them are increasing. Moves to reduce teachers’ workloads would be a good thing because we want to make sure our best teachers stay in the profession.

The focus must continue to be on supporting teachers and raising standards in all our schools so that parents can feel confident their children are getting the best possible education all the way through school.” The Herald spoke exclusively with local Pembrokeshire teacher, Sophie Palmer, who said: “Teachers have always planned and marked and kept assessment records. They expect to co-ordinate areas of learning, which involves writing policy documents, monitoring teaching and learning, writing reports etc. It’s what teachers sign up for.

There is a limit to this though and currently, this workload is utterly unaudited and unrealistic. It would be a very welcome change for teachers to be given the freedom and trust, that they used to be granted by past governments, in order to plan enriched and motivating lessons, using government guidelines that are not, to put it bluntly, outrageously prescriptive and unrealistic.”

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Education

We Swim Wild brings micro plastic research to the Pembrokeshire Coast

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THE PILOT session of Pobl Dwr was filmed for an upcoming episode of ITV’s Coast and Country series with Sean Fletcher and pupils from Castle School in Haverfordwest explored marine and environmental issues affecting the waterways in Wales. 

A pupil from Castle School said “I found 22 pieces of microplastics in one cup of sea water”.

Created by the Wales non profit We Swim Wild, Pobl Dwr has made children aware of the microplastic pollution crisis, while giving them a chance to explore the beautiful coastline and deepen their connection with the ocean environment. 

We Swim Wild aims to educate and empower the younger generation on environmental action and micro plastic pollution.

A pupil from Castle School described their experience as “the biggest eye opener ever”.

The project gives pupils an opportunity to learn about the marine life on our coasts through an immersive snorkeling programme, wellbeing activities such as breathwork and meditation, citizen science microplastic analysis that actually feeds into We Swim Wilds national microplastic database with Bangor University.

We Swim Wild founder Laura Owen Sanderson says “ We have been highlighting the issue of microplastics for the last few years, through adventure activism campaigns and U.K wide citizen science projects to map for microplastics. 

The education programme gives young people the opportunity to experience the magic of wild waters safely, equips them with the skills and tools to analyse water for silent contaminates and the opportunity to see the scale of the problem in real time”. 

The project in Pembrokeshire is in collaboration with The Big Retreat Community, the non profit arm of The Big Retreat Festival in Pembrokeshire, one of the top adventure and wellbeing festivals in the UK. 

Festival founder Amber Lort-Phillips says “Wellbeing in nature is at the heart of everything we do. As a result of the pandemic, we know that young peoples’ mental health has suffered significantly. We want to give them the skills to improve their own mental and physical health whilst learning how to protect the planet for generations to come, and there is no better place to do it than in our home, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.”

“Plastic can commonly be found in our water, soil and air,” explains Laura. “Crucially, we now know it is in our bodies as we breathe in, eat and drink plastic particles every day. As plastic production grows, so does our exposure. There is growing concern that it may be harming our health.”

Laura adds  “We know that the presence of microplastic and nano plastic in our bodies can’t break down and is associated with chronic disease and pressure on our immune systems, such as arthritis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The truth is there is currently not enough money invested in Plastic research and its impact on our health. Our citizen science campaigns and education programme go some way towards mapping current UK levels for this emergent contaminate”.

We Swims Wild’s ultimate goal is to get the UK government to start testing regularly for microplastic levels as an emergent contaminate and to put greater restrictions on plastic production and its use. 

A group of MP’s including MP Mike Penning has also called on the chancellor to commit to a £15 million fund to examine the potential health impacts of plastic.

The Pembrokeshire project has been sponsored by the National Lottery community fund. We Swim Wild will be bringing this programme to coastal communities across Wales over the coming months. 

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Education

Secondary School places deadline

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PARENTS of Year 6 pupils in Pembrokeshire will need to apply for a secondary school place for September 2022 by the closing date of 20th December, 2021.

There is no automatic admission to a secondary school, even if they are living in catchment – an application must be made.

Applications received after this date will be considered late which may have a bearing on whether the child gets a place at his / her preferred School.

It is important to note that a school place will not be allocated unless a formal application is received.

The online application form can be found on the Pembrokeshire County Council website: www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/schools-and- learning under ‘Apply for a School Place’. 

Parents of pupils in Year 6 at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi or Ysgol Caer Elen do not need to apply as they are attending 3 to 16 schools and it is assumed they will remain in their current schools. 

However, if parents wish to apply for a different secondary school they must apply within the deadlines noted above.

Parents / guardians will be informed of the allocation of places on the common offer date of 1 st March 2022.

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Education

County Councillors approve massive investment for Pembrokeshire schools

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCILLORS have this week recognised the need for further significant investment in local schools. The decision was taken on Thursday (Oct 14).

Councillors have backed proposals to invest £62.4m in the community of Milford Haven with the creation of new-build primary and secondary schools in the town through the use of the Welsh Government Mutual Investment Model (MIM).

This decision recognises the educational need to provide the learners of Milford Haven with 21st Century School environments that will enhance the development of the Curriculum for Wales over the coming years and enable every learner, regardless of their background, to become the best they can be.

Council also agreed the teaching and learning environments for children who attend Portfield School in Haverfordwest and the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre (PLC) in Neyland need to be significantly improved, with a £38.5m investment into the two sites. This work will be funded under Band B of the 21st Century Schools Programme.

A total of £20.3m will be invested at Portfield School, which provides education for pupils with statements of special educational needs aged between 3-19 years.

Meanwhile £18.2m will be spent on improving the Neyland site of the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre, which provides education for pupils aged between 11 and 16 with complex needs.

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “While there are further stages as part of both the Band B 21st Century Schools funding and separate MIM proposal that we now need to successfully complete in partnership with Welsh Government, today represents a significant positive step forward in achieving Cabinet’s commitment to delivering all 21st Century School capital projects and significant investment in Milford Haven, Portfield School and the PLC.

“My thanks go to all those who have worked very hard to get us to where we are today, and I look forward to continuing to work with all those now involved in successfully delivering these exciting school capital projects that will provide the best educational facilities for learners.”

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